Note to Reporters: The following column is written by Shirley Perryman, an Extension specialist in the Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition. The department is part of the College of Applied Human Sciences at Colorado State University.
Four out of five people will not keep their New Year’s resolutions — and one of the most common resolutions is to shed extra pounds.
Will you be in the larger group of resolution makers who fail or will you choose to succeed? Success is easier if your resolution includes committing to eat healthier foods more often.
Check out the four groups of foods below; they will help you keep on track. They top the charts for healthy choices whether or not you’re aiming for weight loss. You’ll be surprised to find they won’t drain your wallet—especially if you watch for the weekly grocery specials–but they will help you feel good and look great!
– Avocados: Many who are looking to lose weight may shy away from this easy to find and versatile fruit. The avocado is a fruit, botanically speaking, though we think of it as a vegetable. It’s true they’re high in fat, but they contain the heart healthy monounsaturated fat that helps lower blood cholesterol levels. They also have more potassium than bananas. Potassium helps regulate blood pressure potentially lessening your risk of stroke. For a ready-to-eat avocado choose one that yields slightly to gentle pressure. If you don’t plan to use it all, wrap it tightly with plastic wrap. It will keep in the refrigerator for several days. Switch chips in favor of veggie dippers when enjoying your favorite guacamole to decrease your overall fat intake.
– Nuts: Often people avoid nuts when they’re counting calories. Although nuts are high in fat, don’t overlook the value of their high fiber and monounsaturated fat content. These benefits, along with high protein, may help you eat less if you eat nuts instead of other less healthy high-calorie foods. Like almost all foods, the key is to enjoy nuts in moderation. Evidence indicates that people who eat nuts regularly and in moderation don’t gain additional weight. If you’re nuts about nuts and you’re likely to overdo this healthy choice, package one-ounce portions in small baggies as a grab-and-go snack. One caveat: look for lightly salted or no-added salt nuts for the best health benefit.
– Cruciferous veggies: Not a veggie eater? It may be because you don’t try a variety of veggies. Cruciferous veggies are low calorie nutritional standouts which may lower your risk for cancer, cardiovascular disease and some aging effects such as eyesight and memory loss. Cruciferous veggies include broccoli and cauliflower along with:
• Broccolini—looks like skinny broccoli but it is more tender and sweeter. Sauté broccolini in olive oil with garlic, then sprinkle it with lemon juice or steam it until it is tender crisp.
• Broccoli rabe or rapini—has thin leafy stalks and single flowers that resemble broccoli. It has a nutty, bitter green flavor when sautéed in garlic and olive oil.
• Chinese kale—looks like a broccoli stalk topped with leafy greens. Chopped Chinese kale gives a sweeter taste to stir fry.
• Brussels sprouts—look like tiny cabbages. If you’ve been turned off to their bitter, cabbage flavor, try shredding them, then lightly stir frythem with small bits of bacon and chopped onion.
• Kale—is a leafy green vegetable that comes in several varieties which differ in taste, texture and appearance. Toss chopped kale into your favorite bean soup for added texture and flavor.
– Whole grains: The soluble fiber in whole grains helps guard against heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Insoluble fiber in whole grains contributes to intestinal regularity. These health benefits come with the added bonus of a feeling of fullness so you may eat less. If you start your day with oatmeal, for example, researchers have found that breakfast eaters consume fewer calories throughout the day. Skip processed, packaged granola bars and cereals high in fat, salt and sugar, and instead make your own granola at home to minimize added fat. Branch out and try other whole grains:
• Quinoa, a grain which is technically a seed, is an ancient crop that has made a comeback. Unlike many popular grains, it has the added bonus of high protein content. To prepare quinoa, rinse it well and then cook it like rice. It has a slightly crunchy texture and nutty flavor, and is gluten-free.
• Switch to whole grain pasta. You’ll notice a denser and chewier texture with more flavor than the usual enriched white semolina pasta. Combine white and whole grain pasta to make the flavor transition easier.
• Brown rice, also a gluten-free food, is a delicious substitute for white rice. Like white rice, you can choose the instant variety to avoid the longer cooking time.
• Popcorn made at home is a better choice than movie popcorn. Keep lower fat, low salt microwave popcorn on hand for a healthy whole grain snack.