Written by Dorothy Virgadamo
A healthy lifestyle involves many choices. Among them, choosing a balanced diet or healthy eating plan. So, how do you choose a healthy eating plan? Let’s begin by defining what a healthy eating plan is.
According to what healthy eating constitutes, a healthy eating plan includes:
Emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products,
Includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts,
Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt (sodium), and added sugars,
Stays within your daily caloric needs.
Eat Healthfully and Enjoy It!
A healthy eating plan that helps you manage your weight includes a wide variety of foods that you might not have yet considered. If “healthy eating” makes you think about the foods that you can’t have, then try to refocus on all the new foods that you can eat-
Fresh, Frozen, or Canned Fruits – don’t think of only apples or bananas. All different types of fresh, frozen, or canned fruits are all great choices. Be sure to also try to expand your diet by including some “exotic” fruits also. How about a mango? Or a juicy pineapple or a kiwi fruit! When your favorite fresh fruits are not in season try a frozen, canned or dried variety of a fresh fruit that you normally enjoy. Dried cherries or cranberries are both good choices. Raisins are also good for you, and have plenty of nutrients that your body needs. Once caution regarding canned fruit is that it might contain added sugar or heavy syrups. Be sure to choose only those canned varieties of fruit that are packed in water or their own natural juices.
Visit the fruits and vegetable section of your local grocery store. Try fresh, frozen or canned vegetables. Always consider trying something new. You may find that you love grilled vegetables or steamed vegetables with a herb that you might not have tried yet, such as thyme, parsley or rosemary. You also saute (panfry) vegetables in a nonstick pan, with a small amount of cooking spray. Or you might want to try frozen or canned vegetables for a quick side dish – just microwave and serve! When trying canned vegetables, always look for vegetables without added salt, butter or cream sauces. Make a commitment to regularly visit the produce department of your local grocery store, and try a new vegetable each week.
Calcium-rich foods – you may automatically think of a glass of low-fat or fat-free milk when someone tells you to “eat more dairy products”. But have you considered low-fat and fat-free yogurts without added sugars. These come in a wide variety of flavors and can be a great dessert substitute for those with a sweet tooth.
A new twist on an old favorite – if your favorite recipe involves frying fish or breading chicken, try a healthier variation using baking or grilling methods. Maybe even try a recipe that uses dry beans in place of higher-fat meats. Ask around or search the internet and magazines for different recipes with fewer calories – you might be surprised to find that you may have found your new favorite dish!
Do I Have to Give up my Favorite Comfort Food?
No! Healthy eating is all about balance. You can enjoy your favorite foods even if they are high in calories, fat or added sugars. The key is eating them only once in a while, and balancing them out with healthier foods and more physical activity.
Some general tips for comfort foods:
You can enjoy them, but do so in moderation. If you usually eat your favorite comfort foods daily, try cutting back to only once a week, or maybe eventually once a month. You will be reducing your caloric intake because you will not be having high calorie foods as often.
Eat smaller amounts. If your favorite higher-calorie food is a chocolate bar, consider having a smaller portion of chocolate, or eat only half of the portion that you normally would eat.
Try a lower-calorie version of your favorite comfort food. Use lower-calorie ingredients or prepare foods differently, such as baking, or grilling rather than deep frying in heavy oil. If your macaroni and cheese recipe uses whole milk, butter, and fatty cheese, try re-making it with non-fat milk, less butter, light cream cheese, and consider adding fresh spinach or peas to the mixture. Remember to decrease your portion size, and you might have just found a new, lite and delicious way to make your favorite meal. You may also find that you enjoy it just as much, and you will feel better about eating it, knowing that it is a healthier option for you, so you won’t have to feel guilty whenever you eat it. Always remember, eat sensibly, and enjoy!