Your Shopping Cart is Getting Full, Are You?

By Dave DiFabio

Have you wondered what makes a healthy diet? Every day the media bombards us with buzz words such as trans-fat, cholesterol, organic food, fish oil, whole grains, antioxidants, and mercury. Who can keep track of it all? Sticking to any resolution can be a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Forget about fad diets, restrictive meal plans, and calorie counting. These rigid methods are impossible to stick with through the long haul. It's all a waste of time if you can't make it a part of your lifestyle! Healthy eating habits really start at the market. The key is to make intelligent choices at the store and the rest will pretty much take care of itself. The first step is to go through your cupboards and refrigerator and throw out or donate all of the junk that doesn’t comply with the guidelines below. The next step to adopting healthy eating habits is to use the guidelines below to help you select healthy items at the store. The third and final step is to stock your kitchen with all that good stuff you bought at the store. Remember, if it doesn't belong in your shopping cart, it doesn't belong in your stomach.

I. Major Themes

-What makes a healthy diet? It’s not an all-or-never approach. Your goal should be to learn some new things about food, which will help you improve your diet. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and high quality sources of protein. Eat less saturated and trans-fat and refined carbohydrates -Stay out of the food store aisles. Everything you need from major food groups can be found on the perimeter of the store. Depending on the exact lay-out of the store, you may find some exceptions (grains, frozen vegetables in aisles). Otherwise, the aisles contain unhealthy, process foods. -Low Fat/Low Calorie dressing/marinade can be great for cooking and to add variety but avoid use of creamy sauces, butter, mayonnaise. -Don’t Fry. Bake, Broil, Boil, Steam, or Grill (don’t burn) instead. -You need to carefully read Food Labels and Nutrition Facts: Macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrate including fiber), Vitamin and Minerals, Serving size, Calories, % Daily Values

II. Produce: Fruits & Vegetables

-Nutritional powerhouses of your fitness diet: vitamins, minerals, fiber. -Phytochemicals: may protect against cancer, heart disease, stroke. -Perfect for weight loss: Low in calories & fat, high in fiber to keep you full. -Aim for 1/3 the volume of your cart and ½ of your plate (for every meal including breakfast). Adults need 7-13 cups of produce daily to reap all the health benefits. -Frozen fruits and vegetables: inexpensive, & just as nutritious. -Add "COLORS" to your diet via produce. Variety of “COLORS” = different nutrients. -For convenience: Prewashed or precut choices, bagged salad greens, stir fry blends. -Organics: lower amounts of pesticides, but still needs to be washed! No universal agreement on health benefits of organic vegetables.

III. Seafood, Meat, & Poultry

-Protein is essential for good health, and this food group has the richest sources. Protein is the building block of muscle and tissues. It satisfies appetite and keeps metabolism going.

-Saturated fat: The goal is keep saturated fat to a minimum for heart health and healthy cholesterol levels. Aim for 20g per day or less.

Fish: Recommended 2 x per week by the American Heart Association. Omega 3 oils in fish are great for heart health. Omega 3 is high in: salmon, mackerel, trout, herring, and sardines . -Does seafood raise cholesterol levelsl? Saturated fat found in food raises your cholesterol more than the cholesterol in food itself. The good news is seafood is low in saturated fat. -Avoid Mercury: Most important for young women and pregnant mothers, and children. Do not eat Shark, Swordfish, King Mackerel, or Tilefish. * Fish that are low in mercury: shrimp, cod, canned light tuna, tilapia, flounder, salmon, pollock, haddock, and catfish. -AVOID: Farm Raised Fish because of concern over PCBs. WILD CAUGHT is the way to go. If it doesn’t say WILD CAUGHT on the label, then it’s Farm Raised.

Beef: “It’s what’s for dinner” -Sources of iron, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins in addition to protein. -Best choice for ground meat is 90% lean or better. -For steaks or other cuts, lean cuts include those with the terms “ROUND” or “LOIN”. -Eye of Round, Bottom Round, Round Tip Roast, Sirloin, Tenderloin, Top Loin, Short Loin. -Use your eye, and trim as much fat as you can. Avoid cuts with lots of marbling (the white specs in the middle of the meat that you can’t cut away). This is intramuscular fat.

Pork and Ham: “NOT the other white meat” -Pork Loin: lean if you trim away the fat. Most other cuts are high in fat. -Choose Canadian Bacon over regular bacon. -Ham: Varies in fat content, but has a nutritional label so you can easily compare. -Avoid processed meets with Nitrates (carcinogen). If you see the word "nitrates" anywhere on the ingredient label, put it back on the shelf.

Poultry: “Tastes like Chicken” -Remove skin or choose skinless cuts. -White meat is lower in fat than dark meat. -Ground Turkey: comes in 99% and 93% lean…compare labels. -Are turkey burgers lower in fat than beef burgers? Not necessarily. Just because it’s turkey doesn’t mean it’s leaner because it’s still GROUND. Need to read the label and compare for fat content.

IV. Dairy: “Does a body good”

Milk: -Calcium and Vitamin D are key nutrients. -Whole, 2%, 1%, and skim: same vitamins, protein, and calcium. -Dairy fat is highly saturated, so it’s another fat we want to minimize, go with skim.

Cheese: -Choose lower fat versions, and know your portions. -Good choices: Kraft Free, light string cheese, 1% and fat free ricotta & cottage cheese, Cabot Light Cheddars (50% and 75%), Laughing Cow Light Cheese Wedges, Jarlsberg Lite, Philadelphia Free Cream Cheese

Yogurt: Sugars added? Up to 40 g!. -If you eat yogurt to supplement milk intake, choose low cal with low saturated fat. If you don’t drink milk, choose Vitamin D fortified. Unlike milk, not all yogurt is fortified. -To reap its health benefits for a healthier gut, look for “active culture” or "live culture".

Butter or Margarine: -Which is better for health? Butter has saturated fat and cholesterol. Margarine has trans-fat. The best choice is non-hydrogenated margarine! -TRANSFAT: Why is it so bad for you? Because unlike Saturated Fat, which raises your bad cholesterol, TRANSFAT will raise your bad cholesterol & lower your good cholesterol as well. So avoid TRANSFAT, which is found in many processed foods (even peanut butter unless its “natural”). Just because a package says NO TRANS-FAT or ZERO TRANS-FAT doesn’t mean it doesn’t have ANY TRANS-FAT (Labeling Loop Hole). Check ingredient label for the word “hydrogenated”. See it? Put it back on the shelf. -Best product has zero trans fat, <2 g saturated fat /tbsp, and liquid vegetable oil as 1st ingredient. Good choices: Benecol, I Can't Believe it's Not Butter, Promise, Smart Balance

V. Eggs “Yo! Adriane, Have Some a’Dis”

-Great source of protein, affordable, and easy to cook. -Yolk contains cholesterol, fat and most of the nutrients: folate, vitamin B12, unsaturated fatty acids, lutein (a type of antioxidant). -Egg White = protein. -If you have high cholesterol or known risks to heart diseases, 2 yolks per week. Everybody else: one per day. -Brown eggs and white eggs are nutritionally equivalent its just a different species of hen. -Omega 3 enhanced eggs: Omega 3 is in the yolk so if you’re just going to eat the egg whites, don’t waste your money. -Free run/free range eggs more humane treatment of hen. -Egg Beaters: Convenient for those that don’t want to separate the white from the yolk. Some processed egg products have some yolk added back in, have flavors added, check the label.

VI. Grains

-Many vitamins and minerals, iron, fiber, whole grains. -The word “whole” should be the first word on the ingredient label. -Choose cereals w/at least 5 g fiber per serving (need is 25-35 g per day) and less than 10 g sugar per serving. -Cereal source of Iron for vegetarians, women, and kids. -Combine with vitamin C for best absorption (oranges, grapefruit, banana, berries). -Cereals with a Weight Loss Claim: Just fancy marketing. -Cereals with a Heart Disease Health Claim: Go for It! -Hot Cereals: Go whole grain. Choose low sugar or sweeten them with your own add-ins

VIII. Junk Food

-High in calories, sugar and fat. Low in nutrients. -Not making progress in a fitness or weight loss plan? This is the first area to reduce. Find a happy medium. Base diet on wholesome foods, with a little “wiggle room” for treats. -90/10 rule is daily calorie budget for wholesome foods vs treats. -Better rule….keep it out of your cart, out of the house, out of the kitchen, out of your stomach. But if you must, portion control is key. -Strategies: 100 calorie or snack size packs, Individual frozen novelties (sandwiches, fudge bars, ice cream cups). Preportion your own. Use a measuring cup and ziplocs to portion out snacks. Don’t ever sit down on the coach with the bag/box/carton!!!! It won’t end well!!!! Increase your portion size awareness.

Energy Drinks: -Large amount of caffeine & sugar counter-productive for fitness diets. -Nervousness, irritability, increased heart rate, and insomnia. -Other ingredients? B vitamins, amino acids, herbal stimulants (guarana & ginseng). We really don’t know what all of those crazy ingredients will really do to you. Example: FDA says Hydroxycut causes serious liver damage but they’re not even sure which exact ingredient in the formulation is the culprit. -Uplifting effects temporary, when they wear off, you'll slump. -Sports Drinks not needed unless exercising more than 90 min or in extreme heat.

Dave DiFabio MA, CSCS, USAW

Owner/Strength & Conditioning Coach - Team Speed Fitness LLC