It’s a new year and a good time to start living a healthier lifestyle.
Health experts, food bloggers and chefs say that with an abundance of fresh fruits, vegetables and nuts, getting on the right track should be a little easier.
Also helping people to make better food choices is a new book by celebrity chef Giada De Laurentiis. “Giada’s Feel Good Food: My Healthy Recipes and Secrets” is loaded with more than 100 recipes for breakfast, juices, lunch, snacks, dinner and desserts.
Why change your eating habits? The reasons are many, including lowering your blood pressure, reducing your risk of heart disease and getting your blood sugar levels under control. Admittedly, it isn’t always easy to change.
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But with 10 helpful tips from the experts and some recipes from De Laurentiis, you can begin the new year in a healthful way.
1. Don’t skip breakfast, said Kim Tirapelle, a registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente in Clovis, Calif. Eating a breakfast with protein and fiber will help stabilize your blood sugar and curb your late-morning cravings. Foods like Greek yogurt are a great source of protein, as are eggs or egg whites. Whole wheat toast, oatmeal and fresh fruit are also good sources of fiber.
2. Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables at every meal. Tirapelle said the more colors of food on your plate, the better. Also, if you can’t get your children to eat vegetables, sneak them in their food by pureeing them and adding them to sauces or soups. And if you can’t find fresh fruits or vegetables, frozen produce is a good option.
3. Cut out the fat and salt. Try roasting or grilling your meats and vegetables instead of frying. Choose leaner meats, and pull the skin off poultry. Also, don’t be afraid to experiment with different herbs and seasonings, such as cinnamon, chile peppers, basil, thyme, cilantro, turmeric or whatever is in season at farmers markets. It helps add flavor without the salt.
4. Increase your intake of fiber and whole grains. Chef Naomi Hendrix adds a tablespoon of chia seeds to her morning oatmeal or cereal. The nutrient-rich seeds are high in protein and antioxidants. Hendrix says the tiny seeds will make you feel full, reducing the tendency to overeat. Other fiber-rich things to try include quinoa, amaranth and freekeh, young green wheat that is toasted and cracked.
5. Eat more foods with omega-3, a beneficial fatty acid. Tirapelle said foods with omega-3 help improve your heart and brain function. Foods high in omega-3 include salmon, mackerel, tuna, flax seed, spinach and walnuts. She recommends at least three servings a week. Pregnant women should consult their doctors about eating fish because of the concern over high levels of mercury.
6. Increase your fluids. “Oftentimes when we feel tired and worn down it is because we are dehydrated,” Tirapelle says. She said we should be drinking between 64 to 80 ounces of water a day. And limit the sports drinks, flavored coffees and teas.
7. Plant your own garden. Growing your own food helps increase your intake of fresh fruits and vegetables and gets children more interested in what they are eating. Along with growing her own food and shopping at farmers markets, food blogger Kindra Franzen of Visalia, Calif., cleans out her pantry of junk food. “Get it out of the house,” Franzen said. “No temptations. Nothing to set you up for failure.”
8. Try healthy snacks. Limit salty and fried snack foods such as potato chips. This time of year, stock up on winter fruits for snacks and at meal time. “Put a bowl of four to five peeled mandarins and two to three sliced pears at the dinner table for one more side dish,” said Dorie Lim, a registered dietitian. “Trust me, they’ll disappear.” Dried fruit and nuts also are good sources of healthy snacks. Raisins, figs, prunes, almonds, pistachios and walnuts can be found at markets and fruit stands.
9. Choose low-fat or nonfat milk products. Also, try using low-fat plain yogurt or avocados – that have a heart-healthy fat – for dipping vegetables or other healthy snacks.
10. Use smaller plates to help with portion control. Also, taller slender glasses help reduce the amount of soda or juice you drink. When you eat from smaller plates, you feel satisfied without overeating, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For more tips, visit the government’s website, www.choosemyplate.gov.