5 easy ways…To improve your health

5 easy ways… to improve your health, while enjoying the taste of eating right

By Registered Dietitian, Nutritionist Danielle Brooks, RDN, LD – March 2014

This year, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s theme for National Nutrition Month is Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right. This is a great theme. As a Registered Dietitian, I know that healthy doesn’t have to mean boring or bland! It doesn’t have to be expensive or extreme. Nor does it have to be overwhelming or over-the-top! Whether you want to lose weight or just be healthier, these five tips will help steer you in the right direction, to “enjoy the taste of eating right.”

1. Skip the Salt.

Eating excessive amounts of sodium can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. One teaspoonful of salt is about 2,300 mg. Most foods have some naturally occurring sodium. Processed foods such as snack foods, frozen meals, lunch meat, and baked goods all have added sodium. Considering the naturally occurring sodium food and sodium in processed foods you are sure to exceed the daily recommendation if you salt your food!

Simple Tips to Lower Sodium Intake:

Choose salt-free seasonings such as fresh or dried herbs and spices, or blends such as Mrs. Dash. Do not salt your foods. Salt-free herbs and spices can add a lot of flavor to dishes in a healthy way! Try experimenting with different combinations. Choose an herb and try looking up a new recipe for a little fun! If you eat out, request that salt is not added while your meal is being cooked. And remember, it doesn’t matter if you are using sea salt, iodized salt, kosher salt, or rock salt. They all contain sodium!

2. Choose foods lower in fat and sugar.

Eating a high fat diet can significantly increase our calorie intake, and may also contribute to high triglyceride and cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Eating a diet with moderate amounts of fat and choosing healthier fats will not only promote weight control, but also heart health.

Eating a lot of baked goods, consuming sugar-sweetened beverages, and other sweets can also lead to excessive calorie intake and increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.

Simple Tips to Lower Fat and Sugar Intake:

Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products to reduce your saturated fat and calorie intake. Avoid fried foods. Use added fats sparingly when cooking or eating out. Ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side so that you may still enjoy them, but may eat less. Consider substituting items such as applesauce, bananas, avocado, and Greek yogurt for added fats. Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages as they contribute unneeded “empty calories.” Limit baked goods. Try snacking on a piece of fresh fruit if you have a sweet tooth! Try experimenting with recipes using less fat and sugar than what the recipe calls for. Try ice water with fresh cucumber, lemon or fruit to add flavor.

3. Practice Moderation.

Enjoy your food, but don’t eat too much.  Consider serving sizes before plating your food or eating. For example, a serving of meat is about the size of a deck of cards, and one piece of bread is usually one carbohydrate serving. Stick to one serving of meat and three to four carbohydrate servings each meal. Remember breads, pastas, fruit and milk all contain carbohydrates. We need carbohydrates for energy, but it is easy to consume excess if we are not mindful of how much we are eating.

Order the lunch portion or from the lower calorie menu when eating out. Or try only eating half of your meal and saving the other half for lunch the next day. I encourage clients to try calorie tracking applications such as myfitnesspal (http://www.myfitnesspal.com). Food journaling helps you to be mindful of your food choices.

4. Eat a variety of foods.

Forget fad diets! Fad diets are often restrictive and may omit entire food groups which can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Not to mention they are hard to follow and are usually only quick, short-term fixes that you cannot healthfully maintain for the long term. You may lose the weight quickly but probably won’t maintain it and may even gain more weight when you stop the diet.

Each of the food groups offers different macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). By eating a variety of foods from each food group every day you will be more Iikely to meet all or your nutritional needs without a supplement, and “enjoy the taste of eating right.”

5. Eat a balanced diet.

Try to eat from each food group at each meal. Many of us don’t eat enough vegetables and fruits. Can you eat at least one serving of vegetables with lunch and dinner every day? Can you incorporate one serving of vegetables in a snack? Did you get two fruit servings in today? Did you have three servings of dairy? Ask yourself these questions when you are meal planning.

Eating healthy is not a “short-term diet;” it is a lifestyle. Choose your foods for the health of it!

Consider the above tips, and choose three that you could apply to your diet/lifestyle right now that may improve your nutritional health! You can improve your nutritional health that easily.

For more healthy eating tips, information about portion sizes and food groups visit http://www.Myplate.gov.

For nutritional facts on individual food items, visit http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list.

For the American Heart Associations recommendation for healthy eating and lifestyle visit http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/The-American-Heart-Associations-Diet-and-Lifestyle-Recommendations_UCM_305855_Article.jsp.

To view the 2010 dietary guidelines for Americans visit


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