Sun | Dec 4, 2016

15 tips for healthier meals in 2015

Published:Wednesday | January 14, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Marsha N. Woolery, Contributor

Another year has begun, plans and decisions have been made - 'I will go to church', 'I will be a better friend, parent, spouse', 'I will eat healthier, exercise, take my medication as prescribed' - and the list goes on and on and on.

When planning to make changes, it is important to be aware of the real reason the change is desired. Ask yourself, 'Will this change benefit me?' Rate the benefit on a scale of one to 10 - 'What is the level of importance?'

The more important the change is to YOU, the more likely YOU are to succeed at making this desired change.

Many of us in 2015 have decided to prepare and consume healthier meals and snacks, but I believe it is important to assess our eating habits to be aware of the real changes that need to be made. Most times than not, it is just a few things that we need to adjust in order to make healthier food choices.

Here are some practical tips towards healthier eating in 2015:

1 Start your day with breakfast. Break your fast with healthy food items, a mixture of at least one food from two food groups. For example, milk (cow's or soy) and bread/ crackers/oats, fruit and nuts. Carbohydrates from the bread and fruit provide energy to jump-start the day and the milk and nuts provide protein to prevent the hunger that occurs mid-morning or a few hours after waking up.

2 Consume three to six meals each day. The number and size of meals consumed depend on your preference, physical activity, illness, medications and recommendations from a trained and registered medical professional. Eating more often (four to six times per day) also means consuming less or breaking up 'regular-sized' meals into smaller amounts.

3 Eat or drink at least five servings of YOUR favourite fruits and vegetables every day. One serving is half-cup fruit or half-cup cooked vegetables or half-cup unsweetened juice. Use vegetable and fruits to add colour to your meals or snacks. The more colours consumed during the day means a healthier body.

4 Eat at least quarter-cup of peas and, or beans daily and increase as tolerated. String beans do NOT count as peas and beans because of immature or 'young' beans inside of pod. String bean is considered a vegetable.

5. Consume at least one small handful of nuts (raw, roasted/ baked) every day. Choose lightly salted or unsweetened nuts. If not possible, remove the unnecessary salt, sweetener (chocolate or honey).

6. Consume seven to nine servings of starchy foods. This includes bread, crackers, yam, dumpling, green bananas and rice. One serving is half-cup rice/macaroni/pasta, one cup porridge or cooked cereal (with milk), four ounces yam, potato, one slice bread or one dumpling/finger of green banana. Choose more unrefined starchy foods such as whole grains.

7. Use more natural seasonings and less powdered or artificial seasonings, if any at all. Most powdered seasonings have lots of salt or sodium containing ingredients.

8. Use foods that are in season/ in abundance. They tend to be less expensive than out of season food items.

9. Consume more locally grown food items. As a matter of fact, start your own little garden at home ... even a little pepper tree in a container at the front or back of your house - 'Eat what you grow, and grow what you eat'.

10 Use less fats and oils by purchasing smaller containers of butter, margarine and oil less often. For example, if you would normally buy one pound or 16 ounces of margarine every week, starting now, buy half-pound or eight ounces every week.

11 Use ONLY iodised salt, whether it be regular or sea salt.

12 Consume dairy products every day, if tolerated, in the form of milk, cheese/yogurt. If whole milk is your choice, use less of the other types of fat such as butter, oil or margarine.

13 Remove skin and visible fat from all animal flesh and bake, roast, steam and stew instead of frying.

14 Use less sweeteners, including sugar, honey and molasses.

15 Drink more water and less juice and sweetened drinks. Flavour your water with lime, teabag or any fruit/vegetable or herb/spice or leaf of choice and drink hot/cold or at desired temperature.

Let us take it one step at a time, focus on one habit at a time ... remember 'old habits die hard'.

16 Here's the bonus tip - manage your emotions. Don't give up! Be persistent, consistent and patient! Happy 2015! May you reach all your goals, slowly but surely.

Marsha N. Woolery, RD, is a registered dietitian/nutritionist at Fairview Medical and Dental Center, Montego Bay, and adjunct lecturer at Northern Caribbean University; email: yourhealth@gleanerjm.com.