Healthy eating starts with careful planning and organization. Since fresh produce has a very limited shelf life, regular grocery shopping is a must. Creating a menu for the week and writing out a shopping list will save you time and money; while helping you stick to healthy recipes. Local health food stores and farmer markets are very money-wise solutions. Plus, frequent visits will allow you expand your culinary horizons as well as mingle with other health-concerned people.
In fighter food, ealthy eating means using fresh ingredients and gentle cooking methods without adding any artificial ingredients and fats. Healthy eating requires a lot of cooking, since take-out food often contains too many refined fats and artificial seasonings. However, with modern appliances you will discover that cooking is no longer an annoying chore reserved for special occasions, but an exciting part of everyday life.
So which products should we buy when we actually decide to begin eating healthy food? Here’s what your weekly shopping list should include.
Vegetables. All vegetables should be eaten young, when they are tender and not coarse. Vegetables are best bought from fresh food markets or seasonal, when they are sold in boxes or baskets. Supermarket vegetables are often genetically modified or have been picked green and ripened in boxes when traveling long distances. Sprouts and brightly colored vegetables contain the most vitamins and antioxidants.
Fruits. Again, the trick is to buy seasonal fruit, since exotic fruits have often traveled long distances and ripened in their boxes, not on trees. Local, naturally ripened or, better yet, organic fruit are the best choice for the health-conscious cook.
Herbs. Aromatic herbs and spices can be used fresh or dried. The best idea is to plant the aromatic herbs in pots on your window and use them fresh whenever you need them. To preserve flavor, you can buy spices whole and use them freshly ground.
Cheese. Although cheese is quite rich in fats, cheese is a great source of vitamins and minerals. Buy only fresh cheeses in small quantities and try to eat them at once, since gourmet cheeses donít have a lengthy shelf life.
Eggs. Buy only organic or free-range eggs, and shake them before buying to ensure freshness.
Fish and shellfish. The best way to buy fish is fresh and unfrozen. Again, most of the fish in supermarkets comes from fish farms where it is fed with artificial substances, and this fish cannot be used in healthy recipes. Pink salmon and other popular kinds of fish will most likely come from a fish farm. Shellfish is a more healthy choice, since shrimp, for example, does not live in chemically polluted water. When you boil mussels, discard those that do not open.
Meat. For truly healthy eating purposes itís better to skip meat entirely, since itís almost impossible to find meat that comes from an environmentally and health conscious farmer. Most of the meat in supermarkets has enormous quantities of growth hormones and antibiotics. The best meat for use in healthy recipes comes from small farming communities or organic farms.
Grains, Nuts, seeds, and legumes. Whole wheat and whole grains should become a staple of your healthy eating routine, because many healthy ingredients are contained in the grain shell. Rice is the only exclusion from the rule, because, even though the rice grain shell is removed, many nutritional elements still remain in the rice grain.
Evidence continues to mount that a plant-based diet—rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy plant oils—may help reduce the risk of male health concerns, including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer. Adding fresh fruits and vegetables is a no-brainer for adopting a plant-based diet, but don’t neglect nuts, seeds, and legumes.
Nuts and seeds provide healthy mono- and polyunsaturated plant oils as well as protein. Legumes, which include beans, are filling and also contain lean protein. All of these foods are packed with vitamins and minerals. Eating more nuts, seeds, and legumes “is a good way to encourage a more plant-based diet that satisfies people in a healthy way,” says registered dietitian Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
What we eat become a part of us. So make your kitchen a starting point for your new healthy eating habits, and enjoy preparing healthy meals.
Health claims on food packages help people shop for foods that are linked with prevention of certain diseases. “Several approved health claims pertaining to the health benefits of whole grains will help consumers make wise food choices,” says Kathleen Zelman, M.P.H., R.D., director of nutrition for WebMD Health.
A big part of enjoying healthier eating is buying healthier foods, and that means making smart choices where it matters most and at the supermarket. Choosing the freshest, healthiest foods is an important first step toward making healthy and delicious meals your whole family will love.
In general, most supermarkets are laid out with the healthiest, most nutritious foods around the perimeter of the store. That is where most stores locate their produce section, their dairy section, their meat counter, and the like. Of course, the middle aisles of the grocery store also contain nutritious foods, such as canned and frozen vegetables, whole grain cereals and more.
And of course each shelf of the grocery store also contains both good and bad choices for healthy eating. For instance, the cereal aisle is home to both the healthy, home grain cereal, and those cereals that contain more sugar than corn. In many cases, the difference will be obvious from the packaging, while at other times you will need to read the nutritional information carefully to ensure the food is healthy for your family.
As a matter of fact, learning to read nutritional labels is one of the most important skills any health oriented shopper must learn. This government mandated labels contain a wealth of information if you know what to look for. Not only do nutritional labels contain vital information on calorie counts, fat grams and sodium content, but they contain detailed information on the percentage of each vitamin an mineral a serving contains.
When looking at nutritional labels, however, pay careful attention to the portion size listed. This is particularly important when looking at calories, fat grams and the amount of sodium. For instance, a serving of juice is generally 8 ounces, while the average juice glass at your home may be 12 or even 16 ounces. It is important to carefully look at serving size, and to do the mental calculation necessary to reflect how much of each product will actually be consumed at one sitting.
When shopping for healthy foods, it is usually better to opt for less processed foods. For instance, 100% fruit juice would be better than a fruit juice blend that may contain as little as 5% or 10% fruit juice. And plain frozen vegetables would be healthier than vegetables in a butter sauce. When shopping for meat, try to buy fresh meat whenever possible. Frozen meat products, or those already seasoned, heat and eat products, often contain unhealthy ingredients as well as preservatives.
When it comes to dairy products, it is best to buy low fat and non fat varieties when at all possible. The one exception to this rule is feeding babies and young children. Their growing bodies need the fat and calories contained in whole milk products, but adults and older children are better served by low fat alternatives.
When choosing canned soups, there are a number of fat free and low sodium varieties. Try to choose these soups for a healthier lifestyle. Other high protein, low calorie soup choices include black bean soup, lentil soup and split pea soup. These healthy soups are good sources of protein, fiber and folate.
Ethnic foods, such as Mexican and Chinese, can be excellent sources of healthy meals, and the traditional ways of preparing such foods are generally very healthy. It is important to stay as authentic as possible when choosing and preparing Mexican, Asian, Middle Eastern and Italian food. This will help guarantee both great taste and healthy eating. For instance, traditional salsa is an excellent, low calorie, and nutritious dip, and the traditional Mexican black bean dip is usually fat free.
Seasonings can be an excellent way to spice up healthy cooking without adding additional fat and calories. Herbs and spices are a great way to add zest to any meal, and starting an herb garden of your own is a great way to save both time and money while providing fresh tasting, healthy meals for your family. When buying spices in the grocery store, be especially careful about sodium content. Read the label carefully, since the first ingredient on many bottled spices is actually salt (another great reason to start that herb garden).