Karen Ensle EdD, RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Keeping healthy isn’t only about eating more fruits and vegetables, cutting back on salt and sugar, switching to whole grains and exercising for at least 30-60 minutes a day. Translating those broad messages into daily diet and exercise decisions takes planning and good management. Try some of these small steps to better health:
- Buy Bagged Lettuce and Veggies - Most families are strapped for time. Washing and cutting up vegetables for salads are very tedious. Instead, buy veggies already washed and cut-up for a few cents more. An alternative would be to visit the salad bar in your local grocery store or buy a bag of frozen (unseasoned) veggies which come in Asian, Mediterranean, and other blends. Open the bag, dump into a skillet or wok, add sauce, and cook. This will provide your family with a simple, quick dinner in a few minutes.
- Replace Processed Deli Meats With No-Nitrite-Added Versions - The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research are both convinced that nitrites cause colorectal cancer. They also discourage eating more than 18 ounces of red meat (beef, pork and lamb) a week in addition to eliminating all processed meat. To avoid red meat, salt and nitrites, choose “no-nitrate-added” versions.
- Try a Veggie Burger - Eating more veggies, seafood, and poultry and less red meat is healthier. Check the Nutrition Facts label to see if the burger is soy-based, grain-based, or veggie-based. Some brands have less than 10 grams of protein but overall, are a healthy substitute for red or processed meats.
- Switch to Whole Grain Breads - To maintain heart health, stick to whole grain breads and crackers. Consume no more than six ounces of grains a day and make sure at least half or more is whole grain. Increasing your intake of high fiber decreases blood cholesterol which is good for your heart.
- Turn Spinach Into Salads - A 9-ounce bag of spinach makes 3 salads, one-cup each. Each salad is rich in potassium, vitamins K, A, magnesium and iron with some vitamin C and folate. It is only 20 calories per cup and packed with nutrients. It is a super substitute for lettuce.
- Buy Whole-Grain Cereals for Breakfast - Put sliced fresh fruit like peaches, pineapple, berries or banana on your morning cereal for a low calorie, nutrient-rich breakfast.
- Try a New Vegetable Each Week - Most Americans eat only a few vegetables and they need to expand their horizons to meet their minimum health requirements. Veggies are filling and provide many needed vitamins, minerals and fiber. Veggies and fruits should fill half of every plate of food eaten at meals or snacks.
Take some healthy small steps and read the Nutrition Facts label when shopping to avoid buying foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar, and calories. Purchase a variety of healthy foods each week that give your meals and snacks pizzaz! Nothing beats homemade meals that are filling, colorful, flavorful and nutritious. Go to ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information.