The key to any healthy diet is balance. A healthy diet contains a balance of calories from carbohydrates, proteins and fats. Here are some tips for choosing the most nutritious calorie sources:
Choose carbohydrates for the nutrients they provide as well as for their energy value. Look for carbohydrates that are rich in fiber, vitamins and minerals, rather than carbohydrates that provide empty calories. Whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans or legumes are the best sources of carbohydrates. The carbohydrates that are found naturally in low-fat dairy foods also provide good sources of energy.
Choose protein sources that are lower in fat. Great choices include lean beef, pork, chicken and turkey without the skin, and many types of seafood. If you're vegan or vegetarian, check out high-protein meat alternatives like soy products, nuts and beans.
Choose heart-healthy sources of fat, and keep portions reasonable. Vegetable oils and spreads are good starting points. Cooking oils, including olive, canola, safflower, sunflower, corn, soy, and peanut oils — as well as spreads made from those oils — make heart-smart choices. Lean meats and low-fat portions of dairy foods, including cheeses, are also important parts of a well-balanced diet.
Prepare foods by grilling, baking on a rack, roasting, steaming, pan frying in a non-stick skillet, or microwaving. If you use cooking spray, choose a lower-fat vegetable spray or a calorie-free spray to limit the amount of added calories from fat. Save your calories from fat for flavoring rather than cooking.
Fiber is important for your heart and aids in weight control. Studies show that most Americans eat less than half of the Recommended Daily Allowance of fiber. Fiber is found in produce and grain-based foods, so check out the labels on your bread, cereal, fruit, and vegetables to find the fiber content of these foods.
Adding milled flaxseed to foods can increase your daily intake of fiber while adding heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids to your diet. Buy flaxseed already milled or grind it in a coffee mill or blender so it's easy to add to food. Sprinkle flaxseed on cereal or salads, or add it to meat balls and meatloaf.
Invest in a heavy or non-stick skillet or a table-top grill to make heart-healthy and lower-calorie cooking easier.
Stock your kitchen with ingredients that make it easy to substitute and cut calories. Here are some ideas:
- Substitute low-calorie sweeteners like sucralose, stevia, aspartame, and saccharine instead of sugar.
- Giant Eagle® chicken broth adds flavor to foods like mashed potatoes, vegetables, and stir-fries — without adding calories and fat.
- Giant Eagle vegetable oil spray makes it easier to cook with less fat. Add olive oil spray to salad greens with a splash of balsamic vinegar and some herbs. Or, spray vegetable oil on foods to “oven-fry” them.
- Grated Parmesan cheese adds flavor to broccoli, cauliflower, baked potatoes, and even popcorn.
- Fresh or dried herbs and fresh ground pepper enhance the flavors of lower-fat foods.
- Fat-free yogurt is a delicious (and calcium-rich) substitute for sour cream in dips. To thicken fat-free yogurt, drain the yogurt in a sieve lined with a coffee filter. (Hint: Place the sieve over a bowl in the refrigerator for two to three hours and discard the liquid.) The resulting yogurt "cheese" can be flavored and used as a spread for crackers, a topping for baked potatoes or a base for dips.
Snack wisely. Raw veggies, salsa, baked chips, hummus, low-fat cheese sticks, and whole grain bread and crackers make delicious, nutrient-rich add-ons to your day!