Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS Family & Community Health Sciences Educator Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Create an eating style that can improve your health now and in the future by making small changes over time. Consider changes that reflect your personal preferences, culture, and traditions. Think of each change as a “win” as you build positive habits and find solutions that reflect your healthy eating style. Use the tips and links below to find little victories that work for you. For example, twice a week, make seafood—fish and shellfish—the main protein food on your plate if you are not vegetarian or on a special diet. Seafood contains a range of nutrients, including healthy omega-3 fats. According to the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, eating about 8 ounces per week (less for young children) of a variety of seafood can help prevent heart disease. Focus on Whole Fruits - Focus on whole fruits more often than drinking 100% juice. Snack on fresh, frozen, canned, or dried fruits instead of cookies, brownies, or other sugar-sweetened treats. Offer whole fruits without saturated fat, sodium, or added sugars as dessert. Vary Your Veggies - Vary your veggies to include green, red, and orange choices. Add fresh, frozen, or canned vegetables to salads, side dishes, and recipes. Prepare your vegetables without sauces, gravies, or glazes to lower the amount of sodium, saturated fat, and added sugars. Make Half Your Grains Whole Grains - Choose whole-grain foods more often than refined grains. Make at least half the amount of grains you eat each day whole grains. Find high fiber, whole-grain foods by reading the Nutrition Facts label and ingredients list. Some common whole grains include oatmeal, whole wheat flour, and popcorn. Move to Low-Fat and Fat-Free Dairy - Choose low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt. Buy low-fat or fat-free cheese more often when you shop. Regular cream cheese, butter, and cream are not in the dairy food group because they have little or no calcium. They are also high in saturated fat. Vary Your Protein Routine - Mix up your protein foods to include seafood, beans, nuts, seeds, soy, eggs, lean meats, and poultry. Add beans or peas, unsalted nuts and seeds, and soy in main dishes and snacks. Select seafood twice a week, including fish and shellfish. Remember to eat a variety of seafood. Try grilling, broiling, roasting, or baking. Avoid breading or frying seafood and creamy sauces, which add calories and fat. Using spices or herbs, such as dill, chili powder, paprika, or cumin, and lemon or lime juice, can add flavor without adding salt. Oysters, mussels, clams, and calamari (squid) all supply healthy omega-3s. Also try steamed clams, or pasta with calamari. Canned salmon, tuna, or sardines, are quick and easy to use. Canned white albacore tuna is higher in omega-3s, but canned “light” tuna is lower in mercury. Check oysters, mussels, and clams before cooking. If shells don’t clamp shut when you tap them, throw them away. After cooking, toss any that didn’t open. Cook fish to 145°F, until it flakes with a fork. If planning to eat 8 ounces of seafood a week, a drained can of tuna is about 3 to 4 ounces, a salmon steak ranges from 4 to 6 ounces, and 1 small trout is about 3 ounces. Enjoy this protein source. Compare the saturated fat, sodium and added sugars in your food and beverages. Make sure to read the Nutrition Facts food labels to find products with less saturated fat and sodium. Use the ingredient list on the label to find choices with less added sugars and cut back on sugary beverages such as fruit drinks and soda. Remember, small steps can produce big results! Following the 2015 Dietary Guidelines every day will help you make food choices that will make a difference for your health over your lifetime.