Say hello to health and goodbye to unhealthy foods

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Say hello to health and goodbye to unhealthy foods

Open up your kitchen cupboards and take a look at what foods are in there.  Or check out your pantry to see what grocery items line the shelves.  If chips, packaged cookies, sugary beverages, crackers, and sweetened breakfast cereals are the predominant food supply you have stocked, it’s time for a restock.  These types of foods typically are brimming with too much sugar, salt, saturated fat, or made with refined grains, offering little in the way of a health-promoting diet.

However, if this is what you see, you are not alone. The typical American household likely is stocked with of those same foods too. The problem is a high consumption of low nutrient foods over time can harm your health.  Low-nutrient food choices can eventually be part of the reason why some people develop diabetes, heart disease, constipation, or even some forms of cancer.  Other risks from regularly eating unhealthy prepackaged foods include weight gain, high blood pressure, and stroke.

What can you do to change that?  Very simple – start by slowly but surely, purchasing better, more nutritious foods.  It doesn’t have to happen all at once or overnight.  Plan each week to methodically replace the not-so-healthy foods with foods high in nutrient composition.  This means foods high in various vitamins and minerals, fiber, healthy fat, and adequate protein.

Rather than risk temptation by keeping some of these unhealthy foods in your cupboards or pantry, swap out the unhealthy items listed below for healthier versions.  Here is a plan you can use to clean up your pantry while cleaning up your health:

·      Nuts and seeds

Get rid of: Salted or smoked nuts, and seeds.  These are high in sodium and may include additives for flavor.

Replace with: Unsalted, unflavored versions.  Sprinkle them in salads, sauté them with vegetables or eat as a snack. 

·      Salad dressing, marinades, sauces

Get rid of:  Any marinades, bottled sauces (such as soy or Worcestershire), salad dressings, and gravy.  These are typically very high in sodium and even saturated fat.  For some people, a salty diet can increase blood pressure.  Always check the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts Label as some marinades can have as much as 400 milligrams of sodium per one tablespoon.

Replace with:  Spices.  Make your own rub of spices instead of using a marinade or sauce.  Try combinations like chili powder, cinnamon, and onion powder; or curry powder, dry mustard, and garlic powder.  Make your own salad dressing using olive or canola oil, lemon juice, and vinegar (red or white wine vinegar).  Make a sauce for fish or chicken using fat-free Greek yogurt and your favorite spices.

·      Grains, chips, packaged mixes

Get rid of:  White bread, white rolls, white rice, pastas, crackers, sweetened breakfast cereals (more than 10 grams of sugar per serving), pretzels, chips, and pancake mixes.  Many of these products are made with refined grains such as white flour or white rice, which are easily digested and can rapidly elevate your blood sugar. 

Replace with:  Whole-grain versions of the same foods, such as 100% whole wheat bread or rolls, whole grain brown rice, whole-wheat pastas, whole-wheat crackers or whole-grain tortilla chips.  The first ingredient listed needs to start with the word “whole.” Make homemade pancakes using whole wheat flour and fresh fruit such as blueberries.

·      Instant or flavored oatmeal

Get rid of:  Instant microwaveable oatmeal (flavored or not), cream of wheat or malt-o-meal which is often high in sugar and refined carbohydrates.

Replace with: Whole-grain rolled or steel-cut oats, or use ancient grains (quinoa, millet, amaranth), which make a hearty breakfast when cooked and topped with fresh fruit.

·      Canned vegetables and soups

Get rid of:  Canned vegetables, and canned or boxed soups and soup stock.  These are often high in sodium.

Replace with: Low-sodium versions.  Canned vegetables can be drained in a colander and then rinsed under cold running water about one minute which does reduce the sodium content by up to 40% - the same should be done with canned beans to lower their sodium content.  Look for soups with less than 400 milligrams of sodium per serving.  Better yet, make soup from scratch where you are in control of the sodium content.

·      Pasta sauces in jars

Get rid of:  Pasta sauces in jars that often contain high amounts of sugar and sodium.

Replace with:  Healthier versions aiming for ones with less than 150 milligrams of sodium and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving.  Or make your own fresh pasta sauce by sautéing two diced tomatoes, and one diced onion in olive oil, one clove minced garlic, and fresh basil.

·      Peanut butter

Get rid of:  Nut butters like peanut and almond that contain too much sugar.

Replace with:  More natural versions with no added sugar, just the ground nut in it.  The fewer additives they contain, the better.

·      Canned meat/fish

Get rid of:  Any meat such as chicken, tuna, or salmon that are canned and packed in oil, making them high in fat and sodium.

Replace with:  Meat or fish packed in water.  When choosing tuna, choose chunk light tuna versus albacore tuna as it is lower in mercury.

·      Packaged cookies

Get rid of:  Packaged cookies – vast majority are made with refined grains, preservatives, and added sugar. 

Replace with:  Fresh or dried fruit.  To make them feel more like a treat, place ripened fruit such as bananas and strawberries on a wood skewer and freeze them.