Everything in moderation? That seems to contradict the American eating experience, which is reflected in far too many waistlines. It seems that─for better or worse─we tend to build our lifestyles around our daily food choices. For example, a habitué of fast food joints is probably going to make other meal selections along similar lines, whereas those striving for a healthy lifestyle will generally gravitate towards nutritious options when possible.

Take this scenario, for example: you’re at a picnic with hot dogs, pepperoni pizza, turkey burgers, grilled veggies, green salad, potato and/or macaroni salad, soft drinks, stevia-sweetened iced green tea, fresh fruit salad and cupcakes. How would you fill your plate? It’s never too soon─or too late─to make high-quality nutrition a priority, and it may be easier than you think. For example:

Nix Processed Produce

While fresh, whole fruits and vegetables are nutritional powerhouses, you can easily zap their wellness value. Mushy peas─a British pub classic─are a prime example. Another is deep fried veggies, as well as the butter-slathered, overcooked, salt-laden versions you find even in high-end restaurants. How to combat this? Ask for your veggies fresh, steamed, or grilled, and add lemon juice, Balsamic vinegar and/or a drizzle of healthy fat if desired. As for fruit, consume it fresh, whole, and unprocessed. Frozen organic fruit is fine when fresh is scarce.

Minimize Refined Grains

Once the nutrients found in the germ of the grain are milled out along with the fiber, shelf life may be extended, but your health won’t. In fact, white flour─found in most breads, pasta, crackers, chips, and commercial baked goods like pastries, doughnuts, cakes, pies, croissants, muffins, and cookies─can be downright harmful when it comes to your waistline, blood sugar, mood, digestive system, risk of metabolic syndrome/diabetes, and much more. While simple carbs can be addictive, you can scale them back. You will likely feel better in direct proportion to doing so.

Go Lean & Clean with Meat

While you don’t need to be a vegetarian, you do need to target high-quality, well prepared, lean meats if you want to protect your health over time. What are the worst offenders? Meats loaded with saturated fat, not to mention nitrites, nitrates, and other proven carcinogens,1 like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, ribs, bologna, pepperoni, salami, pastrami and cheap hamburgers. Along with these potential health hazards, avoid “well-done” meats─especially those charred on the grill─which pose a definite cancer risk.2

Stay tuned for additional tips on successfully managing dairy products, fats and sweets. Meanwhile, bear in mind that when it comes to healthy changes, every little bit helps!

1 Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Nov 1;170(9):1165-77. Epub 2009 Oct 6
2 Cancer Res. 2005 Dec 15;65(24):11779-84