Shape Up Your Eating Habits
Jill Ross, HealthAtoZ Contributing Writer
You've cut back on hotdogs, and you've been good about trimming your T-bones and peeling the fatty skin off your roasted chicken. Otherwise, are you eating any healthier?
If you are like the majority of American men and women, the answer might be, "not by much". In a recent survey, 75 percent of U.S. adults know that changing the way they prepare food can be better for their health. But only half say they have really made the changes they should.
Americans' dietary habits may be better than they were decades ago, but overall, health experts say we still eat too much fat, too much red meat and too much food in general.
Watch what's on the plate
"Americans eat industrial-sized portions of foods," says nutrition expert Joan Horbiak, R.D., M.P.H. "Proportions are way out of whack." Plate sizes in restaurants have gone from 8 inches to even 14 inches, she notes. Horbiak, president of Health and Nutrition Network, is a former spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association and served as a cardiovascular research nutritionist for the University of Pittsburgh. She is also author of the book 50 Ways to Lose Ten Pounds, which, she says, "doesn't have a diet in the book."
In the recent survey, the top reasons cited by those not making healthier choices in how they eat were that they:
- Didn't want to change the taste (80 percent).
- Didn't want to change the way some foods have traditionally been prepared (80 percent).
- Weren't sure what ingredients or products to substitute (32 percent).
Make simple substitutions
Breaking an unhealthy meal routine does not have to mean making radical changes, following complicated recipes or giving up traditional family favorites, Horbiak says. "Most people feel that it's difficult to make changes. They feel they have to sacrifice taste and time. They have traditional recipes in their family they are used to making, and they feel they have to give them up," Horbiak says. "That's totally false."
Horbiak offers some simple tips that can build healthier eating habits and help you shape up for summer:
Practice portion control. Downsize what you put on your plate. Fill two-thirds of it with fruits and vegetables and grains, and one-third with poultry, fish or meat.
Pick peak-of-the-season produce. Summer is "prime time" for the best fruits and vegetables. "If you want to eat big, then supersize fruits and vegetables," Horbiak says. Think of different ways of preparing fruits and vegetables, too. For a simple summer dessert that won't bring on swimsuit guilt, she suggests grilling fruit kabobs.
Produce that’s always in season. Del Monte canned fruits and vegetables are always ripe for the taking. You can enjoy all 146 varieties, year ‘round.
Grow or buy fresh herbs, which can bring out the flavor in food, Horbiak says. If you have extra, chop them up, put them in an ice-cube tray and fill with water. Once the herbs freeze, pop them out and put them in a plastic bag. They can stay "fresh" this way for four months. Defrost them by running them under hot water.
Substitute ingredients. Fats aren't all bad, but some types of fats are better for you than others. Substitute those artery-clogging creamy sauces and dressings with marinades or dressings made with olive oil (a heart-healthy fat) and herbs, Horbiak says.
Cream sauces that contain saturated fats can increase your risk for heart disease. Polyunsaturated fats, which are found mainly in safflower, sunflower, corn, soybean, cottonseed oils and in some fish, and monounsaturated fats, such as those found in olive, peanut and canola oils, may actually help lower your blood cholesterol level when used in place of saturated fats in your diet, according to the American Heart Association.
Instead of serving up that summertime classic, potato salad with creamy mayo, try steaming new potatoes and drizzle them with olive oil and chopped chives. "Be adventuresome," Horbiak says. "Recipes are not carved in stone."