In order to live a healthy life to the fullest, we need to fuel our bodies with the nutrition it needs. You can set the stage for the cultivation of healthier habits by keeping unhealthy foods out of your cupboards and having healthy foods readily accessible. It will make healthy choices become almost second nature.
Here are a few tips to consider when it comes to stocking your cupboard:
1. Keep it simple. Plain frozen vegetables are great to have on hand. Their ingredient list? Just the vegetable by itself with nothing added to it. Compare that to “gourmet” vegetable mixes, which contain extra calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium and additives from their sauces and spice mixes.
2. Beware of added sugars. Added sugars contribute zero nutrients, but they do add calories that can lead to weight gain. To tell if a food contains added sugars, search the ingredient list for words ending in “ose,” — maltose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup — as well as molasses, cane sugar, corn sweetener, raw sugar, syrup, honey or fruit-juice concentrates.
3. Keep an eye on sugar-free, fat-free and low-carb foods. When companies take something out, they have to add something back in to make up for it. You may be better off enjoying these foods in their natural state. Regular peanut butter, for example, offers heart-healthy fats for the same number of calories per serving as its reduced-fat counterpart.
4. Rethink your protein bar. Many protein or other energy bars are high in fat and have just as many calories as a candy bar. In addition, they may contain quite a bit of added sugar. Look for bars with a good amount of protein and fiber at a calorie level that supports what your body needs.
5. Get rid of the juice and other sugary drinks. Calories from fruit juice — even 100 percent fruit juice — and drinks like sweet tea and soda can add up quickly and promote tooth decay. Besides, nothing hydrates the body better than water. If you need some flavor, infuse your water with fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs.
6. Skip processed meats. This typically means anything more manipulated than cut or ground, such as deli meats, anything with a casing or in sausage form or anything smoked or cured. Stick with fresh and minimally processed meats, like white-meat chicken, canned tuna in water and fresh-roasted turkey breast. Or choose low-fat and low-sodium varieties of the more processed meats, such as reduced-sodium chicken sausage or Canadian bacon, if needed.
7. Watch the sodium. Did you know that more than 75 percent of the sodium in the average diet comes from salt added to processed foods? It’s not just the saltshaker that’s getting us. Foods like bread, poultry, cold cuts, pizza, soup and sandwiches can be loaded with sodium. Always check the nutrition facts label: Foods with 140 milligrams of sodium or less per serving are generally considered low in sodium, so stock up on foods that meet this standard when possible.
8. Avoid foods with trans fats.Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, are often found in many fried foods and baked goods like pastries, pizza dough, pie crust, cookies and crackers, but they can also be found in certain peanut butters and popcorn packages, so be sure to check the ingredients list for “partially hydrogenated oil.”
Remember: Simple fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat dairy products and healthy fats will provide your body with all the nourishment it needs and deserves!