We know we should eat more of what’s good for us and less of what’s not. But most Americans get too many calories and not enough nutrition in their daily diet, health experts claim. Here’s a simple three-step plan to help.
1. Focus on Fruits and Vegetables
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about 12% of Americans eat the recommended 1 1/2 –2 cups of fruits a day. Similarly, less than 10% meet the recommended 2–3 cups of vegetables each day. One way to get with the program: Add fruits and vegetables to foods you already eat. Try these ideas:
- Top pizza with peppers, zucchini and mushrooms.
- Stack your sandwiches with spinach, onions and tomatoes.
- Put bananas, peaches or berries on cereal or pancakes.
2. Make Half Your Grains Whole
Substitute whole grains for refined ones to get the daily 3–4 ounce-equivalents advised by U.S. dietary guidelines. One slice of bread, a cup of cereal or a 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta each equal about a 1 ounce-equivalent. Some ways to get started:
- Spread “light” or fat-free cream cheese on a whole wheat bagel.
- Use a whole wheat pita for lunch instead of white bread.
- Snack on whole-grain tortilla chips with salsa.
3. Cut Back on Culprits
Saturated fat, sugar and salt can derail your diet. Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products, reduced-sodium foods and foods with the least amount of added sugars. Here are more tips for staying on track:
- If you eat beef, get a lean cut—and eat less of it. Each day, you only need about 5–6 1/2 ounce-equivalents of food from protein sources.
- Keep the chicken but lose the fat by trimming the skin. Also, use healthier cooking methods: broil, bake, stew or roast.
- Love ice cream? Substitute with low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt or ice cream.
Sources: MyPlate, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Eat Right, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, Dietary Guidelines for Americans, American Heart Association