By Joanne Eglash
The new year is finally here. If your resolution is to lose weight this year, eating right is guaranteed to make it a reality! Let’s start by cleaning the kitchen: Eliminate the bad-for-you food, stock up on healthy items and you’re on your way!
Don’t wait until you’re older to recognize that vegetables can be tasty! Let’s peek in your cupboard. Are cans of white potatoes and jars of pickles crowding your vegetable shelf?
Next, let’s look in the fridge. Hmmm, I see iceberg lettuce — and a container of mayonnaise-laden potato salad. As for the freezer, it’s filled with French-fried potatoes, stuffed baked potatoes, frozen green beans with cream sauce and cheese, and cauliflower with cheese.
– Substitute canned, salt-free or low-sodium green beans, spinach, tomatoes, Italian green beans and asparagus. Canned vegetables are typically high in sodium, so by seeking out the salt-free or low-sodium variety, you’re upgrading the quality. I recommend having them on hand for those occasions when you lack fresh vegetables or have no time to prepare frozen, but still want to include vegetables with your dinner or lunch.
– In the refrigerator, stock up on a variety of dark green, leafy vegetables, such as romaine lettuce (not iceberg, which is light on vitamins and minerals). Fresh zucchini, tomatoes, mushrooms, cauliflower, asparagus and broccoli are all wonderful when steamed and topped with a self-mixed dressing of balsamic vinegar, olive oil and herbs.
– The freezer deserves more than potatoes and cheese-covered vegetables! Stock sauce-free mixed vegetables like Oriental mixtures (mushrooms, green beans, broccoli and water chestnuts usually are included in these packages) and Italian mixtures (carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers and onion). Prepare frozen vegetables when you lack fresh — they’re usually just as nutritious.
If your fruit selection is limited to sugar-laden applesauce in the cupboard, strawberry ice cream in the freezer and one wilting apple in the fruit bowl, it’s time to change the scenery!
– In the cupboard, give away that sugary applesauce and substitute unsweetened applesauce, which you can jazz up with cinnamon. Canned pears, apricots and other fruits are great — just make sure that they’re canned in their own juice, not sugar syrup.
– In the freezer, go for fresh-frozen blueberries, strawberries and melon. Read that label carefully. If it contains sugar, put it back on the shelf.
– Heap that neglected fruit bowl with fresh fruit in season, from pears and pineapple to apples and apricots.
Breads and Cereals
Do white bread and sugary cereals reside in your kitchen? Frankly, my friend, it’s fiber in the form of whole grains that you need in your bread and cereal — not sugar and white flour!
– Look for whole-wheat flour as a key ingredient in your bread and make sure that it contains sufficient fiber — ideally 3-5 grams of fiber per serving (one slice). And check to see how much trans fat it contains. The ideal is a big zero!
– When it comes to cereal, ignore boasts such as “enriched with added vitamins and minerals” on the cardboard box. Read the ingredient and nutrient list — does it contain 3-5 grams of fiber or more per serving? Are whole grains such as oats listed first, rather than corn syrup or sugar?
Uh oh. Is that canned lunchmeat that I see lurking in your cupboard? Do ham and bologna reside happily in your refrigerator, along with a variety of cheeses? Hmmm, your peanut butter contains sugar and saturated fats…and oh my, your freezer has some mysterious TV dinners consisting of pseudo-meat-loaf. Then there’s that enormous box of frozen fried chicken. Gulp.
– Stock up on canned, water-packed tuna and chicken, not canned “mystery meat.”
– Peanut butter and other nut butters should be made with nuts. Sugars and hydrogenated fats are NOT required ingredients!
– Look for fat-free turkey and chicken breast to substitute for that bologna and ham in your sandwiches.
– Frozen dinners are fine in moderation (most of them contain too much sodium), but there are some healthy varieties available. Check out the low-calorie versions in your grocer’s freezer, and choose ones that are low in saturated fats and sodium, such as Healthy Choice.
Joanne Eglash is a writer and an editor specializing in health, weight control and fitness. She’s written for a variety of publications and Web sites, ranging from Energy for Women magazine to KidsHealth.org.