Nutrition basics

Do you feel like you can't keep up with the latest nutrition news because it's always changing? While it's true that what is known about nutrition and diet is evolving, there are some nutrition basics that can help you sort through the latest research and advice.

Mastering nutrition basics comes down to understanding the roles that specific nutrients play in a healthy diet. Want to go beyond the nutrition basics? Talk to your doctor or a dietitian for personalized dietary advice that takes into account your health status, lifestyle, and food likes and dislikes.

Healthy diets

Do you want to adopt a healthy diet but aren't sure where to start? As you consider the parade of healthy diets in magazines and cookbooks, make sure to look for one that:

  • Includes a variety of foods from the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and lean protein including beans and other legumes, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats
  • Provides guidelines for how much food to choose from each group
  • Includes foods you can find in your local grocery store  — rather than specialty or gourmet store items
  • Fits your tastes, lifestyle and budget

Also consider your health risks. For example, do you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure? If so, be sure to follow a diet that's low in salt, saturated fat and cholesterol, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. For personalized advice, talk with your doctor or a dietitian.

Healthy cooking

Good food is one of life's great pleasures. And for most, meals are at the heart of family life and celebrations. Would you like to make satisfying and healthy meals that help protect your family from heart disease and other health problems?

Of course you would. So move away from calorie-laden, fatty and salty convenience and highly processed foods.  Experiment with quick and healthy cooking techniques, such as baking, grilling and sauteing. Learn important food safety tips, recipe makeovers and more. And then enjoy knowing that your new healthy cooking skills are helping to reduce your family's risk of health problems.

Healthy menus and shopping strategies

If you're like most, you're looking for ways to make meals healthier yet still enticing. Get your juices flowing to plan healthy menus by browsing healthy recipes online and in cookbooks.

To prepare your healthy menus, you'll need to have healthy ingredients on hand. Your shopping strategies should focus on fresh and unprocessed foods. That means spending more time in the produce section, where you can stock up on fruits and vegetables. Keep an eye out too for whole grains and low-fat dairy products.

Another key shopping strategy — don't linger in the snack food and candy aisles. Also be sure to check out the farmers market during the growing season to see what local produce is available.

Nutritional supplements

Nutritional supplements are meant to complement a healthy diet, not replace it. If you're generally healthy and eat a wide variety of foods, you probably don't need nutritional supplements. In certain cases, however, fortified foods and dietary supplements may be useful in providing one or more nutrients. For example, adults age 50 or older may not get enough vitamin B-12 in their diets and may need fortified foods or a nutritional supplement.

You also may want to consider a nutritional supplement if you don't eat enough healthy foods or don't eat a healthy variety of foods — especially if you have an underlying medical condition. Talk with your doctor or a dietitian about whether nutritional supplements might be appropriate for you. Be sure to ask about possible side effects of nutritional supplements you're considering — and if they have interactions with medications you take.

Apr. 05, 2014