Eat Smart during National Nutrition Month
Eating right doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with the basics. A healthy eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy and includes lean protein such as poultry, fish, beans and nuts. A healthy eating plan is also low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt and added sugars. Remember these tips to help you Eat Smart.
- Get the most nutrition out of your calories. Choose the most nutritionally rich foods you can from each food group every day—those packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients but lower in calories. Pick foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products more often.
- Be aware of portion sizes. Even low-calorie foods can add up when portions are larger than you need. Check out these suggestions to avoid portion size pitfalls.
- Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, canned or frozen. Vary protein choices with more fish, beans and peas. Include at least three servings of whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day.
- Know the limits on fats, salt, and sugars. Read the Nutrition Facts label on foods. Look for foods low in saturated fats and trans fats. Choose and prepare foods and beverages with little salt (sodium) and/or added sugars.
- Make the most of family mealtime. Eating meals together provides the opportunity to help children develop a healthy attitude toward food. It also enables parents to serve as role models, introduce new foods and establish a regular meal schedule.
The Health Matters Web site provides a variety of online tools to help you Eat Smart anytime of the year. Check them out.
Go for the green on St. Patrick's Day
Green may not look good on you, but it is good for you. Green vegetables and fruits contain many important nutrients and are a part of a well-balanced diet.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating a minimum of 2½ cups of vegetables per day and making at least 3 cups per week dark green vegetables. Give some of these green vegetables a try:
- Avocados are a good source of monounsaturated fats, which help lower cholesterol. They're also a good source of both vitamin E and lutein, a natural antioxidant that may help maintain eye health.
- Broccolini, a cross between broccoli and gai lan or Chinese broccoli, is loaded with nutrients called isothiocyanates, sulforaphane and indoles, which are believed to reduce the risk of breast, prostate, cervical, lung and other cancers. Broccolini provides as much vitamin C as orange juice.
- Brussels sprouts also contain cancer-fighting phytochemicals. They're also high in vitamin C and a good source of folate, vitamin A and potassium. Small, compact, bright green spouts have the best flavor. Don't overcook them or they'll get mushy.
- Kale is a good source of vitamins K, C and beta carotene. A half cup of kale contains 1.3 grams of fiber but only 20 calories.
- Nopales (also known as nopalitos or cactus pads) are popular in the Mexican diet and are a great choice for people managing diabetes or high blood pressure. There are only 22 calories per cup, and they're high in fiber, calcium and potassium.
- Okra is low in calories, a good source of soluble fiber, and provides some vitamin A.
- Tomatillo, a common ingredient in Southwestern and Mexican cooking, is a good source of vitamin C and potassium. This vegetable, which looks like an unripe tomato covered in a paper-like leaf, is used in salsa verde and can be eaten raw, but cooking brings out its flavor.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.