Information provided by EveryDayHealth.com.
If you love whipping up healthy recipes and experiencing new ways to enjoy fresh and tasty foods, you are part of a growing food movement. “People who call themselves foodies represent a move away from TV dinners, fast food, and processed foods. This is a wonderful thing,” says Ann-Marie Hedberg, MS, RD, director of the dietetic internship program at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Houston. “The foodie movement’s emphasis on fresh ingredients, preparation, and experimentation is a move toward healthier cooking and healthier foods.” So how does someone become a foodie? Start with these 10 pointers.
Remember: Healthy Foods Don’t Stay Fresh for Long
“If you can leave it out on the counter and it doesn’t go bad, it is probably not good for you,” says Hedberg. “For healthy recipes, you want foods that you can grow or shoot. Eliminate additives and preservatives that increase shelf life unnaturally.” This means skipping processed meats, which tend to be higher in saturated fats and sodium, and cutting back on cookies, crackers, and pastries that have additives and are made with saturated fats.
Shop the Grocery Store’s ‘Perimeter’ for Healthy Foods
“When shopping for your healthy recipes, concentrate on the perimeter of the supermarket,” advises Hedberg. “That is where you will find the healthy foods like fresh-baked goods, dairy, fresh fish, fresh meat, and produce.” Pick the leanest cuts of meat: “Choice” and “select” grades are better choices than “prime.” In the dairy aisle, choose fat-free, 1 percent fat, or low-fat dairy products. Make fish a regular part of your healthy recipes; the American Heart Association recommends at least two servings of fish every week.
Read Food Labels for Fiber
“Fiber is an important part of any healthy diet. You should get most of your fiber from fruits and vegetables,” advises Hedberg. “When shopping for grains, don’t be fooled by the front of a box that says ‘whole grain.’ Read the back label and make sure you are getting at least two to three grams of fiber per serving.” As a rule of thumb, aim for at least 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories in your diet.
Pick Products Without Added Salt
The average American consumes more than 3,000 milligrams of salt every day. That is 700 mg more than the upper limit recommended for most people. But most of that salt doesn’t come from your saltshaker — it comes from processed foods. “To reduce the salt in your healthy recipes, you need to read labels again. If the salt content per serving of a food is higher than the calories per serving, leave it on the shelf,” warns Hedberg.
Use Herbs to Create Healthy Recipes
Fresh herbs can turn a recipe from ordinary to interesting by adding flavor and reducing the need for salt or sugar in your healthy cooking. Many herbs also contain good-for-you antioxidants. You can grow your own herbs or buy them fresh or dried at the grocery store or farmers’ market. Consider these pairings: Basil goes well with tomatoes. Chives are great on potatoes. Cilantro adds zest to many Mexican and Asian cuisines, and mint can be added to vegetables and salads for sweetness.
A Healthy Foodie Prefers Quality Over Quantity
Did you know that the typical dinner plate today is 36 percent bigger than one from the 1960s? One of the best ways to enjoy a healthy recipe and not overload on calories is to reduce serving sizes. For example, the American Heart Association recommends just three ounces for a serving of meat — about the size of a deck of cards. Fill up the rest of your plate with vegetables for a quality, healthy meal.
Hunt Out Fats and Cholesterol
You may already know that trans fats are a big no-no, but there are also other fats to avoid. “It’s not enough to just check for trans fats on a label. Look out for partially hydrogenated and hydrogenated fats,” advises Hedberg. For healthy cooking, use vegetable oils. Remove the visible fats from your meats and the skin from poultry before cooking. Higher-cholesterol foods like liver, shellfish, and eggs are tasty and healthy choices — as long as you keep track of your cholesterol per serving. Egg whites contain plenty of egg protein without the cholesterol and can be substituted for whole eggs in many healthy recipes.
Don’t Fill Up on Sugar
Indulging your sweet tooth doesn’t have to mean consuming a lot of sugar. Adding sugar to your recipes just adds calories without any nutritional value. As with salt, fiber, and fats, you need to read the labels on any packaged foods you buy. Names of added sugars to look out for are glucose, maltose, fructose, sucrose, corn syrup, honey, and concentrated fruit juice. Some of the biggest sugar offenders are beverages and snacks — why fill up on these empty calories when you can save room for healthy food?
Choose Healthy Protein Substitutes
A healthy foodie knows that you need a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, but proteins don’t always need to come from meat. “You should include fish, eggs, cheese, nuts, beans, lentils, and soy as part of your protein menu,” advises Hedberg. One cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein and less than one gram of fat. To lower your risk of cancer you should stay away from processed meats like bacon and hot dogs, and keep your red meat intake to less than 18 ounces per week.
Have Fun With Food!
Part of the enjoyment of healthy food is being creative and expanding your food experience. “Hopefully the days of kids only enjoying hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, or pizza are behind us,” says Hedberg. “The foodie movement has made foods like hummus, couscous and edamame part of many kids’ food vocabulary. Healthy recipes and healthy cooking can be fun and adventurous. Mix, match, experiment, and have fun with food.”
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