by Christy Wilson, RD
IN OUR WORLD OF FAST COMPUTERS,
fast acting medications and fast food, eating well has less to do with speed and more to do with taking time to be mindful about you’re choosing to eat.
Although health claims like “fat free”, “low calorie” and “sugar free” may seem like a short cut to choosing healthy foods at the grocery store, foods that come without labels that make the best foundation for a healthy diet.
- PLANT OVER ANIMAL. One of the simplest ways to eat a healthy balance of foods is to take a divide-and-conquer approach with your plate. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans came with a model of a plate (ChooseMyPlate.gov ) divided into four sections (plus an outlying section for dairy). The most important message is filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables compared with less than a quarter of the plate with meats or other animal protein. With less meat, your meal is guaranteed to have more heart healthy fiber, less cholesterol (plants don’t have any) and saturated fat (found mostly in meats). High-meat diets (especially processed meats like lunch meats and hot dogs) are associated with higher rates of cancer and heart disease.
- LIMIT LIQUID CALORIES. At 140 calories or more per serving, sodas, juices, sweetened teas and coffee drinks deliver pure liquid sugar that isn’t as filling as solid food. Are sugar-free alternatives better? Not according to recent studies that link some artificial sweeteners (like NutraSweet) to weight gain. The heightened sweetness of sugar substitutes can pacify a sweet tooth without squashing the temptation to eat foods like cake, cookies and pie. Cut your sugar craving by drinking mostly water and add slices of orange or lemon for added flavor.
- GO WITH WHOLE GRAINS. Eating whole grains like wheat, bran, oats and barley are excellent ways to boost your fiber intake that can keep you feeling full longer and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and cancer. When shopping for foods like bread, tortillas, pasta and cereal, make sure the first ingredient on the label reads “whole grain.” Anything else indicates you’re getting a refined, processed version of the grain. Whole grains like oatmeal, whole-wheat pastas and brown rice are also a naturally a good source of B-vitamins, magnesium and vitamin E.
Christy Wilson is a Registered Dietitian, a freelance health writer and speaker. Check out her web site and blog, www.christywilsonnutrition.com and follow her healthy eating tips on Twitter @christyschomp. She currently resides in Tucson, AZ with her husband and two young children.