One step at a time. Step by step. Baby steps. These are all common phrases we hear and say to tackle a variety of obstacles in our daily lives. It also happens to be a practical approach to take when trying to overhaul our not-so-great eating habits. A good place to begin is by making smarter choices within the basic food groups.
Step 1: Go For The ‘Whole’ Grain
Just because it is brown doesn’t mean it is healthy! Sometimes molasses is used to make the color of breads and other carbohydrates brown. The package should state “100-Percent Whole Grain” or “Whole Wheat.” Some companies are using green areas or colored tabs on their packaging to highlight whole grain usage in their products, but it is best to read the package carefully. It is important to go for the “whole” because the fiber we consume in these whole grains are beneficial in reducing the risk of coronary heart disease. Some of your choices for healthy grains include popcorn (hold the butter and salt!), oatmeal, brown and wild rice, cracked wheat, whole grain barley, cornmeal, whole wheat breads, whole grain cereals, crackers, pasta, and tortillas.
Step 2: Discover The Value In Veggies
Most of us do not eat enough vegetables. So we need to make the most out of the ones we do consume. Dark green and orange vegetables are the most valuable choices. They are especially high in antioxidants and nutrients your body needs such as vitamins A and C and folic acid (necessary for production of new cells). Fresh veggies that are in season are always great choices for quality and price, but unseasoned frozen vegetables are just as healthy and very convenient. Some of your best choices are spinach, broccoli, dark green leafy lettuces, carrots, pumpkin, acorn and butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
Step 3: Freedom To Feel Fruity
Fruit is a great alternative to more traditional desserts and sugary snacks and can be incorporated into any meal. They are a great source of antioxidants, potassium (maintains fluid and electrolyte balance in cells), folic acid, fiber, vitamin C and they are low in calories. As with vegetables, fresh and in season fruits are hard to beat. Feel free to eat fruits that are frozen and dried and even canned as well—just steer clear of the ones with added sugars and heavy syrups. Fruits such as cherries, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries, and kiwi are an especially strong source of the above mentioned vitamins.
Step 4: More Dairy—Without More Derriére
Calcium isn’t the only thing you get from dairy products—you also get unnecessary and unhealthy saturated fats. This is not only detrimental to your waistline, but also to your heart. Just about every brand makes a lowfat or fat-free version of your favorite milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream product. Some of the fat-free products (especially cheeses) do leave a little to be desired in taste and texture, but most of the reduced fat and light options are just as good (some are better) and still have the calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein your body needs without the fat.
Step 5: Time For An Oil Change
Oils are a small, but necessary part of our diet that assists our body in absorbing vitamins and maintaining healthy skin. Sources of oils are cooking oils, mayonnaise, some salad dressings, and soft margarines (tub or squeeze that contain no trans fats), as well as nuts, olives, fish, and avocados. When shopping for oils, look for ones that are high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats since they contain essential fatty acids and come from plants which naturally contain no cholesterol. Some of the best choices for oils are flaxseed, canola, soybean, and virgin or extra virgin olive oil.
Step 6: Make Lean Proteins Routine
Once you know what to look for, eating lean protein products will become routine. Protein is an essential part of our diet because it is what makes up, maintains, and replaces the tissues in our bodies. Animal protein sources are the best choice for “complete proteins” (proteins that contain all the essential amino acids) in your diet. For beef, choose lean cuts such as filet, t-bone, sirloin, strip, top round, and at least 95% lean ground beef. To get lean protein in chicken and turkey, make sure they are white meat and skinless; the skin is all fat and dark meat is higher in fat than white meat. Fish, such as tuna, salmon, snapper, swordfish, lobster, shrimp, and cod are a wonderful source of protein, as well as containing vitamin B-12 (maintains healthy nerve and red blood cells) and omega-3 fatty acids (help to maintain a healthy heart). Vegetarians need to eat a wide variety of other protein-rich foods such as vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains—known as “incomplete proteins”—in order to be sure they are reaching their protein requirement.
Recommended Daily Allowance Guidlines
Here is a guideline* to translate your healthy food choices into
appropriate amounts of food consumed in your daily diet.
* This varies depending on age, whether you are male or female, and how active you are.
These numbers are averages based on age 9 and up who get less than 30 minutes per day
of moderate physical activity beyond normal activity.