Thanks to Mother Nature and a pack of power-mad dictators, the world is a dangerous place where a lot of what happens is totally out of your hands.
At times, the easy way out seems to be throwing up your hands and saying, “Why bother!”
While you cannot control Mother Nature or Kim Jong-un, you CAN take control of your diet and your health.
We can help you get started with a few proven ways that you can stay healthy and strong. After all, it’s much better to be prepared than to be surprised.
Here are 3 fairly easy ways to stay healthy.
1. Start your day with a high-fiber, protein-rich breakfast. Eating the right breakfast means steady energy throughout the day. Get some good fuel in your gas tank to make your engine “go” – you can’t run on empty!
A high-fiber breakfast like oatmeal gives you both a good source of soluble (cholesterol-lowering) and (promotes regularity) insoluble fiber. You like cold better than hot? Stay clear of sugary cereals by reading and understanding the nutrition facts label, and aim for no more than 150 calories per 3/4- cup serving; less than 8 grams of sugar (equivalent of 2 teaspoons); and 3 grams of fiber.
Some good cereals that are very low in sugar include Kashi GoLean (not the “crunch”), Shredded Wheat (especially the bran mini-wheats), and Total. To boost the fiber of some other lower sugar cereals (Special K with red berries or Special K with protein are favorites) add 2 tablespoons of Bran Buds or unsweetened toasted wheat germ. This gives you the “crunch” without a lot of added sugar.
If you like a sweeter cereal, add your own sugar. If you prefer, spoon in an approved non-nutritive sweetener like stevia (Truvia) or sucralose (Splenda). Add nonfat milk, unsweetened soy or rice milk, or nonfat lactaid; add to your breakfast (or as an energizing mid-morning snack) a half-cup of nonfat unsweetened Greek plain yogurt (high in protein) and some fresh or frozen, low glycemic index fruit (blueberries, or any berry; melon, or citrus fruit).
2. Initiate your own ban on trans fat foods. We applaud the FDA for its recent decision to finally take a strong stand against trans fat in foods! Hydrogenated fat is liquid vegetable oil that’s been chemically altered to remain solid at room temperature. It not only raises your "bad" LDL cholesterol but also lowers your "good" HDL cholesterol. Too much fried food coupled with trans fat and you're increasing your risk for obesity, hypertension and heart disease and other conditions.
You still need to choose wisely. In addition to foods like french fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts, our beloved cookies, cakes, pastries, and crackers tend to be the largest sources of trans fats in American diets. But what if the replacement fat is just as bad for you as trans fat? We still don’t know what type of fat food manufacturers will use to replace trans fat. So, how about limiting processed foods as much as possible, and sticking to whole foods instead?
Buy a hot-air popcorn popper and skip the weird-tasting microwave stuff; some packaged foods are naturally low in all fat – so make label reading a habit. First, read the ingredient label to avoid all “hydrogenated” fats. Try rice or corn cakes, Melba toast, or thin crisps; make your own pita chips – cut whole-wheat pitas into wedges; give a quick spray with olive oil, and toast. When dining out, choose grilled, broiled, or stir-fried.
3. Eat lots of plants. Plants are an important source of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Those who eat the greatest number of servings of vegetables and fruit have lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer. Those who eat the greatest amount of red meat and fried foods have an increased risk for the same diseases! All plant foods contain zero grams of cholesterol and in fact, because plant foods are so rich in fiber, they are associated with lower blood cholesterol and a reduced risk for colon cancer and diverticulitis.
What you choose to eat can make a difference in how long you live, and it will certainly influence how you feel.
Susan Burke March is a registered and licensed dietitian, nutritionist and certified diabetes educator. As our eDiets Chief Nutritionist, she promotes the dietary health and wellbeing of consumers worldwide.