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Back to the basics for smart eating

Published: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

It isn’t always easy to know what you should eat. The vast array of dietary and nutritional advice out there, coupled with an endless number of food choices, can be overwhelming.

To simplify things, it might it might be helpful to remember that all whole, unprocessed foods are comprised of only three macronutrients and that our bodies need all three to be properly nourished. Those macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates and fat. We need about an equal numbers of calories from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Most foods also contain micronutrients: vitamins and minerals that are also essential for good health.  

How do you translate this into what goes on your plate? A good place to start is by applying what we learned as children about food groups and choosing the right number of servings from each group.

The five basic food groups are: grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and meat/beans. You should easily meet your nutritional needs if you consume the recommended number of daily servings from each food group. This is based on the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The recommended daily servings may vary according to your age, gender or weight, but here is an example for a 150-pound female who is moderately active:   

Grains – 6 ounces each day.

Vegetables – 2˝ cups per day.

Fruits – 2 cups per day.

Milk – 3 cups per day

Meat/beans – 5˝ ounces per day.

Choose wisely from each food group. Select whole grains like brown rice, whole-wheat bread and whole-grain pasta. Eat a variety of fresh or frozen vegetables. Choose fresh, frozen or dried fruits without added syrup or sugar. Opt for healthy proteins like fish, beans, and poultry without skin more often than red meats like beef and pork. Avoid processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, and cold cuts. 

Healthy foods can be made unhealthy based on how they are prepared or what is added to them. Stay away from fried foods and creamy sauces. Avoid convenience foods like boxed or frozen meals that tend to have too much sodium. And try to limit your consumption of sugary beverages and other foods with added sugars.

Cooking might not be your thing, but you don’t have to be a chef to prepare a simple meal like broiled, baked, or grilled chicken, or fish served with a side of steamed vegetables over brown rice, a lettuce salad, and a piece of fresh fruit for dessert. 

Now you’re eating smarter.

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