One of the best ways to love our bodies is through better nutrition—eating mostly lean and natural foods and cutting back on processed, prepackaged meals and snacks.
If you get used to better nutrition, and pay attention to how it boosts your body and energy level, you will no longer want to eat food that makes you feel lousy. How do you choose foods that provide the right nutritional pick-me-up? Use these nutritional guidelines. I’ve based them on how I eat and on what is now widely recommended nutritionally for great health.
- Load up on three or more servings of vegetables daily.
As long as you don’t drown them in cream sauces, margarine, or dips, vegetables are low in fat and calories. If you’re not a vegetable eater, start gradually at two servings a day, or at least one fresh vegetable juice a day. One serving is generally one cup raw or one-half cup cooked. Include as many colorful veggies as you can—dark green, red, orange, and yellow. The more colorful the vegetable, the more anti-aging, health-building nutrients it contains. It's also smart eating to enjoy one mixed salad a day, too.
- Enjoy two to three servings of fruit daily.
Like veggies, fruits contain plenty of nutrients to keep your body on the beam. A serving is generally one piece of fruit or one cup of chopped raw fruit. Including fruit in your diet can help ward off a slew of major diseases. The same cannot be said for Twinkies. If fruit smoothies appeal to you like they do to me, try whirring several of your favorite fruits in a blender, with a little juice, nonfat yogurt, or crushed ice.
- Fuel up with two to three servings of “power carbs” daily.
“Power carbs” are so named because they energize the body for exercise and daily life, plus they supply B vitamins, minerals, and plenty of fiber for good digestive health. These carbs include whole grains, whole-grain cereals, whole-grain baked goods, whole-grain pasta, rice, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. A serving is one piece of bread, one-half cup of cereal, grains, or pasta, or one medium potato or sweet potato.
- Include two to three servings of dairy or dairy substitutes daily.
These include skim milk, low-fat or nonfat yogurt, low-fat cottage cheese, cheeses, or nondairy milks. If you’re like me and your body doesn’t get along with dairy products, choose alternatives, such as nut- and grain-based milks. To me, these taste better than regular dairy milks anyway, and you can buy them in enriched versions to pump up your nutrition. A serving is one cup, one-half cup of cottage cheese, or one ounce of hard cheese.
- Get two to three servings of low-fat proteins daily.
Vegetarian and low-fat animal proteins pack a nutritional punch. Vegetarian proteins like beans, lentils, and soy foods (tofu and tempeh, for example) are generally healthier than meats because they supply a near-complete set of disease-preventing nutrients without all the fat. But if you're not into vegetarian proteins, choose low-fat animal proteins, such as fish and white poultry meat, over high-fat cuts of meat. A serving size is one-half cup of cooked vegetarian protein, four ounces of lean animal protein, one egg, or two egg whites.
- Eat a little (one serving of) healthy fat daily.
Fats always seem to get a bad rap, but some are actually healthy. These include olive oil, canola oil, other vegetable oils, nut butters, and nuts and seeds. A serving is one tablespoon.
Based on these guidelines, here’s a sample day’s menu to help you plan your own meals. If you get hungry between meals, snack on veggies, fresh juice, or fruit.
- Breakfast: One serving of organic cereal with one cup of milk, soy milk, grain milk, or yogurt; one fresh orange.
- Lunch: One cup black-bean soup (organic), four whole-wheat crackers, one cup mixed salad greens with four cherry tomatoes, and one tablespoon olive oil with a little balsamic vinegar; one cup of strawberries with one cup low-fat or nonfat, plain, or sugar-free yogurt.
- Dinner: A four-ounce grilled chicken breast, one cup steamed spinach, one medium baked sweet potato; and one serving of your fruit of choice.