Your mom told you to eat your fruits and vegetables, experts recommend a daily five to nine servings of these bright-hued foods, and it's not news to you that produce is a cornerstone for a healthy diet. Yet, if you're like most Americans, you're not even nearing the bottom range of recommended daily servings. Packed with antioxidants and other key nutrients, low in calories, and so versatile in the kitchen, fruits and vegetables are nutritional must-eats. And the more colorful your consumption, the healthier your diet. Raw, cooked, fresh, frozen, eaten alone, or tossed into recipes, produce deliciously improves your diet. To reap the biggest nutritional benefits, make your meals as colorful as possible.
The most important meal of the day–breakfast–not only revs your metabolism and provides you with a solid source of mental and physical energy for the morning, it can prevent you from making poor snack and meal choices later in the day and ultimately overeating. However, a healthy breakfast is the real key to ensuring your nutrition. The donut and latte option or diner grand slam are a thumbs down. Instead, reach for fruits and veggies, whole grains, low fat dairy, and good for you fats.
You've heard that snacking can aid in weight loss, give you an energy boost, and tide you over in between meals, but that doesn't mean grazing in the potato chip bag all day. Compose your midmorning and midafternoon snacks of small portions of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Time your snacks two or three hours after your last meal to keep you from being ravenous when your next mealtime arrives.
Following a fad diet usually means eliminating key food groups from your regular eating plan. Instead of drastically cutting down on calories and depriving yourself of the nutrients the basic food groups provide, add healthy variety to your meals. Experiment with new ingredients (buy eggplant in addition to broccoli), try new recipes (pick one new recipe a week and gradually increase the number of new meals you make), and incorporate ethnic dishes into your weekly meal plan. Variety will not only provide you with a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients, it will keep your mealtimes delicious and satisfying.
It's true: You don't have a lot of time to grocery shop and the food you buy needs to provide the biggest nutritional bang for your buck. Eating locally and seasonally is the best way to ensure you are cooking with nutrient-dense ingredients. Foods that are imported from other countries or trucked in from across the nation lose their vitamins and minerals along the way. Visiting your farmers' market or co-op, or joining a CSA to have fresh-picked produce, artisanal cheeses and breads, eggs, and other items delivered to your door will not only improve your diet, it will also leave a smaller carbon footprint on the environment. To further support your farming community and feed your family well, buy grass-fed meats and poultry from local farming families.
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