What words do you use to describe healthy eating habits?
Some women like to talk about nutrition. Some like to talk about healthy cooking. Others simply call it healthy eating.
It’s all about the same thing: what can you do to quickly prepare healthy and nutritious food for yourself and your family.
Here are 10 tips that are worth keeping in mind as you shop for your family and prepare meals.
Tip 1: Calcium, Vitamin D, and Iron
Calcium for strong bones
About 99% of the calcium in your body is in your bones and teeth.
The other 1% plays an important role in proper nerve functions and muscle contraction.
Some of your best and easiest sources of calcium are:
- dairy products
- sea vegetables such as hijiki, kelp, and wakame
- seeds and nuts such as almonds, sesame, and pistachios
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium
We’re starting to understand the vital role Vitamin D plays in disease prevention.
Your body makes Vitamin D when you’re in the sun. Not many people get enough sun exposure to rely on this way to get Vitamin D.
Some of your best food sources of Vitamin D are:
- fatty fish such as mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna
- beef liver
For many people it may be a good idea to take a Vitamin D supplement.
Iron for your blood
Of course, we all know we need iron to carry oxygen from the lungs to every part of our bodies.
What’s not as well known is that iron is needed within your cells for various functions.
When most women think about getting enough iron, they think about eating more red meat. Red meat is certainly a good source of iron.
What you may not know is that many vegetables are also a great way to increase the amount of iron in your diet. Try these:
- lentils, chickpeas, and other beans
- dark green leafy vegetables
In addition, some foods are fortified with iron. I personally think it’s better to eat foods that are naturally high in nutrients rather than rely on some company to fortify my foods.
Tip 2: Choose the Right Protein
How much protein do you need? Less than you think.
According to WebMD, adult women need only about 46 grams or 1.6 ounces of protein each day. (Adult men need 56 grams or 2 ounces.)
Here’s the amount of protein in 3 ounces of some common foods:
- beef has 31 grams
- lentils has 9 grams
- black beans has 6 grams
- milk or yogurt has 3 grams
As you can see, it’s easy to get all of the protein you need each day.
You should be careful about eating a lot of animal protein. Too much animal protein causes calcium loss.
Therefore, don’t rely solely on meat, fish, poultry, or milk for your protein. Be sure to eat a balanced diet so you get your protein from both animal and plant sources.
Even women who don’t eat any animal products should have no problem getting enough protein.
Tip 3: Whole Grains First
Grains such as wheat, oats, and barley are made of three parts: bran, germ, and endosperm. Whole grain means after grinding and processing all 3 parts of the grain are still there.
Refined grains have the bran and germ removed.
Choose products with whole grains instead of refined grains.
Men and women who eat whole grains have reduced risk of
- heart disease
- type 2 diabetes
Whole grains help you maintain your proper weight. They are also a good source of dietary fiber which helps you feel full quicker and stay regular.
If you are gluten intolerant, there are still a large variety of grains for you to eat that do not contain gluten.
Tip 4: Include Lots of Legumes
The most common legumes used for human food are
- lupins or lupini beans
Legumes are great sources of
- complex carbohydrates
- dietary fiber
There are so many legumes that you can find lots of variety for your meals.
One concern that I often hear is that it takes so long to cook beans. That can be true if you’re cooking them from scratch. Canned beans are quick and easy to heat up.
In fact, even dried peas and lentils cook very quickly.
Tip 5: Colorful Veggies
Some of the best foods you can put on your plate and into your belly are colorful veggies.
When you go shopping fill your cart with a variety of brightly colored veggies – green, red, purple, yellow, and orange. Make sure some of them are dark leafy greens.
These colored vegetables are filled with nutrients and provide natural protection against cancers, heart disease, and diabetes.
Vegetables work their magic in your body because of plant compounds known as phytochemicals and antioxidants.
Phytochemicals along with antioxidants go to work in your body in numerous ways. Some of the natural chemical processes in our bodies produce what are known as “free radicals.”
Free radicals can damage cells in your body. These damaged cells can start you down the path to numerous health problems such as arthritis, heart disease, and cancer.
Colorful vegetables with their natural phytochemicals and antioxidants can lead the fight to neutralize free radicals and even repair damaged cells.
Tip 6: Fill Your Plate with Fruits and Veggies
One of the big keys to losing weight and eating a healthy diet is to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables in your meals.
The natural question is: How many fruits and vegetables should I eat?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed a handy calculator you can use.
Using their calculator, a woman who is 35 and engages in light physical activity needs 1 1/2 cups of fruit and 2 1/2 cups of vegetables every day.
Fortunately, you can speed up the time it takes to prepare vegetables by buying canned or frozen veggies. Then it will take you only a few minutes to heat them up in the microwave or by steaming them.
You can get ahead of the game with salads and veggies for nibbling by cutting them up in advance.
Tip 7: Think Before You Fill Your Plate
Believe it or not, you can win the battle to avoid overeating before your meal begins.
Here are a few strategies you can use to ensure victory.
Before your meal take a minute to think about how hungry you really are. Then think about foods you want to eat to satisfy your hunger. Then fill your plate with those foods and skip over what else in on the table.
This strategy is especially effective before you go into a restaurant, and doubly effective at an all-you-can-eat buffet.
Again, when eating out avoid ordering over-sized portions. For example, if you order the large bowl of soup you’ll likely hear a voice in your head telling you to empty the bowl.
At home, try using smaller size plates and bowls. We all have a tendency to fill our plates and then feel (internal) pressure to clean them. Opt for a small dinner plate and it will look full with a lot less food on it.
Tip 8: Water
Granted, when we think about cooking and eating, water is not what we think of first.
That’s too bad. Water is one of the most important components when it comes to healthy eating.
The good news is that it’s not hard to get plenty of liquid. Since you’re already eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, they will supply a certain amount of the water you need.
Also, drinking tea and coffee count.
So how much water do you need to drink? According to Dr. Michael Greger, 4 – 7 cups per day:
“So based on all the best evidence to date, authorities from Europe, the U.S. Institute of Medicine, and the World Health Organization recommend between 2 to 2.7 liters of water a day for women. That’s 8 to 11 cups a day for women, and 10 to 15 cups a day for men. Now that’s water from all sources, not just beverages, and we get about a liter from food and the water our body actually makes, and so these translate into a recommendation for women to drink 4 to 7 cups of water a day and men, 6 to 11 cups, assuming only moderate physical activity at moderate ambient temperatures.”
Do yourself a big favor and avoid sugary drinks such as sodas and fruit juices. And, there’s mounting evidence that drinks with sugar substitutes should also be avoided.
Tip 9: Make Your Own Snacks
You’re cooking and eating healthy meals. What about your snacks?
A poorly chosen afternoon snack can completely undo your healthy lunch. You’ll need to do better than visiting the office vending machine.
Sure, grabbing a candy bar every once in a while won’t do much damage. But, you don’t want to do that once or twice a day.
Your best bet is to prepare your own little snack packs. The good news is, it won’t take you long to prepare them. Set aside a few minutes over the weekend and you can prepare your healthy snacks for the coming week.
You want a snack that will give you a feeling of fullness without causing a blood sugar spike.
Here’s a few ideas to try.
You can make your own packets of nuts, berries, fruits, or vegetables. For vegetables you can buy baby carrots or make your own mixture of sliced red peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and radishes.
If your idea of the perfect snack is a cookie or muffin, try baking your own. At least, you’ll know what’s in them. You can bake them with whole wheat flour and just enough sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth.
I’m sure for many of you (and me!) want (need) a little chocolate in your day. Try buying a large chocolate bar. Leave the bar at home and break off one or two squares a day to take with you to work. With chocolate don’t settle for anything less than a 60% dark chocolate bar.
Tip 10: Eat Breakfast
What will it take to convince you to eat a healthy breakfast?
How about Web MD, will you trust them?
“Your mother was right: Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Not only does it give you energy to start a new day, but breakfast is linked to many health benefits, including weight control and improved performance.”
Here are a few of the benefits you get from eating a healthy breakfast:
- improved concentration for mental activity
- strength and endurance for physical activity
- lower cholesterol
- help with weight control
There you have it. Ten tips that can take you a long way toward eating and cooking more healthy meals for you and your family.
Even though 10 tips may seem like a lot, I’ve only scratched the surface of ideas you can use to easily cook and eat healthy foods.Picture credits: Flickr, Photl.com, Foodies Feed, Deposit Photos, Pixabay.com, Photl.com, Unsplash – Jeffery Deng