Healthy Choices Every Day
Most of us know that carrots are better for you than cookies, but did you know that bread can be overloaded with sodium? Use these tips to eat, drink and shop smarter.
One can of soda contains 150 percent of your daily sugar limit. Excess sugar can cause weight gain, increased blood pressure, and inflammation—all risk factors for heart disease. It's OK to treat yourself once in a while, but a daily dose of soda will wreak serious havoc on your health. Instead, try seltzer water or unsweetened iced tea with a splash of 100 percent fruit juice, a twist of citrus, or muddled mint.
Cholesterol woes shouldn't stop you from eating protein-rich eggs. "The cholesterol you consume in food has a relatively small effect on the cholesterol in your bloodstream," says Stephen B. Kritchevsky, Ph.D. If you need further convincing, a medium egg has only one gram of saturated fat, a cause of high cholesterol. That is well under the AHA's 16-gram limit. As long as you enjoy in moderation, eggs are a healthy addition to your diet.
New microwave meals can be nutritious, not to mention convenient. But not all frozen meals are built alike. Look for meals with 400-600 calories, colorful vegetables, and whole grains. Check the nutrition label for fiber and vitamins. "Each serving should also have no more than 500 mg of sodium and 15 grams of fat," says Christine Gerbstadt, M.D., R.D.
Red meat is a good source of protein, iron, and B vitamins. If you're going to indulge in a steak or burger, you just need to watch your portion size. Red meat is high in calories and saturated fat, so stick to a serving that's about the size of a deck of cards or the center of your palm.
If you've been skipping the produce section to save money, reconsider. Fresh fruits and veggies make great, filling snacks, and they're cheaper than packaged munchies. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that a serving of produce costs roughly 25 cents, while cookies and crackers cost about 30 cents a serving. For the best value, shop in-season produce, and check out local farmer's markets.
Your daily cup of coffee, does more than give you a boost. Coffee, be it regular or decaf, is the nation's top source of antioxidants. Antioxidants fight free radicals that can harm the body's cells. Coffee contains only one class of antioxidants, though, so combine your java with a diet full of fruits and vegetables.
Even staples like bread require close examination. Two slices of bread can deliver 20 percent of your daily sodium limit. Too much sodium can cause high blood pressure and a dangerous amount of fluid retention. In bread, sodium is a preservative and a texturing agent. Look for loaves that have 120 mg of sodium or less per serving.
Americans snack more than ever. Nearly a quarter of the calories in our diet—about 504 per day—are eaten between meals. Snacking is a good way to boost energy and avoid over-eating, but healthy choices and planning ahead are crucial. Pack a snack that contains protein and fiber and sits around 100-200 calories.