Vegetables and Fruits:
Enriched with vitamins, antioxidants and fiber. Not only are they low in calories they are a terrific source of nutrients and vital for a healthy life.
• Try to add a portion in every meal. If it’s snacking you are after, then they should be the first choice.
• A minimum of the five portions a day will go a long way.
• Antioxidants in these foods will keep ailments away.
• Dark leafy green vegetables are a vital part of a healthy diet since they are packed with nutrients such as calcium, nesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E and K. Greens help to strengthen the blood and respiratory systems. Be adventurous in your choice of greens: kale, mustard greens, broccoli, Chinese cabbage are just a few of the many options.
• Naturally sweet vegetables are an excellent way to add healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for other sweets. Some examples of sweet vegetables are corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes or yams, winter squash, and onions.
• Eating a wide variety of fruit is another very healthy part of any diet. They provide us with beneficial properties such as natural sugars, fiber, Vitamins and antioxidants. Choose fresh or frozen, and focus on variety. Berries are cancer-fighting, apples provide fiber, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, and so on.
• The brighter, deeper colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Avoid: Fruit juices can contain up to 10 teaspoons of sugar per cup; avoid or dilute with water. Canned fruit often contains sugary syrup, and dried fruit, while an excellent source of fiber, can be high in calories. Avoid fried veggies or ones smothered in dressings or sauces – you may still get the vitamins, but you’ll be getting a lot of unhealthy fat and extra calories as well.
• Our bodies need protein to maintain our cells, tissues and organs. A lack of protein in our diets can result in slow growth, reduced muscle mass, lower immunity, and weaken the heart and respiratory system.
• During digestion, protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the basic building blocks our bodies use to create its own protein.
• Protein gives us the energy to get up and go –and keep going. Keep in mind that it is vital to eat healthy protein that is free of hormones and antibiotics.
• Focus more on getting higher quality versus more quantity. Each person is individual and may need different amounts of protein depending on their body and activity level.
• A complete protein source is one that provides all of the essential amino acids. Examples are animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese.
• Complementary proteins are two or more incomplete protein sources that together provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids. For example, rice and dry beans. Similarly, dry beans each are incomplete proteins, but together, these two foods can provide adequate amounts of all the essential amino acids your body needs.
• Nuts, Seeds, Beans, and Tofu: alternative sources for healthy proteins
• Choose: Black beans, navy beans, garbanzos, lentils, and other beans. Nuts like almonds, walnuts and pecans. Soy products like tofu, soymilk, and veggie burgers. All of these are great sources of protein for vegetarians.
Avoid: Salted or sugary nuts; refried beans.
• Food composed of some combination of starches, sugar and fiber - provide the body with fuel it needs for physical activity by breaking down into glucose, a type of sugar our cells use as a universal energy source.
• Bad carbs are foods that have been “stripped” of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. They have been processed in order to make cooking fast and easy. Examples are white flour, refined sugar, and white rice. They digest so quickly that they cause dramatic elevations in blood sugar, which over time can lead to weight gain, hypoglycemia or even diabetes.
• Good carbs are digested more slowly. This keeps your blood sugar and insulin levels from rising and falling too quickly, helping you get full quicker and feel fuller longer. Good sources of carbs include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables, which also offer lots of additional health benefits, including heart disease and cancer prevention.
• Whole Grains for long-lasting, healthy carbohydrate energy
• In addition to being delicious and satisfying, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart. Make whole grains an important part of every meal.
• Make sure you're really getting whole grains. Focus on including grains that are in their whole form, such as whole grain brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley in your meals.
• When you want to eat healthy grains in the form of breads or cereals be aware that the words stone-ground, multi-grain, 100% wheat, or bran, don’t necessarily mean that a product is whole grain. Look for the new Whole Grain Stamp from the Whole Grains Council.
• If there is no stamp look for the words “whole grain” or “100% whole wheat,” and check the ingredients to make sure each grain listed is specified as whole grain. Some good sources are dark breads and toasted wheat cereals.
Avoid: Refined grains such as breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.
Dietary fiber is found in plant foods (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) and is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber helps support a healthy diet by:
• Helping you feel fuller faster and longer, this can help prevent overeating.
• Keeping blood sugar levels even, by slowing digestion and absorption so that glucose (sugar) enters the bloodstream slowly and steadily.
• Maintaining a healthy colon - the simple organic acids produced when fiber is broken down in the digestive process helps to nourish the lining of the colon.
The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble:
• Soluble fiber can dissolve in water and can also help to lower blood fats and maintain blood sugar. Primary sources are beans, fruit and oat products.
• Insoluble fiber cannot dissolve in water, so it passes directly through the digestive system. It’s found in whole grain products and vegetables.
• A healthy diet should contain approximately 20 to 30 grams of fiber a day, but most of us only get about half of that amount.