March is National Nutrition Month and the campaign includes educating consumers on how to make more informed food choices.
If you have found yourself in the grocery store, confused about what is or is not healthy, you are not alone. It is easy to get caught up in the latest trends, the look of the food package, what you hear or see in the media.
To make wiser choices, read food labels and remember to focus on wholesomeness, balance and variety. Wholesomeness in this case means food that is closest to its natural form. This may include whole foods such as corn on the cob or lightly processed, pre-prepped foods such as bagged spinach or frozen corn kernels. Minimize heavily processed foods that have had added sugar, fats, preservatives and that have been structurally processed stripping them of their natural fiber and nutrients.
Choose whole grains instead of processed grains:
The first ingredients should be a whole grain such as whole grain wheat, rice, quinoa.
Fiber content in each serving which should be 3 or more grams.
Look for the gold, whole grain stamp.
Buy whole grain products that are well sealed for freshness
Choose dairy products such as yogurt wisely:
Choose plain yogurts without added sugar or artificial sweeteners and instead, sweeten with fresh fruit.
Minimize saturated fat intake by choosing low fat.
Avoid "light" yogurts that tend to be diluted with added thickeners to compensate for fat
Avoid yogurts that are artificially supplemented with extra protein.
Choose a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables:
Different types and colors of produce will provide you with more of a variety of nutrients. Occasionally try something new and learn how to prepare it.
Shop what is in season, which is usually cheaper and fresher.
Don’t purchase more than you can eat in a week unless you plan to freeze some of your produce.
Look for firmness, rich colors, no holes or bruises.
Choose healthy proteins:
Lean cuts of meat and poultry with trimmed fat and skin removed.
Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, lake trout, sardines, mackerel, albacore tuna rich in Omega 3 fatty acids
Whole eggs or egg whites
Roasted or raw nuts. Best purchased and stored in air-tight containers.
Natural nut butters without added fats and preservatives.
Johnson MS, RD, works for Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.