Eating balanced meals is key to a healthy lifestyle. Knowing the best foods to eat as often as possible will help you create your balanced meal plan.
The fresher the food, the more nutritious it generally is, so it might be a good idea to shop several times a week rather than a couple times a month, especially if you live alone. Food looses its nutritional value the longer it sits in the frig and it is hard to consume it quick enough, especially if you are only feeding one person or even two.
Organic foods are the best for your nutritional needs but it does spoil much quicker than foods that are not organically grown. Keep that in mind when shopping. Also, organic foods generally cost more. Go figure. It seems like it should be the other way around.
This may not be the most popular veggie but it does have a great many healthy qualities. The skin is a rich source of nasunin, a potent antioxidant (a substance that neutralizes disease-causing molecules called free radicals).
Eggplant provides minerals that promote good circulation and/or strong bones, B vitamins for heart health, including B-1 (thiamine), B-3 (niacin), B-6 (pyridoxine) and B-9 (folate).
This versatile vegetable can be diced and stir-fried… thin-sliced and grilled… or cut in half, oven-baked until tender (about 20 minutes at 350 degrees), then topped with cottage cheese.
Avoid eggplant if its alkaloids (organic compounds) aggravate your arthritis.
Beets help to detoxify the body by raising levels of the antioxidant glutathione in the liver… improve gallbladder function by thinning bile (a digestive fluid)… and provide folate and manganese for joint health.
Red beets provide the most betacyanin, a plant pigment that protects against colon cancer. Beets can be combined with carrots and juiced…grated and added to salads… or cut into chunks and roasted.
Broccoli contains the antioxidants, sulforaphane and chlorophyl along with
vitamins A, C and E, which strengthen the immune system… calcium and vitamin K for bone health… folate for normal cell division… and lutein (a plant pigment) for eye health. Cauliflower provides many of the same phytonutrients (beneficial plant chemicals) as broccoli.
Carrots pack easily into lunch boxes. Baby carrots dipped in salad dressing is a great snack as long as the dressings have no unhealthful hydrogenated fat, high-fructose corn syrup or monosodium glutamate (MSG), a salty additive. For carrot juice, you can peel large carrots and put them in a high-power blender that preserves the fiber-rich pulp of fruits and vegetables.
Cabbage is a super source of vitamin K (for bone health)… vitamin C (for tissue growth and repair)… and organic compounds called indoles (for cancer prevention).
Red cabbage has more healthful plant pigments than white. Since its juice has a very mild flavor, cabbage can be added to almost everything we make a super healthy juice drink. Kids can even get a kick from the looks on their friends’ faces when you add cabbage to a fruit sorbet or
fruit smoothie—and it’s even more fun when their friends love the taste!
Cherry tomatoes are rich in vitamins A and C and taste great with slices of low-fat mozzarella cheese for a healthy quilt-free snack.
Salad greens should be consumed daily. The best nutrition comes from romaine, red- or green-leaf lettuce and fresh spinach. These provide vitamin K, as well as fiber for bowel regularity.
|Expose kids at young age to healthy eating choices.
Fresh fruit is wonderful for snacks and desserts.
Mango is rich in fiber, beta-carotene, magnesium, potassium and vitamins B-1, B-2 (riboflavin), B-3 and B-6.
Sweet, tangy and juicy, mangoes make a delicious (if messy) snack when peeled and sliced. Mango slices also can be added to green salad and fruit smoothies or baked in pies.
Kiwi—with its fuzzy brown outside and brilliant green inside—is packed with vitamin C. The kiwifruit is a natural blood thinner that reduces blood levels of triglycerides (fats). Peel and slice to eat alone, add to a fruit salad or blend into a smoothie.
Apricots are rich in vitamin A and healthful plant pigments called carotenoids (such as beta-carotene and lycopene), which aid vision. Lycopene also may combat heart disease and prostate problems.
Apples provide fiber plus heart-healthy quercetin
Slice and spread with almond butter (for protein), or sprinkle with cinnamon (to balance blood sugar).
Bananas are rich in potassium, to maintain normal blood pressure and heart function… and provide B vitamins, which help to balance brain chemicals called neurotransmitters
A great after-dinner snack can consist of bananas with cinnamon or peanut butter.
Blueberries contain purplish pigments called anthocyanins (also found in red grapes and cranberries), which fight urinary tract infections and may protect the brain from oxidative stress, reducing the effects of dementia. Blueberries have vitamin E and other nutrients that strengthen blood vessels.
Oranges have more than 170 phytonutrients and more than 60 flavonoids (healthful plant pigments) that fight inflammation, blood clots and various cancers. Other citrus fruits provide similar benefits.
Avocados are rich in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat that lowers LDL “bad” cholesterol. Peel and slice them into salads, add them to burritos, or mash as a sandwich spread.
Protein is required for muscle and tissue repair, blood sugar balance and proper immune function.
The best eggs to buy are organic (laid by chickens that eat grains free of chemicals and that are not treated with hormones or antibiotics) and enriched with omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health. It is best to consume three to five eggs weekly—boiled, poached or scrambled with cheese.
Poultry (with the skin removed) is typically lower in saturated fat than red meat and therefore is healthier for the cardiovascular system. It is best to select poultry labeled free range (meaning the animals were not constantly caged and were not fed antibiotics). From the deli counter, buy cooked,
sliced turkey and chicken breast for sandwiches, opting for low-sodium, preservative-free brands. Favorite dinner entrees should include turkey loaf (ground turkey can be substituted for beef and pork in meat loaf recipes) and pan-fried or broiled turkey burgers. We also love Angela’s baked
chicken breasts, seasoned with rosemary, lemon and poultry seasoning.
Barbecuing meat or poultry is not the best idea because doing so triggers cancer-causing compounds called heterocyclic amines (HCAs).
Wild ocean salmon:
Wild ocean salmon (which some consider to be more healthful than farm-raised) in season is delicious baked or broiled with olive oil and lemon. In addition to being low both in calories and saturated fat, salmon is high in protein…omega-3s… vitamins B-3, B-6 and B-12 (cobalamin)
including canned—due to concerns about mercury contamination. However, canned ocean salmon packed in water is healthful, as are canned sardines—though I confess that we do not enjoy the taste (or smell) of sardines.
|Choose your cheese wisely!
Enjoying cheeses in moderation include Colby and string cheese for snacks and shredded cheddar on burritos. Along with protein and calcium, cheese provides the amino acid tryptophan, which promotes thyroid function and positive moods.
Cans, cartons and jars
Packaged goods can be healthful, provided they don’t have added preservatives, oils, sugars or salt.
Beans are a must for Mexican-style tostados. Their soluble fiber promotes proper cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Black beans are rich in antioxidant anthocyanins. Pinto beans have magnesium, potassium, manganese, copper and molybdenum, which help the liver with detoxification.
Almond milk is rich in potassium. Unsweetened almond milk tastes great in cereal and scrambled eggs. A sweetened brand called Almond Breeze has seven grams of sugar per eight-ounce serving.
You can pour it over hot oatmeal and drink it as a snack. You can also buy oat milk and rice milk. (It is best to avoid drinking cow’s milk because it can cause allergic and immune reactions and digestive distress.)
Peanut butter is a favorite for most kids (and even the pet dog). It is best to buy pure peanut butter (in a glass container to avoid chemicals that may leach from plastics) that has no added sugar or
partially hydrogenated fat. Peanut butter has heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, niacin, folate, manganese and resveratrol (the same antioxidant found in red wine). You might also like almond butter, which is similar in nutrient content.
Great grains and other goodies
Selecting grains can be complicated for people who experience nasal congestion, bloating and diarrhea after consuming foods with gluten (a protein complex). Wheat, rye and barley
all contain gluten.
Gluten-free grains include corn, amaranth, rice, buckwheat and quinoa. There are many choices for gluten-free breads so you will need to experiment until you find the one that tastes best to you. Pastas, cereals, pretzels, corn chips, tortillas and tostado shells also come in gluten-free varieties.
Cereals you select should have no more than three grams of sugar and provide at least two to three grams of fiber per serving. Suggestions might include Rice Crunch-Ems from Health Valley… Amazon Frosted Flakes from Nature’s Path… and Kix and Cheerios from General Mills. Oatmeal—a source of energy-sustaining complex carbohydrates, as well as manganese, selenium and silicon, which promote bone and cartilage health. The slow-cooking kind has the most fiber and should be a staple in your cupboard.
Seeds and nuts:
Seeds and nuts should also be a staple. Grind up two table spoons of flax-seeds each morning, place them on your tongue, and wash them down with water. Flax-seeds provide fiber and essential fatty acids, and may combat cancer. Hemp seeds are high in protein and omega-3s. Almonds and walnuts are rich in antioxidants and omega-3s, respectively. Eat one-quarter cup daily, and try to get your kids to eat a few.
Chips are big hits, especially bruschetta chips. A brand called Jensen’s Orchard can be ordered from
Amazon.com. Made with potatoes, tomatoes, basil and olive oil, they provide protein and fiber but no sugar or trans fat.
Oils are important to good cooks. Extra-virgin olive oil is good when cooking fish and chicken or roasting vegetables. Its monounsaturated fats promote cardiovascular health. To scramble
eggs, it is best to use organic canola oil, which contains vitamin E and omega-3s. Macadamia nut oil is best for stir-frying because it has a higher smoke point
(the temperature at which a cooking oil breaks down and smokes, giving food an unpleasant taste).
Fun foods you can enjoy without guilt include Rice Dream Bars (ice
cream bars made from rice milk)… Newman’s Own brand fig cookies…
Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate chips… and SunSpire carob chips.
What you should NOT buy
We check labels and stay away from…
Artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame and saccharin), which may trigger headaches, rashes and mood changes.
High-fructose corn syrup which contains many calories but no nutritional benefit.
Monosodium glutamate (MSG), a salty “flavor enhancer” that can cause headaches and/or digestive upset.
Partially hydrogenated fats, also called trans fats, which harm the cardiovascular and immune systems.