We would all be healthier if we read and understood nutrition facts labels. On the other hand, we would also be healthier if we just avoided most processed foods. Regardless of how healthy processed foods appear on the nutrition facts label, they all contain sodium or sugar to make them taste better.
If you don’t want to spend time deciding which processed foods are the least harmful each time you shop for groceries, try these tips:
- Shop the perimeter of the grocery store where fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy products and fresh fish and meats are located.
- Stock up on fruits and vegetables, like carrots, grapes, apples, oranges, bananas, celery, cucumbers, yams and squash.
- Avoid most processed meats, which are usually high in sodium.
- Select lean cuts of meat and plan to eat sensible portions a few times each week rather than every day.
- Skip margarine, pudding and sugar filled yogurt found on the perimeter.
- Purchase cheeses naturally low in fat, like Swiss and Parmesan, and plan to use sparingly.
- Venture down aisles with single ingredient items: rice, dried beans, 100 percent whole grain oats, healthy oils.
- Learn to cook with spices and herbs.
- Purchase whole grain pastas and breads.
- Low-salt canned tomatoes and beans are also good. But be wary of the trade off when a canned item states low fat on the label. Sodium is usually increased to compensate for the loss of flavor when fat is reduced or eliminated. To lower the sodium in canned beans, drain the liquid and rinse in water.
Consider eating healthy an investment: You can spend more time and money now to purchase healthy foods, or pay more later in increased health care costs.
There are plenty of ways to make snacks and treats part of a heart-healthy diet without sacrificing flavor. Start with air-popped popcorn — it’s only 31 calories per cup — and add healthy ingredients. Here are two ideas to get you going.
Popcorn received a bad rap when studies showed the indigestible pieces could create problems for people with diverticulitis. Yahoo’s Tip of the day, “Fortify Your GI Tract with This Midnight Munchie” says a new study finds that popcorn might actually be good for your GI tract. Try your own test with this healthy recipe for cheesy popcorn. Be sure to use air-popped popcorn.
“Know Your Fats,” the American Heart Association’s (AHA) education page, recommends limiting your total fat to 25 – 35 percent of your total calories daily. Healthy fats should be substituted for unhealthy fats whenever possible.
Unhealthy fats to limit or avoid:
Substitute these fats:
That should be no problem with Macadamia popcorn treat recipe from Whole Foods. Instead of drizzling butter over your popcorn, the recipe calls for macadamia nut oil, which is high in monounsaturated fats believed to help reduce cholesterol. The recipe also calls for raisins and walnuts — a fruit and a heart-healthy nut. As before, use air-popped popcorn in your recipe.
Begin with Air-Popped Popcorn
Check this simple recipe from E-How for making homemade air-popped popcorn in the microwave using a paper bag and tape.
- Add three tablespoons of kernels to a lunch-sized paper bag.
- Seal the opening with masking tape.
- Place the bag in the microwave and cook on high with the time set for two minutes. Listen for the corn to pop. When there is about five seconds between pops, stop the microwave. Wait thirty seconds before removing the bag from the microwave. Open the bag carefully.