MAKE BET­TER FOOD CHOICES

Main­tain­ing a healthy diet can be eas­ier than you think if you make your eat­ing habits a pri­or­ity and know how to make smart food choices. For the best re­sults, choose foods from all five ma­jor food groups with help from these tips:

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Fruits and veg­eta­bles

Fruits and veg­eta­bles are nat­u­rally low in fat and con­tain nec­es­sary fiber, vi­ta­mins and min­er­als. Rather than serv­ing fruits with cream cheese or sug­ary sauces, opt for nut but­ters or Nice! or­ganic honey, and toss raw, steamed, boiled or baked veg­eta­bles in olive oil, salt and pep­per in­stead of but­tery sauces.

Pro­tein

Se­lect low-fat, lean cuts of meat and sea­son them with herbs, spices and low-sodium mari­nades. Bak­ing, broil­ing, grilling and roast­ing are the health­i­est prepa­ra­tion meth­ods. Try swap­ping ground beef for a lean or ex­tra-lean cut, or opt for ground chicken or turkey in­stead. Non-meat pro­tein op­tions such as dry beans, peas and lentils can even be swapped for meat in recipes such as lasagna or chili.

Dairy

Choose skim or non-dairy milk, like soy, rice or al­mond milk, and use low-fat or part-skim cheeses in recipes. Non­fat or Greek yo­gurt can re­place sour cream in many recipes and op­tions like sher­bet and soft-serve frozen yo­gurt are lower in fat than ice cream.

Grains

Choose prod­ucts that list whole grains as the first in­gre­di­ent, as they are low in fat and high in fiber. Some easy swaps in­clude whole-grain flour, pasta and rice, as well as by­pass­ing dough­nuts and pas­tries for English muffins or bagels and opt­ing for un­salted pret­zels in­stead of potato chips. Add some va­ri­ety with tasty or­ganic items such as Nice! fla­vored pop­corns and tor­tilla chips.

Fats, oils and sweets

Too many high-fat foods can add ex­cess calo­ries to your diet, which can lead to weight gain and obe­sity, or in­crease your risk for cer­tain health is­sues. How­ever, a small amount of hearthealthy fat is ac­tu­ally good for you. When it comes to sweets, fig bars and gin­ger­snaps make for healthy al­ter­na­tives to cook­ies. Also be­ware of calo­rie-laden condi­ments and opt for non­fat and light may­on­naise and salad dress­ings in­stead.

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