by Brierley Wright, M.S. R.D. at EatingWell.com
Brierley’s in the EatingWell Test Kitchen to show us a few ways to clean up our diet and eat healthier. She explains how limiting just six foods can help us eat better and be healthier. Here are the 6 things to limit to clean up your diet:
1. Saturated Fat
The first food component to try to limit is saturated fat. “Those are the fats found in items like whole milk, full-fat cheese and butter,” says Brierley. “Eating too many of these things can raise your bad cholesterol, which isn’t good for your arteries. So instead, what you want to do is you want to try and replace some or all of them with healthy fats, which are found in plant foods: think of avocados, nuts, olive oil.”
2. Refined Grains
The second item to skip to clean up your diet is refined grains: think white rice, white pasta and white flour. “Choosing those means that you’re missing out on beneficial fiber and other good-for-you nutrients,” explains Brierley. Instead, you want to replace them with whole-wheat pasta, whole grains and whole-wheat bread. When you’re buying packaged foods, look for the words whole wheat, not just wheat. And try cooking with some different whole grains for variety and great nutrition.
If you like an occasional glass of wine, you needn’t cut alcohol out of your diet completely. Research has shown that there are some benefits to drinking alcohol, like raising your good cholesterol and helping to ward off dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. But the key thing to note is that you should only be consuming alcohol moderately. Moderately means one drink a day for women, two drinks a day for men.
4. Processed Foods
Sometimes store-bought foods seem so much more convenient. But homemade food is usually healthier, and you know what you’re getting. Brierley’s tip: “If you’ve been buying some items with long ingredient lists, try this at home: Go through your cabinet. Look for the items that you could replace with healthier homemade versions: think homemade pizza instead of frozen pizza, homemade soup instead of canned soup. Even homemade cookies instead of packaged cookies. It’s a really easy way to clean up your diet.”
Americans eat far more sugar than what’s recommended. In fact we average about 30 teaspoons a day, which translates to over 400 calories. Eating too much sugar has been linked with risk factors for heart disease. Try to stick to what the American Heart Association recommends,” says Brierley. “That’s six teaspoons a day for women and nine teaspoons a day for men.” Check labels for added sugars.
Salt is another item that we eat too much of. “In fact,” notes Brierley, “you’re only supposed to get one teaspoon of salt a day but most Americans get one and a half or more.” What’s the top source of salt in our diet? Packaged bread and packaged foods. The easiest way to cut back on salt is to cook with more whole ingredients than processed ingredients. And also, when you’re cooking, use herbs or spices for flavor.