“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants,” stated food author, Michael Pollan at a lecture given to CDC scientists last week. Together, these seven simple words summarize healthy eating…meaning choose mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains; include some fish, meat, chicken, and dairy; but skip the processed foods and keep portions small. As a dietitian, getting the message across about healthy eating in a very succinct way that everyone can understand is key.

Pollan suggests here’s how to do it:

1. Don’t eat anything your great grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food– Go- gurt? Breakfast-cereal bars? Non-dairy creamer?

2. Watch out for food products bearing health claims– Often, they are heavily processed and have no real health benefit.  Also, keep in mind, apples are one of the most healthful foods, yet there are no health claims written on the outside of their skin!

ingredients3. Avoid food products containing ingredients that are unfamiliar, unpronounceable, more than five in number, or that contain high fructose corn syrup.- Usually indicates highly processed and low nutrient foods.

4. Stay out of the middle of the supermarket; shop on the perimeter of the store, and don’t buy food where you buy your gasoline. Fresh foods tend to be on the perimeter of the store, while processed and less nutritional foods are in the middle aisles and in convenient stores.

5. Eat mostly plants, especially leaves. A plant based diet is generally lower in calories and fat and less “energy dense”.

6. Eat more like the French, Japanese, Italians, or Greeks. “People who eat according to the rules of a traditional food culture are generally healthier than we are”, Pollan says. He suggests, “Pay attention to how a culture eats, as well as to what it eats.” For example, In Japan, they say eat until you are four-fifths full.

7. Cook. And if you can, plant a garden. Food you grow and prepare yourself is generally much healthier than not.

garden1

green_vegetables_food_tf01995166171109_stdGreen is the color associated with St. Patrick’s Day, but also it’s the color of some of the most nutritious foods on the planet….Spinach, kale, collard greens, turnip greens, salad greens, broccoli, asparagus, green peppers, bok choy, avocado, and others.

These vegetables are rich sources of vitamins K, C, A, and many of the B vitamins; minerals, such as iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. They also provide a variety of phytonutrients including beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin, which are potent antioxidants that can neutralize free radical damage that can lead to premature aging and disease.

Green vegetables are low in fat and calories and a good source of fiber, which means you can’t go wrong by eating as much as you want (unless indicated by your doctor)!

Here are a few simple ways to bring more green into your life:

1. Use premixed, bagged salads made of the dark green leaves. Have a salad (with low fat dressing or olive saladgreensoil), with a cup of soup or a sandwich, or as a side dish or as a main entrée with lean protein.

2. Add a pile of leafy greens or green peppers or avocado to your sandwich.

3. Add chopped green vegetables to soup.

4. Add chopped spinach into pasta sauce.

5. Steam up some broccoli or asparagus and serve with dinner.broccoli

6. Keep cut up green peppers or broccoli for a quick snack with some hummus or other low fat dip.

7. Make a stir-fry with beef, chicken, or tofu using bok choy

8. Stir raw or lightly cooked greens into omelets.

One of the hottest topics today in the field of nutrition and health is PROBIOTICS.

Probiotics are “live microorganisms administered in adequate amounts which confer a beneficial health effect on the host”. Historically, probiotics have been helpful for improving digestion and enhancing our immune systems, however, with research of probiotics on the rise, we are learning about other potential health benefits of probiotics (for example, improving blood pressure and cholesterol levels).

Commonly, people ask me if they need to get probiotics from food or can they take a supplement. While using supplements containing probiotics is an option, I always advise to choose food first over supplements whenever its available. By choosing food products containing probiotics you also get the nutritional benefits of eating that particular food. For example, probiotics can be found in yogurt, which is a good source of calcium, riboflavin, potassium, and proteins. By eating the yogurt instead of taking a supplement you get all the extra nutrients important for good health, whereas, if you take a supplement, you will miss out on all of these extra nutrients.

Probiotics in the U.S. can be found in a wide range of foods, including dairy products, cereals, juices, and even cookies. When choosing a probiotic, it is important to know the strain name of the probiotic, the number of viable bacteria per serving, and the extent of research on humans that demonstrates a health benefit using the particular strain and the amount of probiotic in the product.

Some probiotic products sold in the U.S. include Yakult, DanActive/Activia Yogurt, and Stonyfield Farms yogurts.

yogurtyakult