When it comes to food, it seems every day there’s a new study touting what’s good for us – and what’s not. With so much information, it’s easy to get confused. The reality is the basic principles of healthy eating have not changed nearly as much as we are often led to believe. The seven mainstays of eating to look and feel your best are as follows:
Eat your fruits and veggies. Fruits and veggies are Mother Nature at her best. Packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber, they are also low in sodium, fat and calories. For the biggest bang for your fruit-and-veggie-buck, include a variety of colors and types. To keep carbs and calories in check load up on non-starchy veggies and enjoy fruit whole. Ounce per ounce whole fruit has more fiber and less sugar than fruit juice.
Choose whole grains whenever possible. Whole grains are higher in fiber which is proven to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fiber is also beneficial for both weight loss and weight maintenance. Aim for at least half of the grains in your diet to be whole, or 20-35 grams per day. Spice up your diet with grain foods such as oats, brown rice, and whole wheat or whole wheat blend varieties of breads, pastas, and cereals.
Opt for low-fat dairy. Low-fat dairy provide calcium and vitamin D vital for strong bones and teeth. Delicious low-fat dairy foods include low-fat cheeses, milk and yogurt.
Get lean with protein. Protein helps strengthen bones and muscles and supports healthy skin and hair. Protein can also help you shed pounds and keep your belly full. The trick to enjoying the healthy power of protein is keeping it lean (in both selection and preparation). Skinless chicken breast, lean cuts of beef and pork, fish, beans, low-fat dairy, and eggs* are all great sources of protein.
Select healthier fats. For best health, limit saturated fats and trans fats while choosing monounsaturated fats found in foods such as olive oil, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Note: all fats are dense in calories. Limiting the total amount of fat in your diet makes it easier to stay within your calorie budget.
Use salt in moderation. Studies show that as we eat more salt (also known as sodium chloride); we taste it less, and crave it more. Unfortunately, excess sodium is linked to high blood pressure and heart disease. The current recommendation is to limit sodium to no more than 2300 milligrams a day. Easy ways to reduce sodium intake include eating less processed foods, using reduced-sodium ingredients such as “light” broth and soy sauce, and rinsing canned beans and vegetables with water before using. (Rinsing canned foods can decrease sodium by up to 40 %.)
Limit added sugars. The average American now consumes over 20 teaspoons of added sugars per day. The recommendation – no more than 8-10 teaspoons per day! The not so sweet fact is that excess sugar promotes tooth decay, heart disease and weight gain and spike blood sugar. To see just where sugar lurks click here. (Each sugar cube is equal to one teaspoon of added sugar.) No-calorie sweeteners are one option to help curb sugar intake and have no effect on blood sugar.
Looking for healthy recipes that meet all the principles of healthy eating yet taste great? My Eat What You Love books fill the bill!