Karen Ensle EdD, RDN, FAND, CFCS
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
Are you choosing foods that provide essential vitamins and minerals; and are also low in calories, sodium, added sugar and saturated fat? These elements all help us achieve and maintain a healthy body weight, and overall good health. Take small steps and try these suggestions:
- Build meals around vegetables, fruit and whole grains for nutrients and fiber. About 80% of Americans still don’t eat the recommended 2-3 cups of vegetables per day on a regular basis according to the American Heart Association.
- 2.Include a variety of protein sources low in saturated fat such as poultry, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds. Keep red meat and deli luncheon meats, smoked or cured meats, and sausage to a minimum.
- 3.Choose nonfat and 1% low-fat dairy products, or nonfat and low-fat dairy alternatives such as almond, rice, or soy-based milks that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D and contain no added sugar.
- 4.Avoid tropical oils including coconut and palm-kernel oils. The majority of scientific evidence supports replacing saturated fat found in coconut and palm-kernel oils, red meat, and processed foods with healthier monounsaturated fat like olive or peanut oils.
- 5.Limit sodium, which is found primarily in processed foods like cured meat, pizza, soup, sandwiches, and restaurant foods.
- 6.Reduce sweets like candy, cookies, and cakes; and sweetened beverages such as lemonade, fruit drinks, and sweetened tea. Consume no more than 100 calories or 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar for most women, and no more than 150 calories or 9 teaspoons of added sugar per day for most men. Children need even less. A 20-oz bottle of soda or sweetened beverage often contains 14 grams of sugar or more. Choose water or a sugar-free beverage instead.
- 7.In addition to healthy food choices, add 150 minutes of physical activity into your weekly routine. That works out to about 20-30 minutes most days of the week for adults and more for children.
- 8.Enjoy vegetables including broccoli, carrots, collards, green beans, green peas, kale, lima beans, sweet potatoes, spinach, squash, tomatoes, and peppers as part of meals and snacks. Choose fresh or frozen vegetables, and serve them raw or cooked. Try this: Add dark green veggies like spinach, kale or collards to eggs for breakfast, use raw celery or green pepper with hummus for a snack, and offer both a fresh salad and a cooked vegetable with dinner.
- Include fruit such as apricots, bananas, dates, grapes, oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, melons, papaya, peaches, pears, pineapples, raspberries, strawberries, and tangerines for snacks and meals. Choose fresh fruit, or fruit frozen or canned without added sugar. Try this: Slice fresh fruit on your morning bowl of cereal, blend frozen fruit into plain yogurt for a smoothie. End meals with fruit instead of a sweet dessert.
- Choose whole grains including whole-wheat bread, rolls, pasta, cereals, grits, oatmeal, brown rice, and popcorn instead of highly processed foods made from white flour for more fiber and nutrients. Look for the word ‘whole’ in the first ingredient to be sure y'o;re purchasing 100% whole grain foods. Try this: Enjoy a whole grain breakfast cereal, make sandwiches with whole grain bread, and serve brown rice or other whole grains like quinoa or amaranth with dinner.