Fundamentals of Eating Right
Eating right is not as impossible as we often imagine. Following are some ‘doctor approved’ strategies that you can start implementing now.
First, switch from processed foods to simple whole foods. Processed foods like boxed foods and canned items include chemicals, sugars, salts, and preservatives that have no nutritional value and may be harmful when consumed over the years. Avoid processed lunch meats, breakfast cereals, frozen meals, canned vegetables, bottled juices, etc. This small change can pay high dividends.
Have an idea of the weeks’ menus and get fresh whole foods in the grocery store: fruits, vegetables, herbs, meats, whole grain breads (make sure these are not white bread with adding caramel or food coloring!), eggs, low fat or skim milk. Cooking with herbs, homemade sauces, homemade tandoori pastes and marinades, and marinating meats and poultry ahead of time can be fun and time saving. Using a crock pot can be a welcome addition to your kitchen. Have carrots, peppers, celery, squashes, cucumbers, and broccoli as snacks with salad dressing you make using olive oil. Making homemade yogurt is extremely easy and can be a great choice for breakfast with a few pieces of sliced fruit.
Enemy #1: Obesity. If you let your crock pot or oven work for you, you can take a brisk 45-minute walk, shower, and sit down in the comfort of your sanctuary to eat your home cooked meal. Make a mild tarka, add your meat or chana daal or vegetable, and cook while you go for a quick run or use your treadmill. A fun family activity is spending a couple of hours with your children helping you make enough simple chapatis or homemade whole wheat naans to last a few weeks. A one-time stir frying of poultry with herbs and chili pepper or ground pepper can be used several ways: in lunch salad, or with brown rice for dinner, or with naan and coriander or mint chutney, or with whole wheat pasta for an Italian meal. A vegetable “meat loaf” or turkey meatloaf or turkey chili is a great weekly option.
Choosing wisely at a restaurant can make a difference of almost 400 calories, a whole meal! Choose vegetable stir fried curry (without the cream) vs. biryani or chicken tikka—an easy example. Choose whole wheat chapati or naan vs. white rice; choose fruit salad with a few nuts vs. rice pudding or gulab jamun. If you are going to eat the latter, be prepared to burn it off immediately. Choose blackened salmon with grilled broccoli vs. 16-ounce steak with fries or baked potato with sour cream and butter—a no-brainer. Buffets are your enemy unless you can exercise will power.
Exercise is essential. All you need to make sure you get 10,000 steps a day is your iPhone and a free health app. Simple?
Enemy #2: High blood pressure. Choose foods with low sodium content. Avoid salted, roasted nuts which are loaded with salt. Get unsalted walnuts. Choose guacamole instead of cheese dip. Eat berries instead of jellies and berry spreads. Choose broiled fish and baked cauliflower over fish and chips. Read labels.
Enemy #3: Diabetes. Sugar: Avoid high sugar meals. Eat fresh fruits rather than canned fruits which have lost nutritional value and are loaded with syrup. Fresh berries are better than berry juices. Homebrewed green teas are better than boxed and premade teas which lose 30 % EGCG, an antioxidant that limits starch absorption. Drink enough water to keep you hydrated but not so much that you get water toxic.
Fats: Olive oils are superior to other oils. Deep frying is not recommended since it changes the saturation of oils. Eat grilled salmon and tuna rather than tilapia or catfish, since the former have more Omega 3 that reduces diabetes risk. It is clearly misleading to think frozen yogurt is yogurt and good for you! Always ask for the calorie and protein value of your serving.
Fiber: Plain oatmeal is a powerful fiber; however, an oatmeal muffin includes huge amounts of carbs and sugars and unwanted fats. Whole fruits and veggies are your major fiber sources.
Proteins: Getting your calories from protein is a great idea because the energy is released slowly, it keeps you filled up, and it’s healthy for you. Vegetable proteins are equally good: daals, tofu, beans, and lentils…. be creative with flavoring them with herbs, yogurt, tamarind and mint dressings, and spices. Getting your fuel from carbs is counterproductive because it is short lived, will make you drowsy and hungry again in a couple of hours, and make you gain weight. Avoid white rice, pastas, and potatoes. Choose brown rice, wild rice, whole grains, whole wheat pastas, potatoes with skin, and sweet potatoes. The meal should focus on fiber and proteins to avoid diabetes and allow for weight loss.
Enemy #4: High Cholesterol. Keep foods simple: avoid high fat, oily foods with heavy cheeses, and fried foods. Keep cooking simple like broiling, grilling, and stir frying.
The key to keeping us living long and healthy lives is this: Get the exercise we need with 10,000 steps and adding weights, and eat with controlled calories but focusing on protein and fiber.
[Gulshan Harjee, M.D., is a board certified internist in private practice with an emphasis on prevention. Please email your health and medical questions for consideration in this column to: firstname.lastname@example.org. The material in this column is of a general nature, and must not be construed as specific medical advice. This column rotates monthly along with the Fitness Lifestyle column by Aarti Patel.]
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