Eat Healthy in an Imperfect World (cont.)
Gidus reminds fussy eaters that a variety of foods in moderation is important for good health. "Try to expand your horizons," she says. "If you eat the same thing everyday, you may not be getting enough nutrients."
Trying something new does not mean going for the exotic. Make a list of fruits, vegetables, meats, and other foods that might be acceptable for you to try. You may not like apples, but how about grapes or pears? Instead of just balking at spinach, why not sample red leaf lettuce?
If you don't like food prepared a certain way, try it raw -- if applicable -- or presented in another way. You could also combine new foods with already favored edibles.
"Some vegetables can be made into soups so that you're not having to eat the raw broccoli. If you like bagels, you can put some low-fat cream cheese and then some crushed pineapple or shredded carrots. Have fruit juice with club soda," suggests Claudia Fajardo-Lira, PhD, a nutrition expert with the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT), and assistant professor at the department of environmental sciences at California State University, Northridge.
"If you eat in front of the TV, you probably have no sense of how much you're eating."
When trying new foods, go easy on yourself, says Moores. Check out a new dish every week as opposed to every day. If you're not used to brown rice, try mixing brown and white rice first. Or you could mix the brown rice with different herbs and spices.
Motivating Couch Potatoes
You love your TV shows, and can't think of a better way to relax after a hard day's work. Yet studies have found a strong relationship between tube-watching and obesity. Perhaps it's because TV viewing is a sedentary activity. Or maybe it's because people tend to eat mindlessly in front of the screen.
If you eat in front of the TV, you probably have no sense of how much you're eating, says Christine Filardo, MSRD, director of public relations for the Produce for Better Health Foundation (PBH), a nonprofit consumer education group. PBH helps run the national "5 A Day" campaign to increase fruit and vegetable consumption 5 or more a day for 75% of Americans by 2010.
"If you're sitting there [in front of the TV], and you rip open a bag of chips, it's very easy to eat the entire bag of chips and not really think about what you're doing, because your main focus is not on what you're eating, but on what you're watching," says Filardo.
Substitute candy and chips for light popcorn. Baby carrots with a low-fat dip and a bowl of fruit are also good alternatives. Also try light yogurt instead of ice cream.
Junk Food Junkies
Planning healthy meals and snacks ahead of time is crucial for people who want to curb their junk food cravings.
"Some junk food junkies just fall into that habit, because there's nothing else around, and so they hit the vending machine, or stop at a convenience store, and that's what's there," says Gidus.
If you must have junk food, sample the healthier alternatives, such as baked chips, dried fruit, or sugar-free Popsicle. Look for low-calorie, low-sugar, and low-fat options.
It also helps to determine what element in the junk food you like. "A lot of people don't realize that they are looking for something in particular," says Gidus. "I ask [clients], 'At night you tend to eat this, this, and this, so it sounds to me like you're looking for something crunchy,' and they'll say, 'Yeah, I guess, I am.'"
In place of chips, the crunch-lover could try chomping on light popcorn, whole grain crackers, carrot sticks, red peppers, and rice cakes.
For the sweet tooth, sugar-free pudding, sugar-free Jell-O, fruit bars, baked apple, fresh fruits, and dried fruits are options.
If you have to have chocolate, keep a small, lower-calorie portion of it around, recommends Mark Kantor, PhD, associate professor in the department of nutrition and food science at the University of Maryland. He likes little, individually wrapped chocolates, because they can give enough satisfaction, but can discourage overindulgence as it takes effort to open up each morsel.
The Right Food for Weekend Warriors
You're typically not that active, but this weekend your friends have invited you to a hike, to go skiing, or to a 5K run. What type of foods will give you enough energy to make it through strenuous events?
"I don't think any food is going to help [the weekend warrior]," says Kantor, noting that no edible will be able to prevent injuries caused by being unconditioned.
It is, however, important to eat before or during a demanding activity, as tiredness can lead to injury. To keep energy levels up, pack dried fruits, cereals, and trail mix.
Maintaining hydration is also key. "People don't realize how much water they can lose during exercise," says Kantor. "Even during the winter, if it's dry, you can really sweat a lot and the sweat evaporates quite quickly so you don't even realize how much water you're losing."
There are people who turn to energy bars or drinks for an extra boost. Be careful of this option as some products may be as high in sugar and empty in nutrients as candy bars. Read the packaging label. Moore says a good energy bar will have 5 grams of fat or less, 3-5 grams of fiber, up to 15 grams of protein, and 15-25 grams of carbohydrates. Stay away from products that have sugar or corn syrup as their first ingredient.
Also look at the vitamin and mineral content, particularly if you're having more than one serving of the bar or drink. Make sure the vitamin and mineral content adds up to about 25% or less. Some energy bars are heavily fortified, and too much vitamins and minerals can be harmful. Too much copper, for instance, can interfere with iron absorption and function in the body.
Don't know how to cook a healthy meal? No problem.
"You don't have to be a gourmet cook to eat healthfully," says Filardo. "A couple of chicken breasts and sliced up sweet potatoes can be roasted in the oven. You can stir fry a bag of baby spinach with some garlic and olive oil."
Take advantage of the work that has already been done for you, adds Filardo. There are low-calorie frozen foods, prepared salads, and cut-up fruit readily available at grocery stores.