Tips from Nancy Clark
Foods to Keep Your Body Healthy
Once upon a time, certain foods were considered pleasurable: bacon
& eggs, burgers & fries, ice cream & cookies. People
ate them without a twinge of guilt. But as the years pass and good
health becomes more fragile, these meals have become known as heart-attacks-on-a-plate.
Thus, my clients repeatedly ask:
What are the best foods to eat to enhance my health?
What are the worst foods to eat...what foods should I avoid?
Indeed, food can be powerfully harmful. A bad diet contributes
to not only heart disease but also cancer, hypertension, osteoporosis,
obesity, kidney disease, macular degeneration and a plethora of
other ailments. Yet, the answer to the question about "bad
foods" is simple: the foods to avoid are items that are moldy,
poisonous, or to which you are allergic. Other than that, all foods
in moderation can be balanced into a healthful diet.
Eat More of the Best
To tip the balance in favor of your good health, you do want to
focus your menu on health protective foods. By eating more of the
best foods, less of the rest, you can have a powerful impact on
your future health and well being. Because genetics plays a big
role in health, you also want to take a careful look at your family's
health history. For example, genetics likely explains why a seemingly
healthy, 48 year-old marathoner was found dead on a running trail.
He'd stopped his watch after running for two hours, then collapsed
from a massive heart attack, a death similar to that of his father's.
Genetics also explains why some women "shrink" at an early
age, ending up in pain from osteoporosis at age 60.
We cannot change our genetics, but we can change our diets to optimize
our health and longevity. The purpose of this article is offer a
few suggestions for easy ways to improve the quality of your daily
diet, so that even if you are a junk food junkie, you can take steps
towards reaching your life's potential.
Tip #1. Front-load your calories.
Do not "hold off" until dinner to eat a huge meal. People
who skimp on daytime meals tend to get too hungry and consequently
experience powerful cravings for sweets, fats and "junk."
Your good intentions to eat apples and carrots can get trampled
in your stampede to devour apple pie and carrot cake. By preventing
hunger--that is, by eating a heartier breakfast, lunch and a planned
afternoon snack (or even a second lunch, if dinner won't be until
after 7:00 p.m.), you'll--
Consume more nourishing foods at those meals. Cereal, milk and
banana at 7:00 a.m. can cure cravings for donuts, pastries or croissants
at 10:00 a.m. (and even at 10:00 p.m., for that matter).
Reduce the risk of gaining weight. A survey of dieters who lost
weight and have kept it off suggests eating breakfast is a key to
successful weight management. When you fuel your body with wholesome,
hearty meals by day, you are able to eat less at night. Make it
your goal to wake up hungry for breakfast!
Tip #2. Eat more whole foods
Enjoy more whole apples instead of apple juice; more whole wheat
breads instead of breads, pitas and wraps made from refined white
flour; more whole grain cereals like granola instead of Special
K or Rice Crispies. By choosing more whole foods, you get more fiber.
Fiber is satisfying; it helps you feel full longer, hence curbs
your appetite so you end up eating fewer sweets and fats without
feeling denied or deprived. Whole foods also offer more vitamins
and health protective phytochemicals that help your body's engine
Tip #3. Eat fruit in the morning.
Of all the health protective foods, fruits are among the best. Yet,
most Americans eat way too little fruit; it is unable to compete
against chips, cookies and candy. The easiest way to improve your
fruit intake is to make a point of eating fruit for breakfast, such
as a banana on cereal plus a glass of orange juice. (Yes, eating
the whole orange would be preferable, but when time is tight, drinking
orange juice is better than having no juice or fruit. Calcium-fortified
OJ offers an extra bonus.) Choosing fruit for snacks throughout
the day can displace "junk."
Some fruits offer more nutrients than others, so try to eat more
of the best: oranges (or orange juice), grapefruit, kiwi, bananas,
cantaloupe, strawberries and mango.
Tip #4. Eat more veggies.
Munching on pre-dinner carrot sticks or green pepper strips is a
healthful alternative to munching on chips. Frozen broccoli, spinach
or winter squash are easy options for days when you lacked time
to shop for fresh veggies. Your goal: to have veggies cover one-third
of your dinner plate. This can reduce your risk of over-indulging
in steak or french fries.
Tip #5. Eat more peanut butter and nuts.
Although nuts are high in fat, their oil is health protective. Research
suggests people who eat nuts (including peanut butter) five or more
time a week have a 50% lower risk of heart disease. While peanut
butter on a whole grain bagel for breakfast may seem like a decadent
treat to some folks, I consider it an honorable breakfast choice.
(Add a glass of lowfat milk and/or a banana for more balance.) Peanuts
are perfect for afternoon snacks; you can easily file them under
"emergency food" in your desk drawer. They don't spoil
and are satiating enough to reduce your dinner appetite plus provide
the energy you need to cook, let's say, broccoli and potato for
dinner instead of chowing on potato chips the minute you walk in
the kitchen door.
Tip #6. Eat fish at least twice a week.
People who eat 2 or more fish meals per week have less heart disease.
If you have tuna for lunch once or twice a week, and fish or seafood
when you dine in restaurants, you'll easily enhance your fish intake.
(Or, you can simply cook fish at home a few times a week.)
Tip #7. Eat more soy foods.
Some folks enjoy a glass of chocolate soy milk for a bedtime snack.
Others cook soy sausage or soy bacon for breakfast. Many prefer
soy in it's native Indian, Chinese, and Thai cuisines. And others
choose soy protein bars. Whatever your method, soy is a healthful
choice. The trick is plan ahead, so you can consume soy daily (ideally
3 to 4 servings each day).
Tip #8. Plan time to food shop.
If you schedule weekly time for food shopping, you'll enhance the
likelihood of having wholesome, health protective foods readily
available. Good nutrition starts in the supermarket!
Nancy Clark, MS, RD is Director of Nutrition Services
at SportsMedicine Associates in Brookline MA. She is author of Nancy
Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook, Second Edition ($23) and her
new Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions ($20).
Both are available via www.nancyclarkrd.com
or by sending a check to Sports Nutrition Materials, 830 Boylston
St #205, Brookline MA 02467.
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