When asked, there are very few people who feel that their diet couldn’t stand to be a bit healthier in some way. The food industry has realized this and turned health foods into a billion dollar industry in the United States alone, making choosing the right health food products for you and your family all the more difficult as the selection continues to expand.
With such an important choice, knowing what to look for can be a great help. Here are 7 tips for choosing a healthy food product for your family.
- Read Your Nutrition Labels for a Healthy and Affordable Breakfast.
While it can be tempting to opt for the branded ‘healthy choice’ cereals, the only real differences between those cereals and the ones you can find in the regular cereal aisle in your local grocery store are price and not needing to read the nutritional information.
You can save yourself considerable money, even up to 50 percent, by taking the time to read the label of regular cereal. What you should be looking for, in order to take advantage of the health benefits, is cereals that contain at least five grams of fiber and less than 15 grams of sugar, as recommended by the American Dietetic Association. This leaves plenty of tasty (and affordable) options, while ensuring you’re still making a healthy choice.
- Sodium is the Enemy.
Regardless of the type of food you’re looking for, keep an eye out for sodium. Science has gone back and forth on whether sodium is bad for you, but the one constant is that it certainly isn’t good for you.
Unfortunately, sodium can’t be completely avoided. It’s in almost everything, so the important thing to keep in mind is how much you’re ingesting. Foods that are higher in sodium should be handled as a treat rather than a regular part of your meals, while those with little or no sodium are a great place to begin planning a lovely dinner.
- Ditch the Chips and Buttered Popcorn.
While cereal is a food for which you can find multiple healthy options, chips and buttered popcorn are not. No matter how a company dresses up potato chips and buttered popcorn, the best you can get is ‘less terrible for you.’
Instead, try pretzels. Pretzels can still satisfy that craving for something salty and crunchy, but instead of being fried, pretzels are boiled or baked, making them a much healthier option. You can increase the benefits by opting for pretzels that are whole grain, which we’ll get to next.
- Embrace the Whole Grains.
The fun thing about nutritional science is watching how the opinions people have on different foods change from year to year. Eggs, for instance, have been great for you, bad for you, had parts that are great that ended up bad, and vice versa.
Whole grains are the exception to that rule. Instead of being unsure whether or not whole grains are good or not, the debate has only ever been about how good they are for you. Doesn’t that seem like a particularly beneficial debate?
While it isn’t easy to say exactly how great whole grains are for you, it’s certain that they are, in fact, a good source of nutrition for many people. This is a big area in the food industry too, so you have plenty of selection. Crackers are one type of whole grain food that is often overlooked, but there are many tasty varieties available that can make a simple and healthy snack, so long as you pay attention to the sodium count.
- Not all Breads are Created Equal.
Remember a few years ago when the Atkins diet was huge and bread became the devil? Well, that was a bit of an overreaction.
It’s true starch isn’t the best thing for you and that it should be consumed in moderation, but what that movement seemed to forget is the wide selection of healthy breads on the market. Whole grains, oat, and vegetable-based breads are a wonderful option to give your sandwich that fluffy, delicious touch.
Generally, though, it’s best to steer clear of the store brand options. While their quality is often underrated, they tend to be treated as a cheap staple, with health not being as important. If you are looking to buy bread in your local grocery, be sure to check the nutrition label carefully and try to select a bread that lists ‘whole wheat flour’ as its primary ingredient.
- Get Full With More Fruits and Veggies.
While we’d all certainly love to eat lobster-topped pasta with a rich, creamy sauce every day, this isn’t an approach to a healthy lifestyle. And the truth is, it won’t make you any more full than fruits or vegetables. Keep in mind, the purpose of eating is to satisfy two primary goals: to provide your body energy and nutrients and to fill your stomach.
How you go about accomplishing that is where health foods really come into play. By replacing high-fat, high-calorie foods with healthier alternatives, you can leverage fruits and vegetables to stay full and boost your energy, while cutting unnecessary calories from your diet.
Whenever possible, it is best to opt for in-season fruits and vegetables. Out-of-season ones aren’t bad by nature, but the industry does have a knack for using shady tricks during the off-season to keep up appearances, and those tricks can diminish the healthy aspect of those foods. Talk to a produce employee; they’ll be able to steer you towards the right picks in their section and are often extremely knowledgeable.
- Opt for Simpler Snack Bars.
No, we’re not talking about those sugar-filled chocolate chip diabetes bars, but rather the ones that are made of whole grains, nuts, and fruit. They’re delicious! And, by reading the ingredients, you can get a good idea of what exactly is in them. Try to choose snack bars that have a short, simple list of ingredients, numbering in just a handful of fruits, nuts, and grains. This makes them a wonderfully healthy choice for you and your family.
To learn more about how you can shift yourself into a more healthy lifestyle, be sure to keep an eye on our blog. For more information on healthy food products, feel free to contact us.