I hear many clients say they want to eat healthy, but they have little time to cook. They feel eating healthy means meal prepping, cooking from scratch, or only eating “clean foods.” I’m here to highlight great food choices that fit easily into busy schedules. Healthy eating isn’t about perfection, but it is about finding a relaxed eating style that’s flexible, balanced, and meets nutritional needs. Letting go of preconceived notions of healthy eating will lead to a relaxed eating style. There are many foods that are minimally processed, quick, easy, AND healthy! The key to finding these foods begins with the food label.
Why You Need to Read Food Labels
The food label tells you everything you need to know about a product. Reading the food label is the easiest way to determine if your meal is healthy and balanced. Ask yourself: Is the serving size an appropriate amount? Would you be satisfied eating 1/2 of the package? For packages with multiple servings, multiply the calories, fat, carbohydrates, sodium, sugar, and protein by the number of servings to determine the true nutritional content. Never judge a product by just one aspect of the food label. Be diligent with each category, and be mindful of nutritional claims that often double as marketing strategies. A low-fat or gluten-free health claim will not accurately depict the product. It may still be high in added sugar or sodium.
In general healthy products will be low sodium (<140mg per serving), have minimal added sugars, contain heart-healthy fats (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats), be a source of high fiber (20% of DV or more), and have a balance of macronutrients.
What Is A Balanced Meal?
When choosing meals, it is important to incorporate protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats. A combination of macronutrients will be satisfying and provide important nutrients.
Lean proteins are heart-healthy options and are lower in calories. Lean proteins include: seafood, poultry, game, some beef, some pork, and low-fat dairy. A low-fat/low-sodium cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, canned tuna, rotisserie chicken (no skin), or edamame are all fast, no-cook protein options.
Complex carbohydrates help regulate blood sugar and are an excellent source of nutrients and fiber. Brown rice, microwavable potatoes, steamed corn, canned beans, and whole grain pasta, bread, cereals, and oats, are all delicious choices.
Healthy fats are primarily found in seafoods and other plant-based sources. Adding flax and chia seed to your oats, sprinkling nuts on salad, or adding avocado to smoothies are all great ways to increase healthy fat intake. You need to limit the amount of saturated and trans fats that you consume to <10% of your total calorie intake.
Fruits and Veggies Are Easy and A Must
Fresh, frozen, or unsweetened packaged fruits are great snacks or additions to meals. To increase veggie intake, choose pre-made salad mixes and pre-cut and steamable veggies. Veggies are great for meals but also double as a snack.
Images provided by Total Nutrition Technology and courtesy of Pixabay.
Dana Arndt Johnson MS, RD, LDN earned her Masters in Nutrition from Appalachian State and is currently a registered dietitian at Total Nutrition Technology in the Lake Norman area. Dana understands the challenges and frustrations that clients experience when adapting a healthy lifestyle. She is ready to help you navigate marketing claims, social media, blogs, etc. to uncover the science behind eating for health. It is time to feel good, look good, and be your best self. Contact Dana today at email@example.com.
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