Food can make you healthier – if you make good choices. It can seem hard to make healthy food choices, particularly if you are on a budget and short on time. But there are some simple steps you can take to help you and your family eat healthier.
Build a healthier plate
Use a grocery list when shopping for food to help you choose more fresh vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Buy leaner meats (such as chicken, turkey, and lean cuts of pork or beef such as sirloin or chuck roast) and lower fat dairy products like low-fat or non-fat (skim) milk and yogurt. Buy whole grain breads and cereals. Save money by buying less soda, sweets and chips or other snack foods. Remember that special “dietetic” or “diabetic” foods often cost extra money and may not be much healthier than simply following the suggestions given here.
Also, watch the size of your portions. You may find that you are used to eating portions that count as two or more servings. It helps to be able to “eyeball” portion sizes. Here are some guides:
Meat, fish, and poultry: 3 ounces, or about the size of the palm of your hand or a deck of cards.
Cheese: 1 ounce, or about the size of your thumb.
Fresh vegetables, milk and yogurt: 1 cup, or about the size of a tennis ball.
Bread: one slice.
Easy ways to make smart food choices
There are lots of ways you can make smart choices about your own and your family’s eating habits. According to Ann Albright, PhD, RD, president, Health Care and Education of the American Diabetes Association, “One of the most important things you can do to start eating more healthfully is to pick one or two not-so great items you eat frequently and find a more nutritious substitution for those. If you start with foods you eat more frequently, then the change will pack a bigger punch.”
Set aside some time to plan your weekly meals. It may seem like a hassle at first, but having a plan (and writing your grocery list with it in mind) can save you time, stress, and a lot of extra trips to the store.
Stock your pantry with plenty of healthy basics, including brown rice, whole grain pasta, crackers and cereals. Remember that fresh fruits and vegetables are usually healthier than canned or frozen, but it is better to have canned or frozen fruits or vegetables than none at all! When you run out, put the items on your grocery list so you’ll always have them on hand.
Shop only from your grocery list. Avoid aisles that contain foods high in calories but low in vitamins and minerals such as candy, cookies, chips and sodas. Also avoid buying items promoted at the front of the store, on the “end-cap” displays at the end of each aisle, or at the cash register. These foods are usually low in nutrition. Never shop when you are hungry and might be tempted by less healthy food.
Keep fruits and vegetables washed and cut up for easy snacking and steaming.
Canned and frozen vegetables and fruits are healthful, quick and convenient. To cut down on the sodium in vegetables, drain and rinse canned vegetables with water before heating them. You can do the same to cut down on the added sugar in canned fruits. Better yet, buy them packed in juice.
Learn how to “Create Your Plate.” When serving a meal, draw an imaginary line down the middle of your plate and another one across. Fill half of your plate with leafy greens and other vegetables. Fill one quarter with grains, like whole grain bread or pasta or brown rice. Then fill the last quarter with lean protein such as chicken or fish.
Start meals with a salad or a broth or tomato-based soup with lots of vegetables. This helps you eat more good-for-you veggies while filling you up before you get to the higher fat and calorie courses.
Make healthy snack foods easy to find in your kitchen. For example, when you get home from work or school, put some fresh carrots, grapes, or pretzels out on the counter instead of having bags of chips out.
In restaurants, ask if meats can be grilled rather than fried, and request sauces and dressings on the side. Remember to choose fruit, salad, or other vegetables as side items, rather than French fries. Order a salad or soup to start and then share an entre. Save money, and lots of calories, by skipping dessert.
Learn more about healthy eating and how it can help lower your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Visit CheckUpAmerica.org or contact the American Diabetes Association at 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) or
Courtesy of ARA Content