March is National Nutrition Month, when the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds everyone to return to the basics of healthy eating. It is also the time of year when the Academy celebrates expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists as the food and nutrition experts.
To lower your risk of heart disease or to manage your existing disease, try these tips for preparing meals.
Limit Saturated and Trans Fat
- Select lean cuts of beef and pork, especially cuts with "loin" or "round" in their name.
- Cut back on processed meats high in saturated fat, such as hot dogs, salami and bacon.
- Bake, broil, roast, stew or stir-fry lean meats, fish or poultry.
- Drain the fat off of cooked, ground meat.
- When you make a stew or soup, refrigerate leftovers and skim off the fat with a spoon before reheating and serving.
- Eat fish regularly. Try different ways of cooking such as baking, broiling, grilling and poaching to add variety.
- Include plant foods as sources of protein, including soybeans, pinto beans, lentils and nuts.
- Replace higher-fat cheeses with lower-fat options such as reduced-fat feta and part-skim mozzarella.
- Thicken sauces with evaporated fat-free milk instead of whole milk.
- Move toward using lower-fat milk and yogurt. Start with 2-percent products, then move to 1-percent and finally to fat-free to adjust to the new taste.
- Use liquid vegetable oils and soft margarine instead of stick margarine or shortening.
- Limit trans fats often found in foods such as cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, muffins, doughnuts and French fries. Many food manufacturers have removed trans fats from their foods. Check the Nutrition Facts Label on food packaging to see if trans fats are listed.
- Use small amounts of oils such as canola and olive in recipes and for sautéing.
- Make salad dressings with olive or pecan oil.
Eat Foods Containing Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Select oils that provide omega-3 fatty acids, such as canola or flaxseed oil.
- Add walnuts to cereal, salads or muffins. Try walnut oil in salad dressings, too.
- Eat two 4-ounce portions of fatty fish each week, such as salmon, lake trout, albacore tuna (in water, if canned), mackerel and sardines.
- Some chickens are given feed that is high in omega-3s so their eggs will contain more as well. When buying eggs, check the package label.
Reduce Salt (Sodium)
- Prepare foods at home so you can control the amount of salt in your meals.
- Use as little salt in cooking as possible. You can cut at least half the salt from most recipes.
- Add no additional salt to food at the table.
- Select reduced-sodium or no-salt-added canned soups and vegetables.
- Check the Nutrition Facts Label for sodium and choose products with lower sodium content.
- Season foods with herbs, spices, garlic, onions, peppers and lemon or lime juice to add flavor.