Eat Well

Smart Food Choices

What Are Smart Food Choices?
By Stacia Jesner 
Published 8/2/2009 
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One of the great things about the average shopping trip is, for some, also the most difficult: the wide range of food choices available. Where once people could eat only (for the most part) what was raised near them and what was either in season or able to be preserved, today we can enjoy a wide range of foods from the common to the exotic to the highly processed with just a meander through the grocery aisles. How are you supposed to know what’s a smart food choice and what’s not?

The first step in improving your overall choices, says Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, a registered dietitian and the director of wellness coaching at the Cleveland Clinic: “Choose foods with the most nutritional bang for your buck.” A good rule of thumb, she advises, is to go back to basics — that is, to eat relatively unprocessed foods. Shoot for 100 percent whole-grain products, fresh or frozen fruits or vegetables, low-fat or nonfat dairy products and heart-healthy fats. To help you make the best choices, try to eat every three to four hours — you’ll avoid that famished feeling, which can lead to picking foods with less nutrition.

The Healthy Plate

Paired with what to eat is how much you choose to eat of any given food and how to balance your plate at every meal. Jamieson-Petonic has a trick for building a healthy plate: Imagine your plate like a clock. Fill the first half of the circle (from 12 to 6) with fruits and vegetables. Add lean protein to a quarter of the plate (6 to 9); round things out (from 9 to 12) with a whole-grain, high-fiber starch.

Need guidance on what to reach for in those categories? Here’s a handy at-a-glance guide.

  Eat Limit or Avoid
Vegetables & Fruits Sweet potatoes, blackberries, strawberries, broccoli French fries, green beans in mushroom soup with French fried onions, creamed onions
Meats & Protein Poultry, salmon, halibut, beans, lentils, tofu, nuts Beef, lamb, sausage, processed meats, lunch meats, hot dogs
Dairy Products Organic skim or 1% milk; almond and other nut milks; soy milk; lowfat cheeses, yogurt and other dairy products Whole milk; whole-milk cheeses, yogurt and other dairy; ice cream
Grains 100% Whole-grain bread and pasta; brown rice; barley, bulgur, quinoa. 100% Whole grain cereals only. Bread, pasta and cereals that contain white, enriched or refined flour; white rice; corn starch & syrup
Fats & Oils Olive oil, avocados, nut butters, tahini, oil and vinegar salad dressings Butter, lard, creamy salad dressings, margarine, Crisco®, non-dairy creamers
Snacks Unsalted nuts & seeds; whole-grain crackers; popcorn, fruits and vegetables Chips, candy, muffins, cookies, cake, pretzels

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