For Your Health
Serve Your Family a Healthy Diet
Start with the basics
-Donna Soo, MS, CNC, healthawarenesssite.com
Do feel like it’s nearly impossible to serve your family a healthy diet? There are so many conflicting messages out there. Does fat free mean healthy? Are “trans-fat- free” labels true? Are there healthy fast food alternatives? How can I find time to cook a healthy meal and sit down to dinner with the family?
Many people struggle to understand how best to feed their families. I like to recommend starting with the basics.
Let’s start with the grocery store
Nutrient-dense foods will be found in the perimeter of the store. Start with the produce section and stock up on fruits and vegetables your family will eat. Focus on buying a rainbow of colors. Colors are associated with nutrients that reduce your risk of developing cancers, degenerative diseases, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration.
Next, you should find yourself in the fresh fish and meat section. If you are a meat-eating family, it’s best to choose your foods from this section, where you have more control over your choices. Lastly, you should find the dairy department. Try to choose organic dairy whenever possible, and if not, be sure to look for hormone-free products. If you need to get staple foods in the store interior, have a list with you of the canned goods you need and avoid aisles that contain sweets, trans-fat loaded snacks and other highly processed foods.
Don’t forget your local farmers’ market
Now that you’ve made the decision to stock your kitchen with healthy foods, why not plan to visit your local farmers’ market? Farmers’ markets are a win-win for everyone and are increasing nationwide every year. Local farmers benefit by selling a variety of foods, and when we buy locally, we help support small, sustainable farms. Individuals benefit by eating fresh foods packed with phytonutrients that help reduce your risk of disease. Remember to always choose a rainbow of colors!
Farmers’ markets have also been found to enhance local community. This is your chance to talk to your neighbors and support local business at the same time. Let’s not forget the positive effect on our green efforts. Foods bought locally eliminate the use of energy for transportation and distribution of produce. Buying at the farmers’ market specifically reduces packaging waste.
For more information about your local farmers’ market, visit the USDA Agriculture Marketing Service web Web site (www.ams.usda.gov) and browse wholesale and farmers’ markets.
Consider organic delivery
In many areas of the country, you can order organic produce delivery. This system is more expensive than heading to the farmers’ market, but it comes to your door and you have something different every time. Some come with recipes so you can try a new recipe with each delivery.
Now check out your pantry and refrigerator
Make a commitment to yourself and to your family to get rid of unhealthy snack foods like those laden with trans-fat and salt. Did you know that a trans-fat fat-free label on the front of the packaging can mean there could be 499 milligrams mg of trans-fat per serving? Always check the label: L, look for any partially hydrogenated oils, and avoid those products that have them. While you’re cleaning the cabinets, toss the sodas too! Drink flavored waters, herbal teas, 100 percent unsweetened fruit juice and just plain water! Water with a lemon wedge is healthful and tasty.
This is what you should see when you look in your pantry or refrigerator:
• Fruits and vegetables
• Ready-to-eat salad
• Cooking oils and salad oils
• Nuts and seeds
• Whole- grain breads
• Other whole whole-grain products like pastas and rice
• Herbs and seasonings
• Whole Whole-grain cereal products
• Beans and legumes
• Low-fat dairy products, including yogurt and kefir
Try these ideas for healthier eating throughout the day:
• Keep ready ready-to to-eat, cleaned and cut fruits and vegetables in the refrigerator.
• Always add vegetables to soups, stews and casseroles.
• Keep fruit on the counter, easy to reach and ready to eat.
• Serve salad and a vegetable with dinner every evening.
• If your children don’t always eat vegetables at dinner, keep serving it them anyway … they’ll try it them at some point. Children learn how to eat from their parents, so they need to observe the healthful meals.
Finding the time to cook
We all know eating dinner with the family is a good thing, but studies show that children who eat dinner with their family are 3.5 times less likely to abuse drugs as teens. Girls who are part of family dinners are less likely to have eating disorders as teens. Eating together opens communication and leads to better overall eating habits.
If you run out of time during the week, cook ahead on the weekends. Remember that crock potslow cooker you got as a wedding present? Pull that out and see how great it is to come home to a delicious, hot meal.