for your Heart
How to sneak “good foods” into your daily meals
Eat right. Get exercise. Live healthy. Whether you are watching the morning talk shows, talking with friends, visiting family, or scrolling through your newsfeed; at some point in the day, you come across a new diet, “superfood,” or way of eating that enhances your health and happiness. Why? Nearly 90% of Americans fall below the fruit and vegetable consumption recommendations — we all struggle to find creative ways to make healthy choices every day.
Every season, there is a new “superfood” that catches media attention and appears in everything from salads, smoothies, to side dishes. Blueberries, salmon, kale, and acai are just a few examples of foods that have garnered the superfood label. Most nutrition experts disagree with the definition of a superfood, calling it a marketing term. Catrina is the owner of Catrina K Fitness. As a NASM Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist with a specialization in Nutrition, she explained how companies created the term to market their products through media hype. “I think if you look at it this way if you ever go to a dietician and ask them, ‘what superfoods do you recommend?’ They will tell you there is no such thing as a superfood. If you go to your doctor and ask, ‘what superfood should I take for heart disease?’ They are never going to tell you that goji berries are the way to go.”
What is essential is to do your research when you come across a new food that has nutritional or health benefits. Blueberries, kale, and sweet potatoes, for example, often get more attention because of the research given to them versus other berries, leafy greens, or squash. Most of the exciting superfoods fit into the exotic category, like acai berry, that might be healthy but are not more nutritional on their own over less exciting or expensive fruits. Another tip is to check the nutrition labels of drinks or products made from superfruits – the added sugar may be the reason you prefer the taste.
Catrina also pointed out that “too much of a good thing is a good thing” when trying to maximize the benefits of superfoods. She advises adding them to snacks and meals instead of making them the primary serving. “Make sure you’re not telling yourself, ‘this is going to cure my illnesses.’ It’s a treat just like anything else, and moderation is key. No one food will cure you, and none of them are superior to other foods. Fruits and vegetables are great and healthy for you, but there is no superfood.”
Healthy foods and picky eaters
“Children aren’t the only picky eaters at the dinner table. There is a fair share of adults who push fruits and veggies to the side in favor of mac and cheese. Some of these adults are even us. If you are trying to change your diet plan, Catrina advises getting ideas on how to sneak healthy foods into some of your favorite dishes. “Let’s say your husband is a huge mac and cheese fan, throw in some broccoli or chop up some peppers and onions and see if they even notice.” The key to successfully eating healthy is to start slow with incremental changes, especially when dealing with picky eaters. “I’m also not a big believer in forcing children to finish the plate. Don’t tell them they have to eat their vegetables to earn dessert. These actions put negative connotations with healthy foods. I’m a big believer in the “test and try method”; put the food on their plate and wait to see what they eat. Alternatively, encourage them to try or taste it. With a little help, your picky eater will soon make good choices on their own,” Catrina said.
The tough part for home cooks is getting new ideas for old dishes. Catrina’s suggestion may come from a surprising source. “I always get ideas from restaurants,” she revealed. “If you get grilled asparagus from somewhere and you really like it then start grilling it at home!” There are a couple of ways to bring that restaurant dish taste to your home kitchen. One, is browsing for healthy copycat takeout recipes online. Love that grab-and-go breakfast burrito? There’s a quick and healthy way to make it that doesn’t require pulling up to the drive-thru window! A change you will notice in “healthy home dishes” is a noticeable reduction for salt, fat, and sugar in the recipes. These ingredients are added to dishes by chefs for flavor, seasoning, or as a preservative. Many store-bought frozen foods, canned, or pre-packaged foods are high in sodium so try to use fresh ingredients when possible.
“Another big tip is seasoning,” adds Catrina. “The reason you like dishes in a restaurant and not at home is because you’re just heating a vegetable and throwing it on a plate. There are other ways to cook vegetables besides microwaving them, like grilling or oven-roasting them. Once you learn how to season, roast, and add olive oil or dressing to your veggies, you will taste the difference. Try different flavors to see if they encourage everyone in the house to eat it or if it makes you want to make it more.”
Healthy eating for the whole family
The goal for every busy home cook is to make one meal that everyone can enjoy. A simple tip to encourage interest in meals is inviting your children to help make them. Studies show that children are more excited about eating healthy foods when they are involved. Give them age-appropriate tasks and keep a step-stool handy. Not only does prepping one meal saves time in the kitchen, but it also saves money for the household. The average American household spends over $4,350 on food every year. When you add dining out, we pay another $3,000 at restaurants, take-out/delivery, and quick-service vendors.
The other challenge with healthy eating is that eating healthy is often more expensive. Catrina acknowledged the difficult choice parents make when trying to balance their time, budget, and nutrition needs. “This is a difficult socio-economic topic. It is hard to tell a family that is not making much money, ‘you need to cook everything at home.’ Unfortunately, in our society, fast food or convenience foods are the less expensive alternative. This is a fact that no one fully addresses. However, it is just about managing your time, managing your money, finding what your family likes, maybe learning how to bulk shop for those items, and also not demonizing food. If you can only afford a few cans of tuna for your protein that week, or less expensive cuts of meat, that’s fine. Make the smart choices that are best for your family’s health and get creative in making healthy dishes. Eggs are a great source of protein. Serving them with breakfast, let’s children know that there are other foods on the plate, not just the sugary, sweet, or carb options.”
Any medical information published on this website is not intended as a substitute for informed medical advice, and you should not take any action before consulting with a healthcare professional.