Everyone who is trying to make smart food choices understands the need to buy quality, healthy and practical foods. Practical foods are those foods that are not only healthy but whose benefits extend beyond their mere nutritional value. Such foods are easy to use, and useful in a number of different recipes. Healthy, practical foods, when used on a regular basis, form a great part of a healthy diet, and may even lower the risk of heart disease, cancer and other common illnesses.
Tomato, the smart food choice disguised as a fruit
One great practical food is the humble tomato. It may not look much like an orange, but the tomato is actually a citrus fruit as well. As such, tomatoes are rich in vitamin C and other antioxidants. In addition, tomatoes are a rich source of lycopene, which has shown promise in preventing certain kinds of cancer.
Also, tomatoes are easy to use, versatile, and inexpensive. In addition to fresh, in season tomatoes, which are delicious as well as nutritious, tomatoes are available in canned and frozen varieties as well. Tomatoes can be used in so many different ways, and in so many different recipes, that it is always a good idea to have a supply of them on hand in the pantry or the fridge.
Other uses for pasta
Pastas, especially the whole wheat varieties of pastas, are another great example of functional foods. Pastas can also be used in a variety of ways, from simple preparations with simple tomato-based sauces, to elaborate creations using shrimp, tuna and other seafood.
Of course, pasta dishes can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on how they are topped. Toppings such as Alfredo sauce or rich cream sauces, should be avoided when trying to follow a healthy diet. As with all foods, such heavy sauces are fine in moderation, but they should not form the bulk of your diet.
Luckily, there are lower fat alternatives to many high fat pasta sauces, and these low-fat alternatives should be used whenever possible. Substituting lower fat alternatives for fatty, unhealthy foods is an important skill when it comes to creating a healthy diet.
Whole grains a classic smart food choice
Whole grain breads, flours and grains are also good examples of heathy, practical foods. Stocking up on these staples when they are on sale will help ensure that you have everything you need to create the healthiest recipes possible for yourself and your family.
Whole grain products should be substituted for more highly refined breads and cereals whenever possible, since whole grain breads, cereals and grains retain more of their important nutrients than do more highly refined foods.
How do you implement a smart healthy food plan?
Starting a healthy eating program using practical foods is easy. Start by taking a personal inventory of your current diet, including where it is good and where it can use some improvement. Learn to assess the personal health risks created by your current diet (your family physician can be of particular help here). A physician or dietitian can be a big help in putting together a list of healthy, easy to use, practical foods you can use to change your diet for the better.
It is also a good idea to use your interest in healthy eating to create and use exciting new recipes. There are a great many healthy eating recipes available, both on the internet and in cookbooks. Seek out some of these recipes and try using your favorite healthy staples to create some wonderful dishes.
For some ideas on how to use practical foods morning, noon and night, try some of these great ideas:
- Include some healthy staples, and some healthy fruits in your breakfast. For instance, pair healthy oatmeal with blueberries, or whole wheat or wheat bran cereal with strawberries or bananas.
- Try mixing a healthy cereal like All Bran into your nonfat or low-fat yogurt. It will perk up your plain yogurt and give it a great crunch.
- Fresh fruit is also a great addition to yogurt. Try buying plain, nonfat yogurt and mixing in your own raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. You will save money and enjoy a healthy breakfast.
- Instead of high fat butter, spread your toast with apple butter or soy nut butter instead. Always try to use whole grain varieties of bread like wheat or rye.
- Drink a glass of 100% fruit juice with breakfast every day. Orange juice, grape juice, apple juice and grapefruit juice are all great choices.
- Blend 1% milk or soy milk with fresh pineapple for a healthy, delicious breakfast smoothie. These smoothies are great for people on the go.
Lunch and dinner ideas
- Make a great tuna salad with grated carrots, green peppers, red peppers, garlic and onion.
- Make a dish of fresh whole grain pasta and top it will homemade tomato sauce and fresh home-grown herbs.
- Use healthy foods like onions and leeks, along with tomatoes, as a great side dish.
- Grill healthy fish and serve with a healthy side salad.
- Try some low-fat soups like spinach and broccoli soup.
- Make a great vegetable stir fry with olive oil.
Of course, no plan for healthy eating is complete without some great healthy snacks. Below are some of our favorite healthy snacks for those on the go.
- A piece of fresh fruit, like an apple, orange or banana, always makes a great snack. Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen counter for easy access.
- Try mixing nuts and dried fruit for a great homemade trail mix. Hikers and non-hikers alike will enjoy this healthy snack.
- Treat yourself to a great glass of orange, tomato or cranberry juice before you leave the house in the morning.
- Keep a supply of broccoli florets, baby carrots and other bite size vegetables, and some healthy dip, on hand.
- Make your own fruit salad with oranges, bananas, raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and other favorites.
Are you ready to start making smart food choices?
Change is sometimes hard. Making a few small changes to your diet, and making substitutions where you can will go a long way to helping you with healthier meals. Get ready to make food that will benefit you and your wellbeing.
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