Many of want to eat healthier but don’t really have any concrete plans as to how to go about it. While it sounds easy enough, it is not always that easy to do – considering we eat at least three meals a day, and then add countless snacks and beverages.
The place to start to “eat healthier” is at the grocery store. Spend most of your shopping time in the produce section – there you will find most of the least-processed foods in the market. Look for new ways to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. While a box of blueberries may seem like a splurge, think how wonderful it would be to have them every morning for a week on whole grain cereal.
Salads are an easy meal and are nutritionally sound. If you don’t already own a salad spinner, pick one up the next time you shop for kitchen gadgets. Spinners can keep lettuce fresh and crisp – so be sure to find one you can also use to store the lettuce.
Most of us know how to make the freshest selections when it comes to fruits and vegetables. But if you are unsure, many produce departments will have an expert on staff to offer help. My experience with produce managers at both Heinen’s and Giant Eagle has been positive and educational.
But once we leave the produce department it is not always as easy to know what is fresh. Packages products are often marked with dates, some are “Use-By”, while others are “Sell By”. Confused? Maybe this will help.
The “use-by” date indicates the last day the item is at its very best quality as far as nutritional value, taste, texture, appearance, and odor. The quality gradually declines after that date. It is important to note that the use-by date refers to product that has not yet been opened. These same guidelines also refer to packages which read “best if used-by”.
The “sell by” date is a notice to stores that the product should be taken off the market shelf because it will begin to decline in quality after that date. So, while it may not really be a matter of food safety, packaged food past that day will have a lower quality (taste, texture, nutritional value, etc.).
Remember that once perishable food is opened, it should be consumed within 7 days, even if it is refrigerated.
The easiest way to “eat healthier“ at dinner is to imagine your plate with a line drawn through the center. Then draw another line evenly separating one of the sections. Fill the largest portion of your plate with vegetables and/or fruit, and in one of the smaller sections have your protein, and in the other section your starch. This is a simple way to control portion size, increase fiber intake, and decrease fat consumption. Remembering one serving of meat should be the size of a deck of cards and one serving of starch should be the size of a tennis ball are a couple of other easy ways to think about food portions. There are a few exceptions to this, but on the whole this is an easy guideline to follow.
As far as healthy snacking, fresh fruit is one of the best. Canned fruit comes in a close second, and be sure to look for fruit which has not been peeled (reduced fiber content) and for those packed in their own juice or water (less sugar content).
Air-popped popcorn is a great snack. Look at your grocery store for popcorn seasonings which adds flavors and almost no calories! Nacho cheese, kettle, and barbeque are just a few of the flavors available. Popcorn seasonings can also be purchased on-line.