How to Choose Healthier Foods and Drinks
Every day, we make hundreds of decisions – both big and small. When it comes to what to eat and feed our families, making healthy decisions is easier than you might think with just a bit of planning. It just takes some initiative.
Fuel for our bodies are the foods and drinks we put into them. Not only do they give us energy, but also essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and proteins–essential for growth and wellbeing. Studies have even shown that healthy food and drink choices are especially important for children’s growing bodies and minds; making healthy decisions has both immediate as well as long-lasting advantages for you and your family members.
Make Healthier Options With Ease
All foods and drinks can contribute to a healthy diet. When making choices for yourself or your family, look for foods with plenty of nutrient content and low in sugar, fats, and calories. Examples include fruits, vegetables; whole-grain cereals, breads and pasta; milk, yogurt and other dairy products; fat-trimmed and lean meats; fish; beans; and water.
Some foods and drinks should be consumed less frequently, such as white bread, rice, pasta; granola; pretzels; fruit juices. Others such as french fries, doughnuts and other sweet baked goods, hot dogs, fried fish or chicken, candy and soda should only be enjoyed occasionally.
Outside the Home
Nowadays, much of our food isn’t eaten at home but instead taken on-the-go. One easy way to ensure you’re getting all of the essential nutrients is by packing nutritious lunches–for yourself and your kids alike.
Make lunch together using whole-grain bread, wraps or pita pockets filled with lean meats or cheese, vegetables and nut butters such as hummus. Be sure to include seasonal produce like carrots, snap peas and cucumbers along with any fresh fruit that’s currently in season. Teens can learn how to pack their own lunches with an array of healthy items for school.
When your children purchase lunch from school cafeteria or vending machines, parents should encourage them to make healthier choices. When selecting items for lunch, emphasize lean proteins, fruit and vegetables as well as whole grains. If a salad bar is available at school, this could be an ideal opportunity for kids to create their own salad using vegetables, lean protein and fruit.
If you have a packed day with your family planned, be sure to pack healthy snacks in a small cooler or tote bag before leaving. Think water, fresh fruit and veggies as well as low-fat cheese sticks. Additionally, pack small portions of unsalted nuts, whole-grain crackers or low-sugar cereal.
Fast-food restaurants can be a challenge, but sometimes they’re your only option. To make healthier food and beverage selections at restaurants, use the menu labels and information about calories and other nutrients to guide you toward healthier options like salads instead of fries, or grilling options instead of deep-frying.
When grocery shopping, the Nutrition Facts label is an invaluable tool to help you compare foods and drinks. It can confirm if products marked “healthy” really are. For instance, “low-fat” foods may not necessarily be healthy; they could actually be packed full of sugar and calories. Use the Nutrition Facts label as a way to limit certain nutrients like sodium or added sugar, while still getting enough of essential minerals like calcium and iron. When reading food labels, start at the top by looking at serving size. Next, pay attention to calorie count and then move onto nutrients where it lists both amount and recommended daily values.
Be mindful that what may appear to be one serving can actually contain multiple portions. For instance, if a bag of chips contains three servings but the label says one portion, multiply all the numbers on the label by three to calculate how many calories were consumed.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential for building up our immune systems and avoiding disease. Eating nutritiously throughout the day helps you feel full and energetic; on the contrary, unhealthy foods tend to be high in sodium, sugar, and saturated fats (bad fats), which can sap away energy reserves.