Tips for tuning up your nutrition

  • Posted: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Thursday, August 2, 2012 12:54 p.m.

Eating healthier food to improve your health or reduce your waistline isn't as difficult as you may think. Small dietary changes, made gradually, can result in substantial improvement over time, according to nutrition experts who offer the following guidelines for improving your diet and your health.

Look for variety: Varying your food provides a much greater range of nutrients. Eating the same foods over and over supply your body with the same vitamins and minerals every day. However, add a little variety and your nutritional gain is great! To add variety, try recipes from new cookbooks or search the Internet for sites with healthy recipes you can download. Check out a different ethnic restaurant or recipe each week. Pick one night a week to create a meal you've never tried. Simply adding new fruits and vegetables is a great way to add nutrient variety. Try a star fruit or mango. How about bok choy or broccolini for a change?

Cut fat, eat lean protein: When choosing meat, select lean cuts of meat such as filet mignon or flank steak instead of rib eye and T-bone. Trim visible fat from chicken and meats. Eat fish which is generally low in fat. The fat it does contain, like salmon for instance, is a healthy fat. The leanest sources of protein include turkey breast, skinless chicken breast, egg whites, non-fat yogurt, skim milk, beans, lentils, most seafood and fish, split peas, chickpeas and tofu.

Increase your fiber: Your diet should include plenty of fiber, which is found in fruits, vegetables and whole grains, dried beans and legumes. Whole-grain products such as oatmeal, breads, cereals, pasta and rice are excellent choices. They also can help curb the appetite. Although a label may state whole grain, look at the ingredient list. Whole grain or whole wheat, whole corn or whole oat should be the first ingredient.

Go low-sodium: First, stop using a salt shaker. Second, reduce or eliminate processed foods since they are all high in sodium. Get minimally processed foods or those that have no salt added. If you canít find the no salt added version, soak canned products, like beans, in water to remove about half the sodium listed on the label. Seek low-salt condiments and seasonings if you're trying to reduce your sodium intake. Ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, powdered sauces, soy sauce and steak sauce are all high in sodium.

Add vegetables: You can add vegetables to (almost) everything you eat. Add pureed carrots or roasted red peppers to pasta sauce. Replace some of the oil in nut breads and cakes with canned pumpkin or unsweetened applesauce. Substitute pureed green peas for half the amount of avocado in guacamole and other recipes. Put in a layer of vegetables instead of ground beef when preparing lasagna.

Consider soy: If lactose intolerance is a problem, substitute soy! Pour soy milk over your breakfast cereal. Blend soy flour into pancakes, muffins and cookies. Add tofu to soups, dips, stir-fry dishes and stews. Sprinkle dried soybeans on salads and into stir-fries. Soy sauce is the exception; regular soy sauce is high in sodium. If you use soy sauce for flavoring, look for a low-sodium version.

Cook with and consume healthy fats: When you cook with fat, use the monounsaturated kind. Olive oil, peanut oil, sesame-seed oil and canola oil are high in monounsaturated fat Ė the kind that helps lower blood cholesterol. Avoid trans fats, the most unhealthy fat, generally found in stick margarine, cookies, crackers, pie crusts, many fried foods and other snack and junk foods.

Find out if you are at risk for heart disease with a free screening. Call 800-335-4921.

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