More healthy eating advice and ways to support the cause
March is National Nutrition Month, and Smart Lifebites is celebrating with more healthy eating information for you. Below we give you “5 Healthy Eating Tips to Start Today.” And for those of you who are as passionate about healthy eating as we are, we wanted to tell you about a cool way to support the cause. Balanced Inc., is a public health and nutrition advocacy organization that promotes healthy menus. It works with institutions including schools, hospitals and workplaces. Proceeds from sales of its “The Future is Healthy” T-Shirt go to support Balanced to take a stand for healthier foods and raise the bar for healthier food standards around the world. The T-Shirt is only available through March. Click this link to order one today.
5 Healthy Eating Tips to Start Today
If you and your family are prioritizing health in 2020, food is top of mind. Perhaps you considered a fad diet that had no rhyme or reason behind its dietary rules. Instead of jumping on the going-on-a-new-diet bandwagon, make a few small but concrete shifts in your usual dietary pattern. This will help you to establish healthy habits you can maintain over the long term.
As a nutritionist, I constantly evaluate what people eat (and don’t eat). It turns out most folks are nutritionally short-changing themselves in similar ways with the foods they select and forgo. With that in mind, I created the following list of dietary tweaks to help the average person break from this pattern.
1. Eat a serving of legumes everyday
Beans, chickpeas, and lentils may not be “magical fruits,” but they are a near-perfect food. They are high in healthy carbohydrates, protein, fiber, antioxidants, and key minerals and vitamins. A diet high in legumes contributes to good heart health and lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Legumes also protect against developing diabetes and obesity. This inexpensive nutrition powerhouse merits the status of daily staple. So, make an effort to incorporate legumes into your favorite dishes.
2. Make all your grains 100% whole (to the greatest extent possible)
Grains that are “100 percent whole” are those that are the least refined. This means that all parts of the grain kernel are retained. Unlike refined grains that are stripped of the bran and the germ, 100 percent whole grains are good sources of fiber, protein, healthy fats, minerals, and vitamins. Unsurprisingly, eating whole grains is also associated with a lower risk for heart disease and cancer. Meanwhile, refined grains may be linked with gastric cancer. For better health, choose brown rice over white, oats over sugary cereal and 100 percent whole wheat bread over more refined varieties. If you’re unsure about the contents of a packaged product, check the ingredient list to verify.
3. Double your fruit and vegetable servings
Do you get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day? If not, you’re in the same boat as 90 percent of Americans. Most don’t get enough of these vital food groups. These foods are a source of essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein, antioxidants, and other beneficial “phytochemicals” that lower our risk for a slew of illnesses, including heart disease, stroke, cancer and dementia. Plant-based foods also boost our immunity and deliver key nutrients not found in other foods. No meal is complete without at least one serving of a fruit and/or vegetable. So, the next time you’re going through the lunchline or deciding what to make for dinner, remember to grab an extra helping of your favorite vegetables (excluding fried potatoes!) and sneak an extra fruit or two into your breakfast, lunch or snack.
4. Get a regular source of iodine
While you probably predicted the first three tips on this list, this one is a little less obvious. Unless you regularly eat lots of seafood and sea veggies, you’re probably not getting enough iodine in your diet. Why does that matter? The declining sufficiency of iodine in the Western diet over the last several decades may be a major factor in the rise of breast cancer in young women. Low iodine intake can also cause thyroid disorders in adults and lower IQ in children. Moreover, many healthy foods, like raw cruciferous vegetables and soy-based foods, contain compounds called “goitrogens” that inhibit the function of iodine in our bodies. One of the easiest ways to get more iodine in the diet is to cook with iodized salt, but eating seaweed regularly or taking a seaweed-based supplement can be just as effective.
5. Watch your intake of ultraprocessed foods, and eliminate processed meats
Recent research shows unsettling figures: 60 percent of our diets are composed of “ultra-processed” products that are best be described as junk food. These include dozens of foods like store-bought pastries, frozen pizza, chicken nuggets, candy, chips, fish sticks, microwaveable dinners and sugary cereals. There’s nothing wrong with a less healthy treat every once in a while, but it’s important to take stock of where the majority of your calories are coming from. Preferably, we eat mostly whole foods like those mentioned above. Science increasingly reveals that eating more ultra-processed products correlates with a higher risk of dying prematurely from cancer, cardiovascular diseases and other diet-related diseases.
Not to be confused with ultra-processed foods, processed meats are meat products that are preserved through curing, salting, or smoking. They contain carcinogenic compounds called nitrosamines. Familiar examples include pepperoni, bologna, sausage, bacon, hot dogs and ham. These foods are known to cause cancers of the digestive tract. So it’s worth eliminating them entirely from the diet or to the greatest degree possible.
Following any or all of these small but mighty tips could help you stick to a more health-promoting pattern of eating. As important, I hope it also inspires you to look more closely at the foods you eat everyday. Rather than a drastic overhaul, healthy eating can be viewed as a series of small tweaks to your usual dietary pattern that are achievable, nutritious and delicious.
Madeline is the Institutional Outreach and Support Manager at Balanced. She holds a B.S. and M.S. in Nutrition. She advocates for more plant-based dining options in institutions with the aim of building healthier food environments and fostering better public health outcomes. You can reach her at: firstname.lastname@example.org