Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Eat your veggies

There are some simple things we all can do to make our diets healthier, and with a little willpower and encouragement maybe we can all eat a little bit better this year.

Amber Burgess, nutritionist with Wilson County Health Department, has a list of easy changes we can all make when preparing or purchasing meals.

* Buy breads, pastas and rice made with whole grains. "Try the whole grain versions in all of those," she said.

If you're unsure if you'll like the whole grain versions, do it in steps, she said. First try Barilla's Plus pastas that have extra fiber but are not whole grain.

* Start looking at nutrition labels and make it your business to understand them. It's important to have a good idea of what's in the foods you are eating.

Burgess said she knows it's not always easy to understand the numbers and remember the recommended daily allowance, so she tells clients to pay attention to the percentages on the labeling.

For fat, cholesterol, calories and such, keep servings in the 20 percent or less categories.

* Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables.

"The objective is to get vitamins and minerals you need and fiber," she said.

Compromise is certainly workable. For instance, if you don't like whole fruit and vegetables, you can drink some juice, although you should limit it to one cup per day.

If your children don't like fresh fruits and vegetables, don't force it on them, she said. Instead, talk to them about why fruits and vegetables are good for them and encourage them, she said, and let them see you eat healthy foods as well.

If you don't have unhealthy snacks around, children will be more likely to eat a banana or apple from the fruit bowl, she said.

She suggests making fruit fun. Do finger foods, small servings of bananas or strawberries presented in a cute way. An apple cut in small pieces is probably more appealing to a child than a huge apple. Children also like clementines because they have no seeds.

Burgess also reminds parents that children can get their vegetables in soups and spaghetti sauce.

* Exercise. To be successful in weight management, you need a combination of good diet and movement.

* Switch to low-fat or fat-free milk.

* When you're eating out, look online for the nutrition facts on menu items. "If you want to pick something healthy, look at calories first," she said.

Burgess said consumers are surprised when they learn the amount of fat, calories and sodium in restaurant foods, including salads when cheese, ham and eggs are added in.

* Switch to fat-free salad dressings. But if you have high blood pressure, be careful when choosing fat-free items. Often the salt and sugar content are very high in fat-free products, she said. Sometimes, the 1/3 less fat is the better option.

"The thing is not to drown your salad in dressing," she said.

Vinegar and oil dressings are usually good choices.

* Pack your own lunch instead of eating out. "It's highly ideal," she said. "You get to choose the serving size and what's put in your meal."

When you make your own sandwich, add some lettuce and tomato, and throw in a piece of fruit to go with it. A small serving of chips is fine, she said.

It takes dedication to get up early enough to make your own meal, but the effort is worth it.

"It's hard, but if you can do it as much as possible, it will save money and on health care costs, too."

* Try to cook your own food. "The more natural the food is, the better it is for you," she said.

At home, you can control the fat and salt that goes into your food and how much fat is in the meat you use.

When buying ground beef, she suggests the 90/10 blend. But if you want a little more fat, 80/20 is OK. And don't forget to drain off extra fat into the garbage can after cooking the ground beef. Lean ground turkey is a good substitute for ground beef.

Burgess shares one of her favorite healthy meals she cooks at home. The sweet and sour chicken recipe is inexpensive, too, she said.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Veggies and Fruit
  • 1 jar canned mushrooms
  • 1 cup chopped mixed bell peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes (canned)
  • 1 cup Splenda sweetened pineapple chunks (reserve the juice)
  • 8 to 10 chicken tenderloins cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 tsp. minced garlic sauteed with chicken (add more or less to your liking)
  • 1/4 cup lite soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Splenda brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Juice from pineapple chunks
Brown chicken with garlic in oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Remove chicken and add all veggies except for tomatoes and stir fry for 2 to 4 minutes until desired tenderness.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and soy sauce, vinegar, brown sugar and ginger and mix together and immediately pour mixture into the skillet, along with the tomatoes, pineapple and pineapple juice. Stir together and bring to a full boil and reduce heat to medium cover and cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Serve over brown rice and enjoy. I suggest using the 10 minute boil in bag brown rice because “old fashioned” brown rice takes too long to cook!

Amber Burgess
Nutritionist, Wilson County Health Department

1 comment:

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