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3 Tips for Clean Eating

Eat more plant-based meals: a vegetarian diet requires significantly less water and energy than a meat-heavy diet. Eating a fiber-rich, plant based diet promotes healthy cholesterol levels, and may add years to your life.  Make the meat you choose organic/grass-fed, eat it less often and for seafood, choose sustainably caught. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website section makes it simple.

Clean eating is not an ‘all or nothing’ concept. You can take steps to move your diet in that direction without sacrificing everything. Any of the following practices will improve the quality of your diet and, in turn, your health.

  • Limit processed foods ~ One way to do this is to concentrate on the perimeter of the grocery store when you shop. That’s where you’ll find fresh produce, lean meats, eggs and other minimally processed foods. Of course the middle aisles do offer clean processed foods, such as oils, nuts, canned tomatoes, spices and whole grains, such as oatmeal and quinoa. Minimally processed foods, such as plain yogurt, can be a part of a healthy diet whereas many frozen meals may not fit into a clean eating plan.
  • Cut down on added sugars ~ reading labels and ingredient lists can be helpful in limiting added sugars. Ingredients are listed by weight, with the most prominent first. The American Heart Association recommends keeping added sugars at 25 grams/day or less, which is about 6 teaspoons per day for women and 36 grams/day, or 9 teaspoons for men. Even 50 grams/day would be an improvement over the average adult’s intake of 70 grams sugar/day, or over 17 teaspoons per day. Limit condiments, such as ketchup and BBQ sauce, choose unsweetened beverages, limit desserts. Choose foods with natural sugars for your sweet carvings, such as fruit.
  • Eat more whole grains, fruits and vegetables ~ experiment with a variety of whole grains that take you beyond whole wheat pasta and oatmeal. Buy fresh fruits and veggies or minimally processed frozen (without sugar or sauces) produce. To control costs, shop smart. Go for sales and shop in-season when buying fresh produce. If possible, shop at produce markets and/or farmer’s markets where prices on certain items may be lower.

Nutrition Month: Get Your Plate in Shape

National Nutrition Month Tips

March is National Nutrition Month. The theme, created by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, for 2012, is to ‘get your plate in shape.’ These days it is all about your ‘plate.’ Take the traditional food guide pyramid for example. It is a part of our nutrition history – a thing of the past, having been replaced by the ‘choose my plate‘ graphic.

So, how can ‘A Perfect Plate’ help you to “get your plate in shape?” Try these National Nutrition Month tips this week. Look forward to more helpful ‘good nutrition‘ suggestions this month!

Devote half of your plate to fruits and vegetables

This is particularly important for your lunch and dinner meals. For optimal health benefits and weight management, choose more vegetables (from all five subgroups: orange, dark green, starchy, beans and ‘other’) than fruits. recommends consuming 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits on a 2000-calorie diet. Don’t forget bright colors such as red (think red bell peppers) and purple/blue (blueberries and beets). Look for what is in season and/or try frozen produce for quick smoothies and side dishes. For each meal, aim to consume at least one piece of fruit, one serving of vegetables, or both.

Vary your protein choices

Think your only options are beef, pork or chicken? Think again. It could be time to update your plate! You have varied nutrition needs. Therefore, you should choose from a variety of foods every week from the ‘protein’ food group. Options include seafood, legumes (starchy beans and peas), eggs and less common plant-based proteins, such as whole soy foods. Examples include edamame, or whole green soybeans, which can be purchased in the frozen food section for ultimate convenience, and quinoa. Quinoa is an iron-rich, high-quality whole grain which also happens to be a ‘complete’ protein food. Complete proteins contain all of the amino acids, like meats, dairy, poultry and fish. Because fish is generally low in total and saturated fat, make it your protein choice at least twice weekly. How much space should lean protein foods take up on your plate? No more than 1/4 of your plate, roughly 3 to 5 oz.

These tips may be publicized during National Nutrition Month throughout March, but you should aim for ‘optimal nutrition’ year-round.



Heartfelt gifts for your “foodie”

February is all about your heart. Not only does Valentine’s Day fall on the 14th but it is American Heart Month. While chocolates, candies, flowers and jewelry are the traditional picks for Valentine’s Day, your sweetheart deserves the best. For your favorite cook or foodie, opt for something different. Say ‘I love you’ and promote your sweetheart’s healthy lifestyle by considering one of these gift ideas for healthier cooking. You can always keep a small box of chocolates on hand just in case!

Loves cooking appliances/gadgets/short on time: Pressure Cooker – Fagor 6-quart stovetop pressure cooker ($139)

Pressure cookers have come a long way. Like convection ovens, pressure cookers speed up cooking time but, unlike convection ovens, they are excellent for sealing in moisture. Roasts will remain juicy because the steam cannot escape. Newer models, such as the Fagor six-quart pressure cooker, allow you to slow cook and steam, has interchangable quart-sized pots and steamer basket which doubles as a food grater/trivet.

Budget pick:
Loves magazines/checking out new recipes and learning about cooking techniques: Subscription Cooking and Food Magazines ($15 to 30)

There are some fantastic specialty magazines for those who love to develop and prepare healthy, gourmet meals. Bonus: every month brings new ideas, recipes and product suggestions – not to mention beautiful food photos. Examples: Cook’s Country, Food and Wine, Fine Cooking and Eating Well.

Loves cooking authentic cuisine/herbs and spices: Spice CollectionsDean & Deluca Spice Collections