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One Simple Tip for Healthier Eating

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
1/6/2011 5:35 AM   :  45 comments   :  16,299 Views

You may have started the New Year by reading tips for how to select a diet that suits your needs and lifestyle. Perhaps you joined the 28-Day Bootcamp Challenge to get your booty moving. Maybe you've read about the 11 healthiest food trends of the 21st Century and want to incorporate some of them into your healthy eating plans for 2011.

The first week of a new commitment to health can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Many people are at a loss for how to begin making healthier eating choices. Following a "diet" plan may seem like an easy option at first. However, by day three a more rigid approach to eating then you are accustom can suddenly become tedious and feel restrictive. Trying to make all these new habits fit into your day-to-day life can become too much to process. Getting started with healthier eating does not have to be as complicated as you might think. Here is a secret tip that can help you begin your journey.

Of course keeping track of what you eat will help you know the nutrient content of what you are consuming. Learning what are correct portion sizes will also be helpful when it comes to controlling calorie consumption. While those skills are important and will lead you to success, they don't help you with the first and most important place to start, selecting what to eat.

When deciding what to eat, use this secret tip. Select items with the shortest ingredient list. While this may seem basic, thinking about it a little further you realize the choices are vast and most all food groups can fit your preferences. Here are examples that are more specific.

Meat - I'll start here because many people new to healthy eating include meat in their meals and snacks. If your choices come in a package with many words on the ingredient list that you don't know what they are, the secret tip may help. Instead of a lunchmeat sandwich or hot dog, select chicken or turkey breast. Go to your local butcher shop or the meat department at your grocery store and request they slice a breast for you. Select your ground meat from the meat department or butcher as well and when possible grind your own from whole meat purchases.

Grains - Bread, rice, and noodles tend to be staples in many diets. When looking to make an easy switch toward healthier eating, select whole grain instead of your typical enriched white standard. Brown rice, whole-wheat couscous or pasta and 100% whole wheat bread are usually next to the current brand you buy. Next time you need a grain, look for a whole grain option to try instead.

Fruits and Vegetables - This is a food group that many of us do not eat enough of and may have a goal to increase. Of course, the choices with the least ingredients in this area are the ones that are fresh such as a banana or apple, raw carrots or pea pods. If fresh is difficult, frozen is your next best choice. Making a simple switch from canned vegetables to frozen is the first step toward healthier eating of fruits and vegetables with the practice of selecting more fresh choices not far behind.

Dairy - Dairy supplies four key nutrients (calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin A) that are low in many American diets. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest three equivalent servings of low-fat dairy are necessary each day. The choice with the shortest ingredient list is simply to drink cow's milk several times a day. If you are eating processed American cheese slices or other processed cheese spreads, look in the dairy case for natural cheese choices instead. Select from choices such as low fat cottage cheese, Colby, Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella, or Provolone. Low fat and non-fat yogurt is also a good choice. For those that cannot tolerate dairy or choose not to select it for other reasons, there are non-dairy milk alternatives that you may want to include instead. Since these are processed options, finding those with the least ingredients may be tricky and will require close reading of ingredient labels.

Snacks - This is probably the area that will cause people the most pause. Chips, candy bars, and soda may currently be a snack staple but definitely not staples for a healthy diet. This is also the area where remembering the tip can bring the most realization that other options are available. Even if you are trying to watch portion sizes by using 100-calorie snack packs, most of them are processed choices. So next time you make a trip to the vending machine, select the package of peanuts instead of the bag of chips. Need something sweet in the afternoon? Consider raisins or other dried fruits instead of a candy bar. For a protein pick me up, pick a hardboiled or deviled egg. There are many whole foods that can make a great snack choice so be sure to check out the link for ideas.

The Bottom Line

A new year brings new resolve to better health for many people. Getting started and trying to change too many things to fast can cause people to drop out of the race much sooner than if they take things slow and build healthy habits over time. There is plenty of time this year to learn portion control and healthier cooking but today is the day to begin making healthier choices. Using the secret tip of selecting items with the shortest ingredient list will help you begin taking note of what you are eating and what other options are available. This is a great first step that can lead you to healthy whole food eating of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and limiting processed foods that maximize nutrient intake and help your body run as efficiently as possible.

What are your favorite food choices that have only a few ingredients? Do you think this tip will help you get started with a new way of eating this year?


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Comments

  • LORILORI9
    45
    I love the tip about the short ingredient list. It really helps, when trying to avoid over-processed food. Thanks for the tip! - 1/31/2011   9:25:04 PM
  • LITTLEGIRLSMOM1
    44
    my snacks are mostly fresh fruit and Blue ciamond individual packs of almonds... - 1/21/2011   11:02:32 AM
  • 43
    I always have a bowl of hard boiled eggs in my fridge, it's an easy and filling snack that I don't feel guilty about afterwards.
    I also usually keep some almonds on hand in my purse (pre counted) in case the family hits a food court and the options are limited.
    Snacks are tough for me, but these two things have helped thus far! - 1/20/2011   11:26:40 AM
  • 42
    Straight out of Michael Pollan's Food Rules...the most sensible approach to healthy eating that I know! :-)

    Don, Co-Leader of All Health Professionals, Binghamton Area Losers and Laid Off But Staying Strong SparkTeams - 1/8/2011   7:43:52 AM
  • 41
    There are plenty of ways to get the nutrients found in dairy foods through other things in your diet. Sometimes people may choose to do that through non-dairy milk products, but there are other ways as well. No one should ever be left believing that you can't eat an extremely healthy diet without some kind of variant on milk products. In fact, the healthiest diets probably don't include the typical types of cow's milk that you'd find in a grocery store (which may not have a long ingredient list, but are still very very much processed food.)

    In fact, really, it's grossly misleading to imply that the typical cow's milk in the grocery store isn't processed but all forms of non-dairy milk are (especially since some have very very few ingredients and don't need much processing). - 1/7/2011   10:38:00 PM
  • 40
    One of my fave's is a simple rice, broccoli, cream of chicken(whatever is your fave), chicken breast and cheese casserole...it's delicious, and only 5 ingrediants! - 1/7/2011   10:31:27 PM
  • SOCALDEBBIE
    39
    Almonds. Trader Joe's carries single-portion packages that travel easily. - 1/7/2011   7:32:26 PM
  • CIARANONEILL
    38
    Really good info, I just started 2nd January & have lost 8lbs already. - 1/7/2011   5:33:21 PM
  • LIVINGONMYTERMS
    37
    Great article! I have eliminated 90% of processed and sugary,starchy foods from my diet. I now eat meat, veggies (fresh or frozen) fruit (fresh, frozen or canned (which I rinse if not in natural juice). I won't give up whole milk though but most dairy I eat is low fat. Whole grains I still have to be careful with--starch and carbs. - 1/7/2011   12:22:44 PM
  • CYNNANE
    36
    My favorite: Chicken Breast, Greek Yogurt and Garam Masala. Mix the Garam Masala with the yogurt, cover the chicken and grill. YUM!!! Fast, easy, flavorful! - 1/7/2011   11:43:19 AM
  • 35
    Thanks for the info. Always read the labels...it is amazing how much added sugar there is in things. - 1/7/2011   10:57:04 AM
  • 34
    it may seem spartan to some, but we have grilled meat (usually fish or chicken, but sometimes game meats which are lower in fat than butcher shop beef) and steamed or grilled green vegetables for dinner. For a splurge we'll add 1/2 baked sweet potato. That's it. It's enough for us! - 1/7/2011   9:46:40 AM
  • 33
    I find it a bit misleading to say that milk alternatives are processed options, as if milk is not (homogenization, pasteurization, fortification). It is very easy to find a soy milk that is made of only soybeans and water, and if you have a blender, you can make almond milk or rice milk at home, easily. If you buy your milk alternative at the store, you might want to choose one that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D, if you are not getting these from other sources (such as leafy greens for calcium and sunlight/supplementation for vitamin D), but vitamins A & D are added ingredients in milk too, not naturally occurring. For those who are lactose intolerant or choose to abstain from milk for other reasons, there are many excellent options. Those that are unsweetened and fortified are clearly marked on the front of the package, so it doesn't require a Ph.D. in ingredient labels. - 1/7/2011   9:40:01 AM
  • FURBALLDTH
    32
    apple slices with a tad of peanut butter is a good snack. - 1/7/2011   9:08:41 AM
  • NEWHOPE629
    31
    Excellent info. Keep up the good work. Thank you Charlotte for telling me about Spark People.
    Arlene - 1/7/2011   7:46:24 AM
  • DJSAWALL
    30
    I have tried to lose weight by just lowering {even stopping} my food intake...I didn't lose weight! Now I try to eat everything natural...like sweet potatoes and other fresh veggies and fruits. Enjoy turkey chili, even more tuna and such, but stopped buying cheese crackers, anything with salt or white. I love whole wheat anything and the only sandwich I have now is in a multi grain sandwich thin. Since dec. 8th I have lost 10 pounds, and the game is on! At 74, I don't have time to be on a diet...I just need to be healthy! - 1/7/2011   7:27:26 AM
  • 29
    HECK YES to all of this! I want to eat food, NOT science experiments!!! My favorite 5-or fewer ingredient munches are bananas with 1/2 tbsp of nut butter, carrots and hummus, and Greek yogurt with strawberries. Why anyone would rely on 100-calorie "snack packs" or pre-fab meals for all of their nutrition, when there's thousands of options provided by nature, is beyond me!! - 1/7/2011   6:51:05 AM
  • 28
    I have always cooked for planned-overs. I don't buy prepped veggies as cutting and storing fresh crunchy veggies only takes an extra minute or two when I am already prepping to cook.

    I like to boil eggs for use during the week to add protein while I walk and nibble, or I will add cubed feta and 6 kalamata olives for a Greek style nosh.
    But my favourite of all is slow cooker anything. I love to throw veggies, lentils or beans and water together and have a steaming bowl of soup when I make it home after a long day. - 1/7/2011   2:24:18 AM
  • 27
    I eat boiled egg whites almost every day, along with nuts (almonds or walnuts), fresh and dried fruits. Dark chocolate sometimes. ;) - 1/7/2011   1:20:32 AM
  • AMANDACROCKER
    26
    thanks for this! every time I read and learn a little more about healthier food options I feel more confident and making the better choice becomes a little easier. - 1/6/2011   11:47:50 PM
  • 25
    I eat yoghurt every morning, but you have to be careful, because most yoghurt has a million ingredients. Even the "natural" ones. Greek style yoghurt sometimes has only two or three ingredients. - 1/6/2011   11:41:23 PM
  • WSEDGWICK
    24
    Great info - thanks! Reinforces eating "clean" - the fewer ingredients the better! - 1/6/2011   8:42:22 PM
  • EMMANYC
    23
    My favourite foods with only a few ingredients are:

    - almonds (I keep them at the office for snacks)
    - apples and clementines because they're packable and easy to eat
    - homemade spaghetti sauce with lean ground turkey, peppers & mushrooms
    - intensely flavoured, high quality cheese (some of it full fat, but you only need a small piece of aged gouda or parmesan to satisfy a craving)
    - brown rice couscous (tastier than the regular type, cooks much faster than brown rice) - 1/6/2011   7:32:11 PM
  • 22
    I was never into sweets or sodas....But our food intake is centered around lots of
    Carbs..Protein..and less Veggies.....But with the Great Spark Info...I've Turned it
    Around the Healthy Way...Less Of the first two in Moderation....And Lots more of
    Veggies and Fruits....And they're in Abundance here...So its natural all the way
    for me !!! - 1/6/2011   6:31:32 PM
  • 21
    I did so-so with the holidays but now I am back to simple snacks.
    Snacks that are the most filling and healthy that I include are:
    airpop popcorn, raw or dry roasted almonds no salt, an apple, a hardboiled egg, or a fruit smoothie (fresh or frozen berries or a peach, a banana, ground flax seed or flaxseed oil, whey protein powder, cran-water (100% cranberry juice but mainly water), and occasionally I'll add Stevia plus if I need it a little sweeter.)
    For dinners roasted or steam vegetables and lean meats.

    I just re-committed to eating less processed foods and sodium. - 1/6/2011   5:36:03 PM
  • 20
    Good advice. Trying to stay away from processed foods has been a big boost for me. I have cut out so much junk food - and along goes the chemicals and the salt!! - 1/6/2011   4:40:26 PM
  • 19
    I'm a newbie here and I think this is great advice! I'm going to pass this along to my family, too. Thanks for the info and idea. - 1/6/2011   2:56:59 PM
  • 18
    I use grapeseed oil or ovile oil. NEVER ENRICHED ANYTHING! - 1/6/2011   2:54:12 PM
  • 17
    I use coconut oil and I love to eat apples and grapefruits. - 1/6/2011   1:49:59 PM
  • 16
    I was amazed to see how many of these items are part of my life now. I don't even think aobut it.

    CEIL46 - 1/6/2011   1:48:36 PM
  • 15
    great blog thanks - 1/6/2011   1:43:40 PM
  • 14
    Great info- common sense, yet some miss it.
    A couple of years ago I made the switch to whole grain everything (once it became readily available), and my family LOVES it! I don't buy white anything, including rice.
    A couple of weeks ago when I was super tight on money I bought a loaf of white bread. When I brought it in the house, my husband looked at me like I was crazy and said the cheapest whole wheat was probably only .25 more (he was right). Both of my boys (12 & 14) avoided it like the plague. They told me there is no flavor and it is gross. It sat in the bread box, and the following week I bought our regular Natures Own Double Fiber (I think that is what it is, the shorter loaves), and half of it was gone that day!!
    Then they told me never to buy white bread, pasta, or rice again. LOL - 1/6/2011   1:42:22 PM
  • MAGNOLIAGOLD
    13
    If you shop at Publix they will slice/ground your meats for you. I buy sirlon...almost no fat...on sale for 2.99lb and have them grind it...lean ground beef is around 3.99 a lb and has more fat.So I actually save money and fat content and the processing chemicals they use in ground beef. - 1/6/2011   1:28:06 PM
  • 12
    I enjoy distance cycling, and often buy snacks along the way, as it's tough to carry enough on my person on longer rides. Chips are often a popular choice because they help replenish the salt. I was pleased to find that plain Fritos corn chips have only 3 ingredients - Corn, Corn Oil, Salt. It doesn't mean they are good for me, but at least I know that there's something I can find almost anywhere that doesn't come with a bunch of stuff I don't want. - 1/6/2011   12:44:15 PM
  • 11
    This is a very good tip. Even when you are especially busy and want to pick up something fast and convenient, you can use this tip at the grocery store to make better choices. - 1/6/2011   12:41:05 PM
  • 10
    great blog. I took some notes and now I am going to go to the grocery store after work and get some of the foods that were listed. - 1/6/2011   11:39:09 AM
  • 9
    Great article, especially the lunchmeat and the hard boiled eggs. Thanks! - 1/6/2011   11:25:52 AM
  • 8
    I try buy foods with ingredients I recognize, can pronounce, and the shorter the better. I also avoid HFCS as much as possible, but will occasionally buy something with it in it, as long as it isn't the first 5 ingredients. - 1/6/2011   11:06:59 AM
  • PATTYISKIND
    7
    While most of the food I eat doesn't have an ingredient list, I'm surprised that I never thought of this for the items that do. - 1/6/2011   10:34:15 AM
  • 6
    would love to have read something about fats.
    I am still buying the low fat butter but i read real butter is better. But what is real butter? There are so many things out there. Is it the liquid butter? The hard butter? - 1/6/2011   10:19:21 AM
  • 5
    I like the article. I think you should have touched upon FATS and how the more natural occuring ones, such as avocados and real butter, are better than the fake stuff out there. - 1/6/2011   9:23:14 AM
  • LUCKY_PENNY
    4
    Great post! Simplicity can yield excellent nutritional results! Some of my favorite simple snacks (besides just raw fruit and vegetables) are raw almonds or a few cubes of natural cheese. Cooking my own meals helps me control the amount of processed foods I eat, too. For example, my homemade chili: meat, beans, vegetables, spices. The ingredients on a can of chili? Much longer! - 1/6/2011   8:56:00 AM
  • 3
    This may seem like what my daughter calls a "duh" moment, but it's a great reminder! Thanks for posting. - 1/6/2011   8:48:55 AM
  • 2
    Is this really a secret? I don't buy anything with ingredients I don't recognize. - 1/6/2011   7:27:43 AM
  • 1
    I get very busy and find it exhusting to think about, cook, serve, etc. healthy food choices when I am on the run or just tired. A friend and I decided to cook meals together on a Sunday. We cooked many different types of meals, split the cost, split the food (doubling what we would have had on our own) and packaged them in portion control single servings to store in our freezers. This is week one and I am so happy! I have good food that I love ~ full of veggies, portion controled, reduced sodium AND EASY! :) On nights that cooking is not an option the family and I have healthy, easy choices. My friend and I plan to get together every 2-3 weeks and cook. I find this has helped me so far this week. I make better choices in snacks, don't eat all the sweets around the office and feel fuller after my meals. - 1/6/2011   6:02:33 AM

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