Healthy Food Tips: Avoid imitation food; Foods that make health claims; Eat the rainbow; Eat less; Season foods; Read food labels

Restaurant foods for takeout, catering, business meetings, team lunches, conferences, and sporting events.

Don’t eat anything that your grandmother or great-grandmother would not recognize as food.
Have you noticed how many products there are in the supermarket? Thousands of new products are introduced every year. Do you think your great-grandma would know what Splenda is? Or, chicken nuggets?

If you don’t know what it is, don’t eat it.
Read those food labels. Do you know what monocalcium phosphate is? Or, polysorbate 60? If you see a bunch of words that you don’t recognize as food, or if it’s something you can’t buy to stock in your own kitchen, should you really put it in your body? Stick with the shortest list of ingredients you can find, and hopefully they are all ingredients you recognize.

Watch out for foods that make health claims.
Just because something is “fat-free,” doesn’t mean it is good for you. They have to substitute something for the missing fat, and it might be a mix of chemicals. It seems like fiber is added to everything these days — even candy. But, does adding artificial fiber to a sugary, fatty, nutritionally empty food make it a health food? Fruits and vegetables are the ultimate health foods, and they don’t have any claims plastered on them.

Avoid imitation foods.
For example, you can buy fat-free, nondairy cheese. The first few ingredients (out of about 30) are water, corn syrup solids, maltodextrin, oat fiber and sodium phosphate. Does that sound like cheese? How can it be cheese without dairy? How about some imitation butter? Stick margarine has been made many ways during the past decades, and some have been found to be much more dangerous to our health than the butter it tries to imitate. And of course, there are artificial sugars, fake fats and imitation meats to add to the list of manufactured foods trying to imitate the real thing.

Treat meat as a flavoring.
We eat more meat now than any time in history. We average 200 pounds of meat per person per year-up from 125 pounds 100 years ago. We don’t need that much protein in our diet, despite what you may hear. By eating less meat, we would automatically decrease our calories, saturated fat and cholesterol intakes. Limit your meat intake to around 5 ounces per day. And, give a meatless meal a try once in a while.

Eat the rainbow.
Eat lots of fruits and vegetables of all colors. We get different necessary vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients from different vegetables. Yellow-orange veggies are an excellent source of vitamin A and beta-carotene. Red tomatoes provide lycopene. Citrus fruits give us vitamin C. The list goes on and on. Vitamin supplements just don’t do the job.

Sweeten and salt food yourself.
Would you add 10 teaspoons of sugar to a glass of iced tea? Pre-bottled varieties have at least that much. Or a half teaspoon salt per cup of soup? Canned soups can have this much or more.

Eat less.
Eat slower and stop before you are full. If you are unsure what a portion should look like, do a quick Internet search and refresh your memory. Then, stick to those portion sizes. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to signal the brain that it is full. You can control how much food you eat in that 20 minutes by taking your time to chew thoroughly and eat slowly. Practice leaving a few bites on your plate at the end of a meal. Break the habit of having to clean your plate, no matter how much food you are served.

Treat treats as treats.
Does every meal need to end with dessert? Do we really need a sweet snack or sweetened drink every day? Remember, most sweet treats just provide extra calories and no nutritional benefit. Keep treats to an occasional indulgence and substitute fruit for your mealtime sweet ending. Break the dependence on soda, sports drinks, sweet tea and other sweet drinks and learn to enjoy unsweetened drinks.

This should be No. 1 on the list. If you can cook your own food starting with raw food, season it yourself and avoid using highly processed food products, there is no doubt that your health will benefit. Don’t know how to cook? Find some simple recipes with just a few ingredients and dive in. You’ll be surprised at how easy and delicious a homemade meal can be. And please, teach your children to cook from an early age.


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