Trying to navigate all the nutrition recommendations can be daunting. Nutrition is a relatively young science with new findings and recommendations released all the time. Every five years the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is released, creating a new set of recommendations based on nutrition-related research results over the past half-decade. Add to that the fact that some eating plans may be healthy for one person while not necessarily so for another, and you’ve really got a head-scratcher.
Therefore, this blog article is an attempt to compile some basic, general recommendations in hopes that they may serve as a guide for most anyone wanting to eat healthy, achieve/maintain a healthy weight, and do so without “breaking the bank.” I hope you will find this menu of tips useful on your quest for a more healthful way of eating.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free foods. For example, choose lean meats with visible fat trimmed off, poultry without the skin, or fish; and avoid high-fat and processed meats like bologna, hot dogs or sausage. Use low-fat or fat-free dairy choices, such as skim or 1% fat milk and milk products. Bagels, pretzels, low-fat popcorn, and whole-grain products are better than biscuits, muffins, and other processed grain products.
- Prepare foods in a healthy manner. Even foods naturally low in fat, such as vegetables, can be made unhealthy by frying in grease, or when used in a recipe that calls for the addition of large amounts of fat and salt. Broil, roast, microwave or steam instead of frying. Be careful of using sauces that contain a lot of fat and salt.
- When using or consuming fat, choose healthier ones, such as monounsaturated, rather than saturated or trans fats. Peanut butter and other nut butters, nuts, avocados, olives, and fish contain fats that can be beneficial to health. Choose healthy cooking oils such as extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, peanut or safflower oil rather than solid fat or tropical oils (coconut, palm and palm kernel) that are saturated.
- Adhere to the serving sizes recommended by the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture), not the larger portions that Americans are used to eating. Measure serving sizes in kitchen devices like measuring cups and spoons to get an idea of what an appropriate serving size looks like.
- Start the day with breakfast. It doesn’t have to be traditional breakfast food; warmed up leftovers are fine. If time is an issue, prepare pancakes or waffles the night before and warm them in the morning; or make something quick, such as a bowl of cereal, toast and juice.
- Cook enough to last. Casseroles, meat loaf, and whole cooked chicken can feed your family for several days. Leftovers save time and money! (Be sure to freeze or refrigerate left‑overs right away to keep them safe to eat, then consume within 3-4 days.)
- Eat more plant foods. Plant-based foods provide fiber, vitamins, minerals and thousands of nontraditional nutrients, called phytochemicals, which have been found to prevent many chronic diseases. These nutrient-dense foods are naturally low in fat, calories, sodium and sugar.
- Try frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. They are less expensive than fresh, and are often just as nutritious, if not more so. Whenever purchasing canned or packaged foods, however, you must be wary of added sodium used as a preservative. Much of the excess sodium in packaged items can be rinsed off; just empty into a colander and rinse with cool water.
- Eat more fiber. Good sources are fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, and dried beans and peas. According to the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, recommended amounts of fiber dairy are 14 grams per 1,000 calories, or about 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. Those older and taking in fewer calories can reduce fiber intake as per the Institute of Medicine recommendations below:
- Age 50 or younger: men – 38 grams, women – 25 grams
- Age 51 or older: men – 30 grams, women – 21 grams
- Drink plenty of fluids, at least eight 8-ounce glasses every day. Increase this amount if you are active or spend time in the heat. Drinks containing alcohol don’t count.
Remember, habits established over a lifetime take time to change. Slow, gradual changes are more likely to become engrained as habits and last. Begin by trying one or two of the tips above and eventually you’ll work your way them all!