By Kathy Hubbard
When it comes to talking about getting all the nutrients our bodies need to contribute to our good health, one size doesn’t fit all. Some conditions require different diets than others. But, I’ll stick my neck out and say that generally, when it comes to healthy eating, one size fits most.
“Eating healthy foods can improve your overall health, help you manage your weight, increase your energy level, and prevent many chronic diseases,” a pamphlet I found online produced by Kaiser Permanente Health Education Center said. “Healthy eating means different things to different people. Whatever your goals for healthier eating, learn how to start making changes – and how to enjoy them.”
How do we enjoy eating when we’re concentrating more on whether or not we’re getting the proper amount of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein? There is a lot of advice online. One bit I particularly liked was on www.nourishedsimply.com:
“To feed your body the healthiest fuel possible, choose whole foods that do not come with a label …. If you do need to use packaged food, try to pick products that have five ingredients or less. If any ingredients are unknown to you and you don’t have time to investigate it, don’t purchase that food. Purchasing local food will allow you to get the freshest ingredients and is also kinder to our environment.”
As we all know, good nutrition doesn’t come fast, easy or cheap. Like me, you’ve probably noticed a significant increase in food costs since the pandemic started. So how do we deal with that while still eating healthy?
Quick tips for reducing food costs include making a list before shopping and sticking with it. Don’t get distracted by the impulsive buys at the end of each aisle. Be aware that often frozen fruits and vegetables are less expensive than fresh.
“While fresh produce usually loses some of its nutritional value in transit, vegetables, for example, are frozen at their peak of ripeness when they have the greatest nutritional value,” Southern Living magazine says.
Look for foods that are “marked down.” They may be close to or at their sell-by date but are perfectly good to use in the next day or two. Also, buy generic or store brands. Mostly, the only difference is in the packaging, not the quality of the product.
“When menu planning, remember that your leftovers can be incorporated into other meals. Your leftover vegetables can be added to soup, or your leftover grilled chicken can be a delicious salad topper. Throwing away leftovers is like throwing away money,” Southern Living said.
The truth is, and this won’t surprise you, most of our diets contain way too much sugar, sodium, and fat. By decreasing these three culprits to our good health, we can expect to reap the benefits. Those benefits include lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, and lower cholesterol, to name just three things that contribute to chronic diseases.
To improve what you eat, Kaiser recommends planning your plate. “Fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Divide the other half equally between lean protein and whole grains. Between meals, choose snacks with fiber, like fruits, nuts, or whole grains. These foods will satisfy you longer than processed snacks or sweet treats.”
And while talking about plates, one website suggested swapping your dinner plate for a salad plate to help you with portion control. Remember, a “portion” of rice or pasta is just half a cup. That’s about the size of a tennis ball. Likewise, a three-ounce serving of meat or fish is the size of a deck of cards, and a piece of bread or tortilla should be around the size of a CD.
Kaiser suggests adding one extra fruit or vegetable to your diet each day until you reach five or more. “Choose a rainbow of colorful fruits and vegetables, either fresh, frozen, or dried. If you choose canned products, look for low-salt vegetables and fruit canned in juice rather than syrup. Eat meat, poultry, or fish that’s been roasted, baked, or broiled without the skin.”
If this seems too onerous, ask your primary care provider to refer you to a nutritionist. I’ll recommend Sandra Frank, Certified Diabetes Care, and Education Specialist & Clinical Dietitian at Bonner General Health. 208-263-1441.
Kathy Hubbard is a member of the Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.