6 Steps to Simplify Healthy Eating

It seems every talk show or new study promotes a different style of eating or new miracle food. Do you ever wonder, “What am I supposed to eat?” A healthy diet shouldn’t be complicated. The following principles will help:

1. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
How many is “plenty?” For most adults, a good goal is five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. There are a hundred or more different kinds of fruits and vegetables. Try to eat a rainbow – the vitamins are what give produce their color. Fresh and frozen are both healthy options. Several fruits and vegetables make fantastic “fast food” on the go (apples, carrot sticks, celery, grapes, etc.).

2. Eat whole grains
Refined (“white”) breads and grain products have been stripped of the part of the grain which contains the most nutrients. Although some is added back, these refined products still lack important fiber, protein, and B vitamins. Choosing whole grain products puts these nutrients back in your diet. How do you know if something is whole grain? Look on the Ingredients list on the Nutrition Facts Panel. If the first ingredient is “Whole . . .” it’s whole grain. If the first ingredient is “Enriched . . .” it’s a refined grain.

3. Eat low-fat dairy
Dairy products are packed with important nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, potassium and protein. However, the fat in dairy products is predominantly saturated fat – the kind that unhealthy for your heart. That’s why it is important to choose low-fat dairy products, such as skim or 1% milk, light yogurt and reduced-fat cheese. Tip: The only difference between whole and reduced fat milk is the amount of fat – all of the other nutrients are the same.

4. Eat lean protein sources
Beef, pork, venison, bison, chicken, fish, shellfish, beans, soy, eggs, nuts and seeds all count. Each one provides important, unique nutrients, so try to get a wide array of sources in your diet. When shopping for beef and pork, look for lean cuts. A good rule of thumb is that one serving should have no more than 4.5 grams of saturated fat. Keep your protein sources lean by baking, broiling, grilling, and roasting rather than frying or heavily breading.

5. Eat healthy fats
Fats are not bad! Our bodies need fat for heat regulation, joint lubrication, hormone production, energy storage and vitamin absorption. Not all fats are created equal, however. The healthier fats are the unsaturated fats – both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. The less healthy ones are the saturated and the trans fats. These can negatively affect blood cholesterol levels and heart health. In general, the unsaturated fats are going to hang out in liquid oils (those that are liquid at room temperature), nuts, nut butters, avocados, and olives. The saturated fats come in solid fats such as butter, margarine, lard, shortening, mayonnaise, sour cream and cream cheese.

6. Eat proper portion sizes
It is important to pat attention to portion sizes. In general, 3 ounces of meat, 1 cup raw fruits/vegetables, ½ cup pasta or rice, ¾ – 1 cup dry cereal, and 8 ounces of milk equal one portion size. Tip: Be sure to check package labels for information about serving size.

Author: Brenda Moeckly, RD
Hendricks Regional Health