by Lauren Squier, MPH, RD
Today’s food landscape is tough to navigate. Large grocery stores have nearly 40,000 products; the food industry spends $191 billion to tell us what to eat. Websites and bloggers have conflicting views about food and nutrition. What’s a health-seeking Boot Camper to do?
The body needs macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates and protein) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). We also benefit from special compounds in foods called phytochemicals (plant nutrients). The way we solve these needs varies from person to person and culture to culture; healthy diets come in a variety of forms! Eating a wide variety of real food will help you get the nutrients you need.
In the coming weeks, you will get more bite sized nuggets of nutrition information plus action items. In the meantime, here are three key ways to improve your diet today. Let’s do this!
One of the best things you can do for your health is eat more vegetables and fruit. Dig into these colorful, nutrient and fiber-filled, (mostly) low calorie, versatile and virtuous, almost endless choices! This week consider at each meal: how can I fill half my plate with vegetables? Add veggies to eggs, opt for a side salad with lunch, roast vegetables for dinner. Then grab a piece of fruit with breakfast and snack. Done! Check out A Veggie Venture for ideas and recipes or stroll a local Farmers Market to see what’s in season.
What kind of oils are you using at home? Shelf stable oils with a good fatty acid profile are your best bet. Try extra virgin olive oil for vinaigrettes, sauces and low heat cooking. Look for varieties from California, Greece or Spain. For high heat cooking, use avocado oil, coconut oil or ghee (butter with the milk solids removed). If you are using canola oil, choose organic and expeller-pressed and avoid using at high heat. Also, choose foods with healthy oils such as avocados, nuts/nut butters, olives, salmon, cod, and mackerel.
While we were looking the other way, many food manufactures replaced real food with food-like substances. Consuming these foods can lead to overeating because they are designed to be irresistible. They also lack the nutrition you need, so your body tells you “I need more food!”. If you want more info on processed food and beverages, read Michael Moss’ Salt Sugar Fat or Mark Schatzker’s The Dorito Effect. In the meantime, read labels. Know what you are putting in your body. Eat real food.
Ok, take a deep breath. You can do it. You have control over what you put in your mouth (at least most of the time!). Picture a horse with blinders on…instead of being overwhelmed by food clutter, focus on the foods that are right for you.