Tips for Fueling the Body and Mind
Family members of all ages can participate in healthy decision-making by helping out in the kitchen! On this page, you will find helpful grocery shopping tips, links to recipes that feature seasonal vegetables, and substitutions to make your favorite recipes healthier! Healthy family meals help provide the body with the nutrients needed to function at optimal level and to prevent illness. Refer to A Proper Serving Size to learn how many servings should be consumed for each food group in a 24 hour period.
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All healthy meals start with the ingredients. Here are a few tips to help ensure your grocery store trips are productive. Encourage the whole family to get involved.
1. Stock the pantry with the essentials
These foods can be stored for a long period of time and are easy on the wallet! These ingredients can also be easily added to a variety of healthy meals.
- Brown Rice
- Whole Wheat Pasta
- Dried Beans (Black, Red, Refried)
- Peanut Butter
- Quinoa, couscous, bulgur, and other grains
- Canned tomatoes
- Vegetable stock
- Canned tuna
- Pearl Millet
See the Seasonal Produce Guide to learn what fruits and vegetables are available all-year round and what fruits and vegetables should be purchased during specific times of the year.
2. Avoid shopping when you are hungry
When we go shopping on an empty stomach, it is harder to resist temptation. To help avoid buying unhealthy snacks and going over your budget, always plan a shopping trip when your stomach is full.
3. Always make a list BEFORE going to the store
Make it a family activity to plan the menu for next week’s meals. See the 50 Dollar Grocery List and A Week’s Worth of Healthy Recipes in Print Resources for some ideas. If you make a list before going to the store, you will be less likely to buy ingredients you do not need. In addition, be sure to look through grocery store flyers for coupons and weekly sales to help keep costs down. You can also find coupons online or in your local newspaper!
4. Spend your time on the perimeter
Once you are in the store, you should spend more time shopping around the perimeter of the store, where the fresh fruits, vegetables, meats and dairy products are located. Try to stay away from the aisles in the center, where the store stocks most of the canned and processed foods.
5. Make Product Comparisons
Not all products are created equal. In addition to price comparison, don’t be afraid to grab containers of similar products from different brands, hold them side-by-side and compare the nutrient content. See Reading a Nutrition Label to learn how to make accurate comparisons. Just because something has a low-calorie or low-fat label doesn’t mean it is healthier than the generic brand that is less expensive.
Making small changes or additions to your nutritional plan is an easy way to increase your intake of nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, minerals. Try incorporating 1, 2, or even all 5 of the following substitutions into your daily meals. Specific Recommendations:
1. Replace fried foods with baked or grilled options
Making this one switch will greatly decrease the amount of fat and calories you consume. Additionally, try broiling, roasting, steaming, or poaching!
2. Replace the oils in your baked good recipes with applesauce.
The main job of fat in a recipe is to maintain the food’s texture. Applesauce can also do this job. Although it may take some experimentation to find the right amount for your taste, this substitution will decrease the fat content in your recipe and could improve flavor! You can also add mashed bananas, grated zucchini, or nonfat greek yogurt in place of eggs in certain recipes.
3. Choose lean meats like turkey and chicken instead of beef and pork.
Red meat (beef and pork) can be high in saturated fat. Chicken and turkey contain less fat than regular ground beef and are an excellent source of protein. Consuming too much saturated fat can lead to a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, type II diabetes, and some cancers. Bacon, for example, is typically high in calories, saturated fat, and sodium. Alternatives like turkey bacon may be healthier, but make sure to check the nutrition facts panel before purchasing.
4. Choose whole grain instead of white grain products!
Grains are an important part of a balanced diet, providing essential carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Whole grains include all three important parts of the grain: the germ, the endosperm, and the bran. Unfortunately, during the processing of white grains, such as white bread and white rice, only the endosperm is left and many of the nutrients are lost. For example, whole grain breads are higher in fiber, zinc, and folic acid. These same nutrients appear in brown rice, whole wheat pasta, bagels, and rolls!
Dairy products are an excellent source of vitamin D and calcium, which help maintain strong bones and proper muscle function. Unfortunately, many dairy choices are also very high in fat. Fat free or low fat dairy options have the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as whole milk and regular cheese but have far less fat and calories! So try using skim milk in your morning coffee. You can also use plain yogurt instead of sour cream while making guacamole!
Processed foods are usually in packages, boxes, bottles, cans, or bags and are usually high in calories, sugar, salt, and fat. They have long lists of ingredients including chemicals that you would never use in your own kitchen. Have you ever heard anyone ask you to please pass the monosodium glutamate, red dye #3, potassium bromate, or high fructose corn syrup? Processed foods also last longer in the pantry or refrigerator. If they can last for months or even years without spoiling, it means they are full of so many of chemicals and preservatives that not even bugs or mold bother to eat them!
Before we purchase or consume our food, we can ask ourselves some simple questions:
- Are there more than five ingredients?
- Are the ingredients names of foods I recognize?
- Could I make this food in my own kitchen?
- Would my great-great grandparents recognize this as food?
- Could I find this food in nature?
Examples of real foods are fresh fruits and vegetables, rice, beans, eggs, unflavored milk or yogurt, nuts, chicken, and fish. They do not have added sugars, salt, fat, or other crazy chemicals. Real food is healthy and delicious. When we eat real food, we give our bodies the nutrients we need to lead active, long, healthy, and happy lives!
It’s 8:30 a.m., and you just finished your breakfast of Tropicana® Original Orange Juice, Yoplait® Original Strawberry yogurt, and Kellogg® Raisin Bran Crunch Cereal. Sounds healthy, right? Little do you know, you just consumed 67 grams of sugar, or 285% of your daily-recommended value! Often, there are sugars hiding in so-called “healthy food.” These sneaky sugars are part of the reason why most adults in America are eating 44 more pounds of sugar than they should every year!
The World Health Organization recommends that adults consume no more than 25 grams of sugar every day, but most of us are eating closer to 88 grams. By learning about where these sugars are hiding, we can be more careful about what we choose to eat and try to decrease the amount of sugar in our diet.
How to spot added sugars on the ingredient list: Any ingredient that ends in –ose is a type of sugar, and anything with sugar or syrup in the name also signals sugar.
Examples of added sugars on ingredient lists: agave nectar, barley malt, beet sugar, brown rice syrup, cane crystals, cane juice, cane sugar, caramel, carob syrup, castor sugar, coconut sugar, corn syrup, crystalline fructose, date sugar, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high fructose corn syrup. See Print Resources to learn how much sugar is in certain foods.
“Added Sugar in the Diet.” Harvard School of Public Health. The President and Fellows of Harvard College, 2014. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/
Kessler, David. The End of Overeating: Taking control of the Insatiable American Appetite. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Inc, 2009. Print.
“Sugar 101.” American Heart Association. American Heart Association, 2014. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEatin g/Sugar-101_UCM_306024_Article.jsp#Top.
“WHO opens public consultation on draft sugars guideline.” World Health Organization. WHO, 5 Mar. 2014. Web. 6 Sept. 2014. http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2014/consultation-sugar-guideline/en/.