The “Rules” For Healthy Food Choices

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Healthy-Eating-101Welcome to the next installment of Healthy Eating 101 – Quest Style. Now that you are experimenting with how much to eat, how do you know what food choices will make the biggest impact on your health? Does it really matter how many grams of protein, fats, and carbs you eat? Does the amount of carbs matter and what about fat? There are so many questions about eating that it’s often hard to figure out where to start.

Let’s start with the basics of making choices. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t think of food as good or bad. Food is just food. Some things are better choices than others, but don’t think of any foods as off limits. You want to aim for foods that add to your health or improve it for the majority of your choices, but it’s also good to throw fun and tasty favorites in there every now and then.

  1. The easiest way to make good food choices is to focus on items that are as close to their original form as possible. Did it grow on a tree or a vine? Did it walk, swim, cluck or moo? Most of these items are going to be single ingredient items – apples, bananas, avocado, chicken, green beans, rice, black beans, and so on. There are bazillions of foods that fall into this category. Yes, that many. Bazillions. Go for colors, varieties, textures, flavors. These are endless and you won’t get bored. You can even combine single ingredients together into a great creation using a recipe! 😉
  2. Try to make food choices that don’t involve chemicals or preservatives. Have you ever read the ingredients in those little tubs of creamer for your coffee?! I’d rather use real cream from a cow any day over that chemical bomb – hyrdogenated this and that, and more. Your body does not need nor does it like chemicals. Preservatives are chemicals in my mind. You may need to buy real food more often because it goes bad faster, but who needs food laying around for months or years at at time anyway.
  3. Try to avoid processed foods if possible. The more a food is processed, the more nutrients it loses along the way. Some companies will add vitamins and minerals back in to make up for it, but the replacement is never the same quality as what nature made. For example, enriched white rice. Rice starts as brown rice, high in nutrients and fiber. It gets processed down and the hull removed to make it cook faster. As a result, the brown turns to white, nutrients are lost, and it needs enrichment. Watch out for the enrichment factor in breads, rolls, and other items. Even those called “whole grain.”
  4. Don’t fall for convenience foods or marketing tricks. Ready made brown rice that you just heat up is sure convenient and saves time, but the ones I’ve seen have added preservatives and oils. Read your labels. Again it’s fine if you choose to eat these items, but know that you are eating them. It’s also just as easy to make one big batch of brown rice when you have time and freeze it in baggies. Pull out a bag and you have your own ready rice… for less money and you know what’s in it.

Pretty simple. Four “rules” to healthy eating. Easy peasy even for the most scatter brained of us to remember. Follow these and you’ll be well on the way to improving your health. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in line at the grocery store behind someone with their cart filled to the brim with diet frozen dinners, fat free items, and other seemingly good choices. Here is a perfect example of violation of the rules above.

This is taken from the ingredient panel on a name brand frozen “diet” dinner. If you read the front of the box, you’ll see this is a smart choice to make but then you read the ingredients and find it is filled with color, hydrolyzed, disodium, rendered “stuff”. The box says that it takes 5 minutes or so to heat up. Let’s assume you have a family of 4 to feed. It will take you approximately 20 minutes to heat these dinners.

Cooked Salisbury Steak Patty with Caramel Color (added Beef, Water, Onion(s), Vegetable(s) Protein Product Textured (Soy Protein Concentrate, Caramel Color ), Seasoning (Corn Maltodextrin, Salt, Soy and Corn Protein Hydrolyzed, Onion(s) Dried, Garlic Dried, Flavor(s) Natural, Yeast Extract, Spice(s), Disodium Inosinate, Disodium Guanylate, Rosemary Extract, Beef Extract, Corn Starch Modified, Flavor(s) (Triacetin, Butter Acids, Flavor(s), Butter Esters), Asparagus, Yeast Extract Autolyzed, Beta Carotene, Wheat Flour Bleached, Bread Crumbs (Calcium Pantothenate, Chicken Fat, Corn Oil, Cottonseed Oil, Cottonseed Oil), Cottonseed Oil, Cyanocobalamin ), Dextrose, Margarine (Mushroom(s), Niacinamide (Vitamin aB), Onion(s), Onion(s) Powder, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (HCL), Pepper(s) Bell Red, Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Salt, Salt ), Salt, Sodium Benzoate, Soy and, Soy Lecithin, Soy Protein Concentrate (Soy Protein Concentrate, Soybean(s) Oil, Spice(s) Extractive), Sugar, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Water, Water, Wheat Protein, Yeast, Zinc Oxide, Flavor(s) Natural & Artificial, Copper Gluconate, Ferrous Sulfate, Beef Base (Beef Roasted and Beef Stock Concentrated, Mono and Diglycerides, Corn Hydrolyzed, Vitamin A Palmitate), Vitamin A Palmitate, Corn Maltodextrin, Soybean(s) Partially Hydrogenated, Soybean(s) Partially Hydrogenated, Soybean(s) Partially Hydrogenated and, Beef Fat Rendered, Corn Starch Modified, Yeast Extract Autolyzed, Beef Stock, Pepper(s) Black, Wine Burgundy (Wine Burgundy, Canola Oil, Caramel Color, Chicken and, Corn Syrup Solids, Cottonseed Oil, Dextrose, Garlic Granulated, Corn Gluten Hydrolyzed, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated, Potassium Chloride, Potato(es) Starch ), Salt, Seasoning (Soy Protein, Spice(s) Extractive ), Sugar, Sugar, Sulfite), Wheat Gluten, Pepper(s) White, Xanthan Gum, Corn Maltodextrin ), Soybean(s) Partially Hydrogenated, Mushroom(s) Base (Mushroom(s) Sauteed, Corn Starch Modified), Beef Stock Powder, Chicken Stock Powder.

I’ve got a great salisbury steak recipe that serves 6 and takes 15 minutes to prepare. The ingredients are 93/7 ground beef, low sodium beef stock, mushrooms, onions, an egg and bread crumbs. I know which one I’d rather eat. The one that saves me 5 minutes of cooking time… kidding! Hopefully you see the difference in choices.

Over the next few days, try following the rules above when faced with food choices and track them using a food journal to make sure you are sticking to your calorie goals. Don’t worry for now how you make up your meals with regards to protein, carbs, and fats. We’ll talk a bit about that next time.

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