How Healthy Is My Meal?
Healthy living involves more than eating right and staying active; it also means avoiding harmful habits like smoking and getting enough restful sleep.
Cooking at home can be easier on both your wallet and waistline, helping to avoid hidden sugars and fats as well as save on takeout. Try cooking more frequently for meals like dinner.
Fruits & Vegetables
“Eat your five a day” may have become cliche, but fruits and vegetables remain essential components of a nutritious diet. Fruits and veggies provide essential vitamins, minerals and plant chemicals as well as dietary fibre to the body – as you consume colorful produce you are also feeding it with protective phytochemicals that may lower risks associated with heart disease, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure cancer as well as weight gain.
However, there’s more than one way to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. Instead of viewing vegetables as foods to consume alone, think of them more like ingredients you can use when creating meals you already enjoy – salads, soups, curries and stir fries all offer easy ways to incorporate more veg.
Vegetables and fruit are excellent sources of micronutrients like Vitamin C, Folate, Potassium and Iron. Furthermore, vegetables and fruit provide essential dietary fibre which aids digestion, blood glucose regulation and weight management. Furthermore, eating more fruits and vegetables has been associated with reduced risks of chronic disease as well as improved mental and cardiovascular wellbeing.
As part of a healthy lifestyle, experts advise eating 2 cups of vegetables and 3 cups of fruit daily for optimal health. To cut calories down further, buy smaller pieces of fruit (such as small bananas or cups of strawberries). One serving is equivalent to approximately two slices.
When cooking vegetables, be mindful not to add too much fat or oil – steaming and sauteing are healthier methods, while overcooking may leach out vital vitamins from them.
The United Nations General Assembly has officially designated 2021 as the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables with a mission of raising awareness about their importance to people’s daily lives and sustainable global development. Furthermore, this international event intends to raise attention on country level action that increase production, improve access and provide nutritional benefits while decreasing losses and waste.
Protein is an integral part of every meal and essential in building muscle mass and creating enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals. Not all types of proteins are the same; to make sure your health and fitness goals are being achieved more fully choose an appropriate kind.
The USDA defines lean protein as meat or fish with less than 10 grams of total fat per serving and less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat per serving, or from plant sources like beans and soy products such as tofu. Lean vegetarian proteins like beans can make great additions to any healthy diet when combined with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.
Skinless chicken breasts, eggs, and beef are great lean sources of animal protein. For seafood fans looking for omega-3 rich alternatives such as salmon, trout or tuna these options offer less calories while providing essential cardiovascular support.
Lean protein can also be found in poultry such as turkey and chicken. Poultry provides essential B vitamins that assist energy production. You can easily prepare poultry proteins through roasting or baking with spices and veggies.
Clams, oysters and shrimp provide another animal source of lean protein with their low fat content and abundance of iodine which contributes to optimal thyroid functioning.
Quinoa, lentils and soybeans are excellent plant protein sources that contain all nine essential amino acids – making it particularly suited to providing complete proteins like quinoa. Lentils and soybeans also boast fiber to manage hunger effectively while oatmeal boasts ample magnesium levels which have been known to aid in sleep quality.
If you’re seeking more protein from plant sources, protein powder may be an ideal way to supplement your diet. Look for options with low sugar levels and organic certification; then blend into smoothies, drink with milk or add it directly into cereal bowls – giving your body exactly the fuel it needs for success in either losing weight, maintaining current weight or increasing muscle mass!
Whole grains are an invaluable source of dietary fiber, helping digestion, blood sugar regulation and weight management. Furthermore, whole grains provide important vitamins, minerals and antioxidants which have been shown to lower risks associated with heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Studies suggest that eating more whole grains could lower these risks significantly.
Whole grain foods contain grains such as wheat, barley, oats, triticale, rye and brown rice. When purchasing whole grain food products, be sure to look out for products labeled as whole grains, such as those labeled multigrain or enriched which only include some whole grains in their contents.
Opt for 100% whole wheat bread, pasta and cereal products containing whole grain ingredients as the first or second ingredient on their ingredients list. Or use FDA’s health claim “Eating food made from whole grains may reduce risk for heart disease and certain cancers when eaten as part of a balanced diet.
All grains begin life as whole grains; however, during processing many are stripped of their bran and germ. Refined grains contain only endosperm which is white or light brown in color; their rich bran and germ content contains important vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber that is lacking from refined versions of grains. To restore some of this essential nutrition back into refined ones, these refined varieties may then be “enriched.”
When purchasing packaged foods, always read the nutrition facts label to learn about how much of each nutrient is present in it. Or visit UGA Dining Commons online to view nutrient levels for all meals and snacks served there.
If you plan on cooking at home, try replacing some of your current recipes with those containing whole grains, then gradually increase their consumption until at least half of your calories come from whole grains. UF/IFAS Cooperative Extension Family and Consumer Sciences educators offer plenty of resources that can assist with making this transition; to learn more contact your county extension office or an educator in your area of UF/IFAS Family and Consumer Sciences.
Dietary fat is essential for good health, providing energy and helping your body absorb essential vitamins. But not all fats are created equal: unsaturated dietary fats with two or more bonds between molecules are the ones to seek out and include in your diet – these can be found in plant-based foods like avocados, olives, canola oil and nuts, as well as in fatty fish such as salmon trout mackerel herring etc. These healthy dietary fats may help improve blood glucose levels lower cholesterol and support heart health; listen to Taylor’s latest Health Essentials podcast on this subject to learn more!
New episodes available every Wednesday!