Last time we talked about good habits to make concerning diet and exercise, but we didn’t really look much at what we are eating. Many of us are busy, working more and more hours per week and haven’t the time for that home-cooked meal. We often settle for fast food full of carbs and salt without the fiber we need. Below are some tips to help eliminate processed foods in your diet.
Look at labels when you’re going through your grocery store. Most processed foods contain more than 10 ingredients, many undecipherable. Those are chemicals added to extend shelf life and improve the taste. Most of them also have an inordinate amount of sodium. This large amount of salt gets you used to it, and you crave it, not realizing how food really tastes.
Most low-fat foods simply substitute sugar for fat, which does no one any good at all. Fat is not our enemy, just make sure it’s a good healthy fat. Olive oil, avocados, and nuts are and have good fats. Eggs contain fat and cholesterol but are good for you, providing a large amount of protein for their size and calories as well as vitamin D, B12, phosphorous and riboflavin.
So, what can we eat? Real dairy products are best, even butter. A small amount of real butter adds much flavor. It’s rich, and a little goes a long way. Melt a small pat along with some olive oil to quickly sauté vegetables. Add sliced grilled chicken or steak for a healthy, vitamin-packed dinner. Roasted root vegetables are great for a sweet tooth. Slather a variety of cut-up root vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, onions, and parsnips with balsamic vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil. Roast in a 400- degree oven till tender, 30 minutes or so depending on size.
Another healthy idea is to make homemade dressing for your salad. Try different kinds of flavored oils and vinegar, using a 2:1 ratio of oil to vinegar. Great choices include cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, or lemon juice. Add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard for a significant boost of flavor. This homemade concoction is excellent on fruit too. Another great dressing for fruit is orange juice with a little balsamic.
So, when you’re thinking of “what can I eat?” think of your plate. Half of your plate should be a variety of vegetable. One-fourth should be good protein, lean beef, pork, chicken, or fish. One-fourth should feature carbohydrates, brown rice, sweet potatoes, bulgur, polenta, or similar whole grain. Cook them in broth for even more flavor. Do try and buy organic when you can. It can be more expensive but as they become more plentiful prices come down. Aldi has gone all organic now at a better cost.
Try utilizing these tips to get away from processed foods and begin enjoying a healthier lifestyle.
KATHLEEN WEAVER-ZECH AND DEAN’S TEAM CHICAGO