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Top Tips for Healthier Eating

by Julie Lichty Balay, MS, RD

10. Eat at least one piece of fruit every day.

Just like vegetables, most fruits are high in fiber (when the whole fruit is consumed, not just the juice), vitamins, and minerals, and contain various phytochemicals. Fruits do contain natural sugars, which is why it is advisable to minimize or eliminate fruit juices (even 100% juice) and replace them with whole fruits, since a serving of juice can be the caloric equivalent of several pieces of the whole fruit. (For example, you would have to eat a pound and a half of grapes to take in the amount of sugar in 20 ounces of 100% grape juice.) Fruits are great snacks and can also serve as a healthy dessert item. Many also travel well, so tote them along and reach for an apple or orange instead of a bag of chips.

11. Find a soy product you like and eat it once a week.

Soy is a complete protein and contains omega-3 fatty acids, phytochemicals, and only trace amounts of saturated fat. Some soy products also contain calcium, folate, potassium, and/or fiber. Soy comes in all shapes and varieties — chances are, there is a soy product that you will like. Try edamame (young green soybeans), which are sold with or without the pod and make a great snack; soy milk (perfect in your coffee); soy-based veggie burgers; soy chips or nuts (beware of sodium); or good old tofu (blend silken tofu in a fruit smoothie, and you won’t even know it’s soy). Just as with beans, substituting soy for meat as a protein source will help reduce your intake of fat and cholesterol while increasing your fiber intake.

12. Eat fish once a week and vary your fish consumption.

All fish are a good source of protein and low in saturated fat, and some types of fish like salmon and tuna are very high in omega-3 fatty acids. Many people now question the safety of eating fish because of the potential for contamination by such pollutants as mercury and PCBs. However, once-a-week consumption should be enough to meet your requirement for omega-3’s while minimizing your exposure to pollutants. Varying the type of fish you eat will also help minimize your exposure to any pollutants. If you want to check whether a specific fish is high in mercury, you can visit this Web site by the FDA. The Environmental Protection Agency also has fish advisory information here. If you are pregnant or nursing, or if you are feeding a small child, the recommendations are more stringent than for most people, so please check the advisories.

13. Use a variety of herbs and spices to flavor your food with less salt and fat.

Herbs and spices not only add flavor to food without the use of fat and salt, but some also confer health benefits. For example, both garlic and turmeric (often used in yellow curry dishes) have been found to reduce the risk of certain types of cancer. Some spices and flavorings go well with a variety of foods; these include parsley, garlic, onion, lemon juice, and “spicy” ingredients like pepper and mustard powder. When using leaf-based herbs, it is best to crush them (or rub them on meat) to maximize their flavor. If you need to substitute dried herbs for fresh ones in a recipe, use about half the amount listed. To introduce yourself to new flavors and spices, try making a recipe from a different culture each month. If you can’t find the flavorings you need at your local supermarket, an ethnic market or specialty food store may have what you need.

14. Drink 6–8 glasses of plain water each day.

The human body is 60% water, and when we lose even 2% of our body weight from water (3 pounds in a 150-pound person), the result is lower energy, slower metabolism, and even a false sense of hunger. Our thirst mechanism is fairly weak, so you may not sense thirst in the beginning of dehydration. Aim to drink 6–8 glasses every day, regardless of thirst, and more in the summer months or if you exercise strenuously. A good way to detect your individual need for water is to monitor your urine: Dark-colored or cloudy urine is a sign of dehydration. Also, weighing yourself before and after exercise will give you an idea of how much water you have lost; drink two cups of water for every pound lost.

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