The average person will eat nearly 60,000 lbs. of food during their lifetime. That is the weight of about 6 elephants! It is important to make sure that the majority of that 60,000 lbs. are healthy foods.
The modern world is fast-paced and many people find themselves relying on fast food and quick-to-fix processed foods so they don’t need to slow down. The problem with those meals is that they are higher in calorie counts and low in nutrition. Our bodies are starving for nutrients that our diets are seriously lacking. When our diets lack the appropriate nutrients, even when the food we eat are ridiculously high in calories, our bodies will tell us, “I’m still hungry!” So you stay hungry, causing you to eat even more of the unhealthy foods. When you begin to add ingredients with the right amount of nutrients that your body needs your body will perform at super hero levels!
Not only will eating fresh foods be beneficial to your health, but it could save you money too. Convenience foods like frozen dinners, fresh pre-cut vegetables, and instant rice, oatmeal, or grits can cost you more than if you were to make them from scratch. Take the time to prepare your own — and save!
The USDA has a website that can help you make sure you are getting the right amount of the right kinds of nutrients that your body needs, http://www.choosemyplate.gov/ . Choose My Plate has guidelines on exactly how much of each food group you should be consuming based on age, weight, sex, and even physical activity. It is an excellent resource to start your healthy foods journey. Here are a few tips on achieving a healthier plate:
- At least half of your grains should be whole grains.
Eating whole grains as a part of your diet can reduce the risk of some chronic diseases. Grain products are any food made from cornmeal, oats, barley, rice, wheat, or other cereal grains. Examples of this would be tortillas, grits, oatmeal, bread, pasta, and breakfast cereal.
There are two subgroups of grains, whole grains and refined grains. A whole grain will contain an entire grain kernel – the bran, germ, and endosperm. A couple of simple ways to substitute the refined grains in your diet for whole grains would be to eat brown rice instead of white rice, or to eat 100% whole wheat bread and bagels in place of white bread. You can also add more whole grains to your diet by mixing them in with your dishes. Add barley to your vegetable soup, or try a quinoa salad or pilaf. The average person should consume between 5 and 8 ounces of grains daily.
- Eat more veggies.
Vegetables are an important part to your diet as they provide essential nutrients and minerals and most are low in calories. The latest dietary guidelines call for an average of five to 13 servings of fruits and vegetables a day (2½ to 6½ cups per day). You can divide that between the two however you would like.
Adding more vegetables to your diet is easy! One way to be sure to add them in would be to chop them up as soon as you are home from the grocery, market, or in from the garden so they are easily accessible as a quick snack (carrots, celery, and peppers are great with humus.), or add on to your salad. Eating vegetables doesn’t mean you are limited to salads. Cook them into stews and soups such as Cream of Cauliflower or Minestrone. You can steam them, bake them and roast them. Lettuce wraps and cauliflower cooked like Buffalo wings are also fun way to make sure you are getting enough.
- Eat more fruits.
Most fruits are naturally low in sodium, calories, and fat, and none contain cholesterol. They contain nutrients such as dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), potassium and vitamin C. Keeping a bowl of fruit on the counter or table is a good way to remind yourself to eat more fruits. Buying fruits when they are in season means they will be at their peak flavor and may make them more affordable. Add fresh fruit to your yogurt and cereal. You can also add more fruit to your diet by eating them dried. They make a great snack and are easy to store. In the spring and summer months, fruit salads are incredibly refreshing.
- Variety is key with protein.
Protein can come from both animal (beef, poultry, seafood, eggs) and plant (soy, nut, seeds, and beans) sources. Most people ages 5 and over should eat 5-7 ounces of protein daily. Your meat and poultry are best lean. Trim and drain fat from beef and pork, and remove skin from poultry. Replace meat and poultry with seafood once or twice a week- make selections low in mercury such as trout, herring and salmon.
Have an egg! Enjoying one egg a day will not increase your risk for heart disease so adding them to your weekly routine is fine! Only the yolk contains saturated fat and cholesterol, so feel free to eat as many egg whites as you would like. Try and eat more plant proteins more often. They are high in fiber and naturally low in saturated fat. Kidney beans, white beans, tofu, tempeh, hummus, pecans, pistachios, and sunflower seeds are excellent choices. Also you should try to grill, broil, bake or roast your meats and poultry as those methods do not add any extra fat. Avoid breading as this adds unnecessary calories.
- Don’t forget your calcium.
You can get calcium from the dairy food group. This includes foods such as milk, fortified soymilk, cheese, and yogurt. An average of 3 cups of dairy are recommended per day for any one ages 8 and up. Ages 2-8 should consume an average of 2 cups per day. You should choose low-fat or fat-free varieties to reduce calories and saturated fat. Drinking fat-free (skim) milk or 1% instead of whole will cut calories but not reduce calcium and other nutrient intake. You could also substitute plain yogurt in recipes, such as dips, that call for sour cream. Ricotta cheese is a great substitute for cream cheese, and fat-free evaporated milk can be used instead of cream. To get the most calcium out of your dairy, choose fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt more frequently than cheese. Milk and yogurt also contain less sodium and more potassium than cheeses, and they are also chock full of vitamin D.
You can easily find Arizona grown fruits and vegetables and nutritious animal proteins like beef, pork, lamb and eggs by shopping at your favorite Arizona grocery store or farmers market.