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Making Good Food Choices for the New Year

By Carol Witte, RDN, Nutrition Services Director

Starting the New Year by eating right does not have to be complicated! Begin with the goal of finding new foods to consume rather than concentrating on foods to avoid. Here are a few guidelines to get you started:Good Food Choices

  • Use color as your guide when planning your meals. Include fruits and vegetables with every meal.
  • Include whole grains. Try new grains and recipes that include whole grains.
  • Include low-fat or fat free milk or milk products
  • Include more fish, beans and nuts
  • Choose lean, low-sodium meats, poultry and egg selections.

Make Your Calories Count
Think nutrient-rich rather than “good” or “bad” foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, and lower in calories. Making smart food choices can help you stay healthy, manage your weight and allow you to maintain or improve your physical activity.

Focus on Variety
Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups to get the nutrients your body needs. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or canned. Remember to read your labels and limit those vegetables with added fat and sodium. Eat more dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and broccoli and orange vegetables including carrots and sweet potatoes. Vary your protein choices with more fish, beans and peas. Eat at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day.

Know Your Fats
Most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Check the nutritional fact panel on the food labels. Look for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Try using canola, corn or olive oil in place of margarine or butter. Be cautious with portion size.

Keep Yourself Healthy
Maintain a healthy immune system, preserve normal nerve function and prevent certain types of anemia by including foods which provide a good source of vitamin B6. To help prevent a B6 deficiency, eat foods that are rich in the vitamin such as fortified cereals and grains, beans, poultry, fish, dark leafy green vegetables, oranges and cantaloupe.

Iron Rich Foods
The most common sign of an iron deficiency is fatigue. Other symptoms can include dizziness, headache, chilly extremities, paleness in the skin and under the eyelids and weakness. An unusual craving for non-food items such as ice can also be a sign. The best sources of iron include lean meat, poultry and seafood. If you don’t eat a lot of these foods, be sure to get a good plant-based source for each meal which would include lentils, beans, spinach or iron-fortified cereals. You get bonus points for eating a vitamin C-rich food at the same time, since vitamin C increases absorption of iron from plant foods.

Vitamin D is Important
Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because of the body’s ability to convert sunlight exposure to Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps to maintain bone health and boost your immune system. Fortified dairy products (including fat-free milk), fortified orange juice, salmon and tuna are rich in this nutrient. Don’t forget that spending some time in the sun during the warmer months (without getting burned) helps your skin naturally make vitamin D.

Include Foods Rich in Vitamin C
People who have a very low intake of fruits and vegetables are at risk of inadequate intake of vitamin C. If you notice bleeding gums, easy bruising and wounds that seem to heal slowly, you could have an insufficient vitamin C intake. In addition to oranges, pineapple, lemons and limes, other good sources of this vitamin include bell peppers, broccoli, baked potato, guava, papaya, kiwi and strawberries. Remember to eat in COLOR!

Start your New Year by keeping your plate varied and colorful!