Simple Ways to Improve Your Diet

By Floria, Barbara

Good nutrition is a cornerstone of good health. A low-fat, low-cholesterol diet can reduce your risk for heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, stroke and other diseases.

One way to improve your diet is to eat more fruits and vegetables. For adults, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends 2 cups of fruit and 2½ cups of vegetables each day. You should also get at least 6 ounces a day of grains (3 of which should come from whole grains), and 3 cups a day of fat-free or low-fat milk or milk products.

Healthy Eating Tips

Here are easy ways to make your diet better:

  • Go for seconds — on non-starchy vegetables. Reminder: A typical vegetable serving size is 1/2 cup.

  • Eat a whole-grain, non-sweetened cereal for breakfast, and top your cereal with fresh fruit. You'll add fiber and, depending on the fruit, a healthy dose of vitamins A, B and C. If you must have sweetened cereal, use a no-calorie sweetener such as aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) or sucralose (Splenda).

  • Order healthy choices when you eat out. Select foods such as baked fish or chicken.

  • Use low-fat or nonfat dressing on your salad. Four tablespoons of regular dressing can contain 60 grams of fat, which is as much as most adults should consume in a day.

  • Eat fish for dinner at least once a week. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help keep your heart healthy.

  • Choose whole fruit over fruit juice. You'll consume less sugar and more fiber.

  • Drink a full glass of water before a meal and another one with it. You'll stay hydrated and be less likely to overeat.

  • Add lentils, beans, kasha, brown rice and peas to your diet for an added fiber boost.

  • Buy low-fat or fat-free bologna, ham and other cold cuts.

  • Choose low-fat alternatives when a food craving hits. Pick baked chips instead of regular ones. Eat fresh or dried fruit for a midmorning or mid-afternoon snack.

  • Don't peel apples, pears, peaches and potatoes. Many of their nutrients and a lot of their fiber is contained in, or just under, their skins.

  • Drink iced tea, diet soda or water instead of regular soda. A 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar; diet sodas are sugar-free but contain no nutrients and lots of chemicals.

  • Read food labels of comparable brands of salad dressings, convenience foods, frozen foods, packaged dinners, cookies and crackers. Choose those with the least fat, cholesterol and salt (sodium).

  • Switch from whole milk to 1 percent or skim (nonfat) milk.

  • Watch your portion sizes. Even healthy foods can cause you to gain weight if you eat too much of them.

Medical Reviewer: [Coleman, Ellen RD, MA, MPH, Fiveash, Laura DrPH, MPH, RD, Godsey, Cynthia M.S., M.S.N., APRN, Harrell, Jennifer MA, RD, LD, Lambert, J.G. M.D.] Last Annual Review Date: 2011-04-02T00:00:00-06:00 Copyright: © Health Ink & Vitality Communications

Did You Know?

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A daily dose of aspirin is often prescribed to help prevent heart disease. Talk to your health care provider about taking aspirin if you are older than 45, or younger and you also have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or you smoke, says the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.