Resolutionary Foods: Four Healthy Ways
The champagne is gone, the party is over, and the new year has arrived. If you’re like most people, you’ll resolve to take better care of your health, which usually means giving up a few favorite foods. But since denial so often backfires, we have a better idea: Instead of eliminating certain foods from your diet, pledge to eat specific ones. Our recommendations follow, along with several irresistible recipes to get you started.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Aside from their terrific taste, fruits and vegetables brim with nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals, many of which are antioxidants and show promise in helping to ward off disease. Phytochemicals (“phyto” from the Greek word for plant) are compounds found in plants that team up with nutrients and fiber to help boost the body’s immune system and regulate metabolism. The bonus is that the fiber in fruits and vegetables fills you up and keeps you satisfied for longer periods of time than a bag of chips will. Fruit makes a terrific topping for low-fat yogurt or whole-grain cereal at breakfast. It also makes a delectable smoothie, such as the apricot and strawberry Fruit and Fiber Protein Shake below. For lunch, try a vegetable-rich soup, salad, or wrap sandwich. For dinner, pack in the produce with a vegetarian main course, a few sides of cooked veggies, or a supper salad, such as our Warm Chicken Spinach Salad with Oranges, Dates, and Goat Cheese.
Eat More Whole Grains
Whole grains, such as whole wheat, oats, and barley, are an important part of a healthy diet. Unlike refined carbohydrates (a plain bagel made with white flour, for example), which have been overprocessed and stripped of most of their nutrition, whole grains are kept intact and are potent with protein, fiber, and nutrients and may help lower the risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. From a breakfast bowl of oatmeal to our recipe for Soba Noodles Topped with Spicy Miso Scallops, you’ll find numerous easy ways to enjoy the nutty, wholesome taste of these cereals.
Eat Good Fats
How to include fats in a healthy diet is a complicated subject. Mono- and polyunsaturated fats are known as “good” fats. These are found in many foods, including nuts and seeds, fish, olives, grains, and certain liquid oils such as olive, canola, soybean, corn, sunflower, and peanut. When eaten in moderation, these fats are beneficial: They’re a great energy source, they’re one of the building blocks of cell membranes, and they’re essential for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K.
Saturated and trans fats are the bad guys — these can raise cholesterol levels in the blood, which can lead to heart disease. Cottonseed and palm kernel oils, lard, cheese, cream, butter, and some meats all contain high levels of saturated fat. While some trans fats occur naturally, the majority are created through a process called hydrogenation — heating vegetable oil in the presence of hydrogen to form a solid fat — and are found in shortenings and snack foods. Big food manufacturers are keen on trans fats because they have a longer shelf life.
Our simple advice is to add more good fats to your repertoire. Our protein shake includes flaxseeds, which are rich in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as fiber; our warm supper salad calls for olive oil and olives; and the Nutty Oatmeal Raisin-Chocolate Chip Cookies employ walnuts, peanut butter, and canola oil (instead of butter).
Choose Healthy Sources of Protein
Most nutrition experts agree that the most healthful sources of protein come from legumes (including beans), whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy products, seafood, egg whites, and lean meats such as skinless chicken breasts, primarily because these foods are low in saturated fat. While protein is vital for cell repair and regulation of many bodily processes, the amount needed per day varies from person to person. Approximately 9 grams of protein per every 20 pounds of body weight is a useful guideline when trying to figure out how much protein to consume each day. Excellent protein choices in our recipes include the soymilk in the breakfast shake, the scallops on the soba noodles, and the chicken on the warm supper salad.
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