Learn to Eat Smart
Eating smart just got a lot easier! Find a wealth of information on ways to incorporate healthy options on the Eat Smart Blog. Know what you're looking for? Try the search term box to look for specific topics that meet your needs.
Making nutritious choices
Dr. Imtiaz Khan | 04/30/2019
Did you know that fruit juice isn't the healthiest choice? Learn how to make healthier food and beverage choices that help you ...
Get the nutrition your body needs each day. Aim for eating from each of these food groups:
- Vegetables and fruits — Eat a rainbow of colors!
Benefit: Helps reduce risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer and obesity
- Whole grains
Benefit: Helps reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and can help maintain or lower body weight
- Dairy products
Benefit: Helps reduce risk of osteoporosis and can lower blood pressure
- Lean proteins like fish, poultry, beans and nuts
Benefit: Helps with the formation of red blood cells and builds muscle
To get a better idea of how much you should eat, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.* They have online tools to help you plan affordable meals and learn about the best foods from each food group. Remember — balance is important when it comes to healthy eating.
Don’t shop when hungry, because it’s too tempting to make poor food choices. Check out these shopping tips:
- Some of the healthiest foods don’t have labels.
- The perimeter of the store is where you’ll find less processed foods — try to avoid the middle of the grocery store, if possible.
- If you buy produce that’s in season, you’ll get the best flavor and price.
- Think healthy swaps, like hummus instead of dressing for dipping vegetables, or veggie wraps instead of bread for lunches.
- Consider choosing a different food if “sugar” is listed as one of the first three ingredients.
True or false
□ True □ False Some ingredients can go by many names.
True. You might be surprised just how many names one ingredient can have.
□ True □ False A healthy eating plan limits foods high in added sugar and sodium and ones that contain trans fats.
True. Some examples of foods to limit are:
- Soda and candy. They contain added sugar.
- Lunch meats, breads, canned soups. They have added sodium.
- Trans fats. They can be hiding in microwave popcorn, crackers and biscuits.
□ True □ False Fruit juice is a great way to get a serving of fruit.
False. While you can get nutrients from fruit juice, it’s better to eat the whole fruit. The whole fruit contains fiber, which is good for your heart and will help you feel full. Adults should drink no more than 1 cup of juice per day, and kids age 4-6 should drink no more than half a cup per day.
Making just one better choice each day will help you feel empowered to live a healthier life. We’re here to support you all the way!
*Choose My Plate is an independent organization that offers health information you may find helpful. This link leads to a third-party website. Those companies are solely responsible for the privacy policies and content on their sites.
- Vegetables and fruits — Eat a rainbow of colors!
Turn Your Kids into Cooks for a Healthier Adulthood
Getting your kids interested in cooking can turn them into healthy adults.
Want your kids to be healthy eaters for life? Teaching them to cook when they're young may be the answer, according to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior. Not only will learning to cook help them maintain healthy eating habits well into adulthood; they'll be more likely to avoid fast-food trips, eat nutritiously at home, and sit down with family to dine. The best part? It's easy to instill the love of cooking early on. Try these ideas and whip up some culinary fun with your kids:Show by ExampleIf you don't do much cooking, your kids probably won't have the inclination either. Children learn from adults and adopt habits and interests through example. Be a role model for them to follow. Spend time in the kitchen making meals and snacks for the family. Most importantly, have a positive and enthusiastic attitude while you cook and create healthy, flavorful recipes that everyone can enjoy.
Make Recipes Kid-Friendly
Kids need time to become culinary experts. Make sure you adjust recipes to fit your children's interests and level of understanding. Use cooking terms that are simple, along with ingredients that are familiar yet wholesome. There are many places to look for youth-friendly recipes. Check online, invest in a cookbook for kids, or get recommendations from cooking-savvy friends and family members.Begin with BakingBaking is a good segue to cooking because it's easy to learn, fun for kids, and satisfying to their sweet tooth. Once they master how to bake their favorite treats, they're apt to try more challenging endeavors in the kitchen. If you're worried about the nutritional downfalls of baking, keep this in mind: homemade baked goods are healthier than their store-bought counterparts, which can be loaded with sugar and processed ingredients.Take Them Grocery ShoppingGrocery shopping is productive entertainment for youngsters, especially when they have a part in selecting items. Help your kids write up a grocery list with foods they'll use to cook with. Research has shown that involvement in the entire process of cooking, including shopping for food, leads to better dietary habits long term. Plus, your kids will learn about the cost and nutritional value of different foods.Host Cooking Days with FriendsKids love spending time with other kids, so why not invite their friends over for a day of cooking? A group cooking activity is a great way to learn new culinary skills, socialize, and engage in teamwork as they prepare food with their peers. Have your children help decide what to make, gather the necessary cooking supplies and ingredients, and put together a cooking-day agenda.
It's never too soon to get your kids interested in cooking. You won't just engage them in a fun and useful activity; you'll help them improve their eating habits--and health--for life.
5 Ways to Get in Shape for the New Year
Have you vowed to take care of your health and lose weight for the New Year?
Have you vowed to take care of your health and lose weight for the New Year? If so, you aren't alone. Losing weight is one of the most common New Year's goals out there. The good news is that it doesn't need to be difficult to drop pounds and get in shape. Here is some advice that will not only help you reach your goal of losing weight, but also improve your health.Get MovingJust because it's winter doesn't mean you can't go outside! If you live near hiking trails, don't let the fact that there might be snow on the ground (or cold outside) deter you. Winter hiking is athletic and it has been shown that you burn calories at a faster rate than if it were warmer outside. If you don't have hiking trails, walking or running on a track or the road can also help you get in shape.However, you don't need to go hiking, walking, or running in order to get moving. You can easily get a great workout indoors, too. Options include joining a class at your gym, going out dancing, and walking or running on an indoor track or at the mall. You can also work with a personal trainer and even lift weights in order to move more.Eat Healthy
Many of us gain weight simply because our diet isn't healthy enough. It is so important to eat healthy foods when desiring to lose weight. To make matters worse, we seem to eat more when the weather is cold for a variety of reasons. For example, the cold temperatures can cause our serotonin levels to drop, which means that we may start craving starchy foods to make up for it.To get rid of the weight, eat a healthy diet filled with healthy carbohydrates, beneficial fats, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lean proteins. Make sure you balance your food choices so that you can make sure that you get the right mix of vitamins and minerals from your diet.Get in Shape with FriendsGetting in shape doesn't need to be boring. Exercising with your friends can really help pass the time! Meeting some friends at the gym, taking a fitness class together, going for a run or a walk, or taking dance classes are all great activities to do with another person. Besides, chances are pretty good that your friend may even have the same goal of losing weight during the New Year.Drink Plenty of WaterIt's so important to stay hydrated in order to lose weight! Did you know that many people mistake feelings of hunger for simple dehydration? By staying hydrated, you can prevent this from happening. It would be a shame to eat extra calories if you're not even hungry.If you have trouble staying hydrated, consider carrying around a water bottle wherever you go so that you can take sips whenever you feel thirsty. You'll also want to make sure that you drink plenty of water when you exercise since people are especially susceptible to dehydration as they exercise.Once you have been diligent about hydrating, you may find that your energy levels are improving, your skin clears up, and you feel a lot more clear-headed.Try Something NewAre you stuck in a rut? When it comes to exercising and eating healthfully, doing the same things each day can get boring. When people get bored, they tend to abandon their weight loss goals. Don't let this happen to you! Make it a point to try something new on a regular basis so that you can keep things fun and exciting.Is there a dish you've always wanted to make but haven't tried it yet? Are you looking to challenge yourself in the gym or maybe even run a race? This is the perfect time to do these things, not only because it is fun to try new things, but also because it can help you get into better shape.Getting healthy is about more than just losing weight and hitting the gym. It's about developing good habits that will help you achieve better health. These tips can help with that.
7 Holiday Foods You Should Avoid
If you can avoid the wrong foods during the holidays, you can still eat healthy, or at least healthy-ish.
The holidays are a minefield of calorie-rich meals and treats. If you are on a diet, or simply concerned about eating healthy, this season might stress you out a little. But if you can avoid the wrong foods, you can still eat healthy, or at least healthy-ish, during the holidays. Here are the foods you should avoid:
At a staggering 223 calories per cup, eggnog should be at the top of your list of foods to avoid during the holiday season. Like other sugary drinks, eggnog is not very filling and is far too easy to have too much of. Instead, try to have light drinks like tea, coffee, or even a bit of hot cocoa.
A single tamale is nearly 300 calories, and as such, you should do your best to avoid it. Tortillas are surprisingly high in calories, and not exactly rich in nutrients. For a replacement, try to have seasoned chicken or lean beef. Paired with a low-calorie veggie wrap, you can have a tamale-like experience for a fraction of the calories.
For many, alcohol is everywhere during the holiday season. Most drinks are high-calorie and sugary, while often being mixed with sodas. On top of that, alcohol's intoxicating effects can increase your urge to eat while reducing your ability to refuse food. Try to avoid drinking as much as you can, and when you do drink, try to mix your liquor with diet sodas or soda water.
During the holidays, you'll come across countless frosted cakes and cookies. While cakes and cupcakes alone are already high in calories, frosting dwarfs them both. A half cup (100 grams) of frosting contains over 400 calories (about 20% of your suggested daily caloric intake), and that's not counting what it's paired with. Try to keep your frosting consumption low.
Chocolate is even worse than frosting. A half cup of milk chocolate can contain over 530 calories! What's worse, chocolate is not very filling and is everywhere during the holidays. Keep this in mind this holiday season, and if you do end up having chocolate, try to keep track of how much you're eating.
Who doesn't like pie during the holidays? Unfortunately, pies are some of the richest foods you can consume during the season. With a calorie dense crust and exceptionally sweet filling, pies can very quickly sabotage your healthy eating. Try to keep your pie consumption low, limiting yourself to a single, moderate slice.
- Mashed Potatoes
A cup of mashed potatoes is nearly as rich as a cup of eggnog. Now, while it may be more filling than eggnog, it is still very easy to overeat. Also, consider that homemade mashed potatoes might contain even more calories than typical store-bought brands, as people can add in extra butter and cream cheese. Limit your mashed potatoes to a single scoop, or try to substitute mashed potatoes with coleslaw.
Do your best to avoid these foods, and you can preserve your diet throughout the season. Now, it's okay to have a few sweets or rich foods during celebrations but remember to keep track of what you're eating. A balanced diet during the holidays can help you feel better and start the new year as a healthier you.
How to Eat Healthy at Restaurants
Plenty of healthy options are available when eating out at restaurants. Find out how with this plant based guide for dining out.
Living a healthy plant-based lifestyle does not mean you have to forgo your social life and give up the pleasures of dining out. Plenty of options are available, and there are a few things you can do to make your restaurant experiences quite enjoyable. Find out how with this plant-based guide for dining out.
Finding Good Vegetarian Restaurants
- Make recommendations when friends and family request input on where the group will dine.
- Look up the menu online if friends or family have already picked the restaurant, and become familiar with the options.
- Call ahead to ask questions, and have a good attitude.
I recently called ahead before dining at a restaurant, and the manager put me on the phone with the chef who asked a number of questions. Chefs enjoy a challenge and opportunity to use their culinary creativity in the kitchen. Don’t forget to leave great reviews for great experiences!
Eat Something Before You Go
If it looks like your healthy options will be very limited, eat something before you go. It’s better not to be ravenous if the only thing healthy on the menu is a salad. Being prepared can keep you from becoming “hangry” and make bad decisions when you are irritated and hungry.
Be Flexible and Polite
Don’t stress over every detail. It can be disappointing when there are no alternatives to refined foods like white rice and pasta. If brown rice and whole wheat pasta aren’t on the menu, just aim to select the best options available. Attitude is everything when dining out. When customers become difficult, servers and staff are less likely to accommodate you. They also know the menu much better than you do, so ask questions like, “Can you suggest something that is meat and dairy free?”
I did this a few years ago at a restaurant. When I politely asked the young waitress for assistance, she got so excited that she slid into the booth with us and started telling us all about their menu. She suggested we not order the rice because it came pre-seasoned with chicken stock, and the lemon sauce with vegetables had butter in it. She was able to make suggestions and talk with the chef, and we ended up with an excellent healthy meal. I can’t stress enough that it’s all about the attitude with which we ask.
Learn Where and What to Order
When you adopt a plant-based lifestyle, it is very important to empower yourself with knowledge about your options within different cuisines. Form a relationship with some restaurants that you visit frequently. A local Chinese restaurant that we order from regularly knows me well, and they know exactly what I want.
Types of Cuisine Choices
- Thai restaurants usually offer numerous plant-based options. Always ask for dishes to be made without fish sauce. Some menu items
that are good choices include:
- Fresh Garden Spring Rolls, also known as rice paper rolls loaded with vegetables and even some fruit
- Stir-Fried vegetable dishes
- Tofu and vegetable dishes
- Vegetarian noodle soups
- Steamed rice
- Chinese restaurants offer plenty of vegetable and tofu-based dishes, as well as noodles and rice. It is best to ask for things to
be prepared without oil, fish sauce, or oyster sauce. Look for the following options on menus:
- Stir-fried vegetable dishes
- Steamed tofu and vegetable dishes
- Vegetarian noodle soups
- Steamed rice
- Vietnamese food offer some delicious healthy options. Just make sure their broth is from vegetables or miso. Here are some options
I have found healthy and delicious:
- Fresh Garden Spring Rolls (AKA: Rice Paper Rolls)
- Vegetable Pho
- Vegetarian noodle soups
- Steamed rice
- Japanese cuisine typically offers plenty of low-fat vegan options, but make sure no cream cheese or fish product is added to
your dish. Some of our favorites include:
- Vegetable sushio
- Miso Soup
- Grilled tofu dishes
- Vegetarian soba noodle dishes
- Vegetarian rice dishes
- Italian choices can be a tough one, but here are a few options for healthy Italian dishes:
- Vegetable pizza without cheese and extra marinara
- Pasta and veggies with marinara
- House salad with balsamic vinegar or lemon juice
- Mexican restaurants often have a vegetarian menu, and some dishes can be altered by removing the cheese and sour cream to make it
a healthy plant-based meal. Always ask that your food be made without oil as most rice dishes have a lot of added oil, and make sure any beans
you order are made without bacon or other animal products. Some of our Mexican favorites include:
- Vegetable Fajitas
- Avocado tacos
- Bean and rice burritos
- Delis and sandwiches made without cheese on whole wheat bread, loaded with vegetables and seasoned with oregano or vinegar are healthy
and delicious. Options at these types of restaurants might be:
- Whole wheat bread with
- Lettuce, tomato, cucumber, beets, carrots and avocado
- Mustard, pickles and balsamic vinegar
- Black Bean Burger
- Portobello Burger
- Garden salad
- Baked potato with salad bar toppings
- Plant-Based Guide for Beginners
- What is a Plant-Based Whole Food
- Plant-Based Meal Planning 101
- Jeff Novick’s 10 Simple Recipes in Less than 20-Minutes
- What’s in My Plant-Based Medicine Cabinet? I Mean Pantry!
- Beginners Guide to Plant-Based Grocery Shopping
- Guide to Dining Out on a Plant-Based Diet
Learn more about Terri Edwards’ nutrition education, cooking classes and more at EatPlant-Based.com.
Fast Food Survival Guide
Eat smart on the run with these seven tips.
Eat smart on the run with these seven tips:
Visit our Eat Smart Blog for more healthy tips.
- Order a kid's meal. You will get less food for less money.
- Share your meal with a family member.
- Order water instead of soft drinks.
- Order a smaller hamburger and french fries.
- Think twice when ordering the value meal combo.
- Don't super-size it.
- Eat and prepare more meals at home.
FAQ's About Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) Programs
Linda Watson | 07/23/2018
Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs allow you to support a local community farm. In return, you receive fresh food d...
I’ve long supported local farmers by shopping at farmers’ markets and choosing local at the grocery store, but joining a CSA took my support to a whole new level. CSA means food subscription group, even if it officially stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you join a CSA program, you support a farm with a micro-loan, which helps pay for seeds, feeds, salaries, and more. In return, you get utterly fresh food direct from the farmer. You may share the risk and reward of farming, too, getting a smaller bunch of collards after a cold snap or bonus tomatoes during a peak harvest. Usually you pick up the week’s bounty at a certain time and place, but some CSAs deliver.
We’re lucky in the Carolinas to have a wide variety of CSAs. I joined Edible Earthscape’sCSA to research my book Fifty Weeks of Green. Jason and Haruka Oastis were running about the only winter CSA that was still taking members. I enjoyed it so much I joined again the next year with a friend.
Looking for a CSA? Check out our favorite Local Food Search Engines!
Why I love Belonging to a CSA
- Plentiful, top-quality produce. Every week feels like Christmas as Jason opens the week’s box and describes each bundle before handing it to me to put in a cloth bag. Farmers tend to fill their CSA boxes first and then offer the rest for sale at the market. No worries about getting to the market too late for carrots or sugar snaps.
- Unusual and beautiful vegetables. Jason and Haruka started farming in Japan, so they grow taro roots, burdock, and a host of Asian greens. Sometimes their salad mix includes flowers.
- The weekly email. Learn what’s in each week’s share and mull over any choices. (Which salad green: arugula, mizuna, or wasabina?). Get recipes and farm news.
- Fewer decisions. My grocery list shrunk and menu planning was easier because I just cooked what I received. It nearly eliminated the label reading that can go with eating 10%-plus local diet.
- The parties! I love going to potlucks at the Edible Earthscapes and coming early to help plant. Some members host other potlucks. Most dishes include food from that week’s share. We go from being supporters to being friends.
Questions to Ask Before Joining a CSA
- Does this CSA offer food I will eat? Find out what will be in a typical box and, if possible, what variety is ahead for the season. Look for a selection that looks tasty and that you will actually cook. You can find CSAs for vegetables, fruit, flour, eggs, dairy, meat, fish, or a mix. Local should be a given, but look for other key words such as organic, pesticide-free, non-GMO, or pastured.
- When will it run? Most CSA sessions range from 8 to 30 weeks. Some farms run multiple sessions, so you could sign up for the spring, spend summer at the beach, and sign up again in the fall if you enjoyed being a member.
- How much food will you get? Some CSAs offer full shares or half shares. Wild Onion Farms offers a free-choice or market-style CSA, where you prepay an amount and use your credit within a year.
- What does it cost? Home cooking with local ingredients is wildly affordable compared to eating out, but the upfront cost of a CSA can take a bite out of your budget. You might pay $200, $500, or even $1000 depending on the type of food and length of the session.
- Where will you pick it up? Common choices include at farmers’ markets, restaurants that the farms supply, and even grocery stores or co-ops with a local focus. For busy people, paying a little extra for home delivery may be a good investment.
- How is the delivery handled? With some CSAs, you swap an empty box for a full one every week. With others, you bring your own box or bags. CSAs that offer highly perishable food may provide coolers and chill packs.
- Are any bonuses included? Will there be community events such as potlucks, farm tours, or farm work days? Harland’s Creek Farm offers a CSA cookbook and menu plans. Some CSAs offer cooking classes.
- What happens if you go on vacation or move? Some CSAs build in a few skipped weeks. In general, expect to have someone else pick up your box or to have it donated to a food bank. One year, I split a share a friend, which gave us flexibility.
When you join a CSA, you get fresh, local food while creating a stronger community and more resilient foodshed. I hope you will try supporting agriculture in your community in this direct and convenient way.
@Copywrited for text and pictures by Linda Watson.
10 Tips for Healthier Fast Food Choices
It's possible to make wise choices and eat a fairly healthy meal at fast food restaurants if you order carefully.
It's possible to make wise choices and eat a fairly healthy meal at fast food restaurants if you order carefully.
- Instead of French fries or onion rings, order healthy side items like vegetables and fruits. Consider salads, apple slices, or carrots.
- Select from the restaurant’s healthy menu, if available. Most chains have their menu online.
- Order the smallest sandwich on the menu, or get the kid’s size.
- Ask for grilled chicken instead of fried chicken in sandwiches, wraps, and salads.
- Ask for sandwiches without mayonnaise, sauces, or cheese.
- Opt for low-fat or low-calorie sauces and dressings such as mustard, fat-free salad dressing, or salsa.
- Order a main course salad, but be careful. Sometimes salads with a lot of high-fat meats and cheeses actually have more calories than a cheeseburger. When it comes to salad dressing, a little can go a long way, so use the smallest amount possible and always order it on the side.
- Choose lean meats or veggies for subs; try the turkey or grilled chicken breast sub instead of a meatball sub.
- For subs, ask that some of the bread be scooped out before it’s assembled and pile on fresh veggies.
- Choose sugar-free drinks, such as water (best choice!), unsweetened tea, coffee, or diet soda.
Thank you to the American Diabetes Association for providing this content.