Shopping to Eat Smart
A diet rich in colorful fruits and vegetables in combination with an overall low-fat diet may help reduce risk of some chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals for your body to use to stay healthy and energetic. They may be fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. Eat 2 ½ cups vegetables and 2 cups fruit every day.
- Take advantage of seasonal and sale items. Fall: apples, pumpkins, figs, mushrooms, pears, sweet potatoes and other delicious winter squash varieties. Winter: oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, radishes, and rutabagas. Spring: asparagus, avocados, artichokes, apricots, mangos, spinach and pineapple. Summer: sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, peaches, zucchini and watermelons.
- Pre-cut produce can save time.
- Taste a rainbow of fruits and vegetables for better health. Include red, dark green, yellow, blue, purple, white and orange to provide the broadest range of nutrients.
- Food Safety: Wash vegetables under clean, running water. Rub vegetables briskly with your hands to remove dirt and surface microorganisms. Dry after washing. Keep vegetables separate from raw meat, poultry and seafood items while shopping, preparing, and storing.
Meat and Seafood - Go lean with protein! Eat 5.5 oz every day.
Choose low-fat choices: sliced roast beef, baked ham, turkey, and chicken breast. Lean meat has 3 grams of fat or less per 1 ounce serving (1 oz = 28.4 grams) and extra lean meat has 1.5 grams of fat per 1 ounce serving.Check the sodium content. Choose deli meats where the sodium is 20% of the Daily Value or less (Oscar Meyer and Land O’Frost) as increased sodium intake can increase your blood pressure.Deli meats are higher in sodium than fresh-prepared.
- Avoid bologna, summer sausage and salami as these are high in fat.
- Beef: choose lean ground, loin or round; look for those with less white fatty marbling.
- Poultry: choose lean ground and white meat without skin
- Seafood: Include fish at least two times per week. Lean fish choices include cod, flounder and orange roughy. Salmon and tuna are higher in healthy oils including omega-3 fatty acids.
- Most wild game is lean unless processed with high fat beef or pork.
Frozen Meat - Stock up on frozen chicken, turkey breasts, and fish. Shrimp is higher in cholesterol, but lower in saturated fat than many protein choices. Avoid breaded meat and seafood!
Often high in sodium, carbohydrates, and/or fat. Check the food label for Daily Value of 5% or less for sodium, fat, and sugar.
Buy "No-Added-Salt" and “light” condiments when available
Better choices for Condiments because they are low in fat and sodium include: Miracle whip, light mayo, fat free mayo, Kraft® sandwich spread, Kraft® Tuna Salad Maker, most mustards, and vinegar.
Lite soy sauce is lower in sodium than regular, but still very high.
Look for “light” or “low fat” versions.
Experiment with flavored vinegars and make your own with oil, vinegar and herbs.
Best choices are vinegars, Dorothy Lynch® fat free; Maple Grove Farms of Vermont® Fat Free Poppy Seed and Raspberry ® Vinaigrette;
Not-to-bad choices are Kraft® Free varieties, Wishbone® Western Fat Free and Light varieties
Canned Vegetables and Fruits
Canned fruits and vegetables count towards your recommended daily intake as indicated in the produce section.
Using canned items allows for a larger variety of items to be on hand for a longer period of time.
Canned and frozen varieties can come with cost saving and/or time saving benefits as they are cleaned, washed, chopped and peeled as well as less expensive.
Vegetables – Vary your veggies!
- Canned vegetables contain 6-8 times the sodium of fresh or frozen vegetables, so buy "low sodium" or “no added salt”.
- Rinse regular canned foods under running water to "wash" off added sodium.
- Canned legumes are a great source of protein and fiber. Remember to rinse.
- For more flavor without the added sodium, experiment with a variety of herbs and spices such as parsley, basil, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, and products like Mrs. Dash.
Fruits – Focus on fruits!
Look for fruit packed in “light syrup” or “fruit juice”. If you have syrup-packed fruit, drain and rinse well under running cold water to remove a significant amount of the extra calories and carbohydrates.
- Fruit cups are a portion control tool and make for great portable snacks.
- Choose unsweetened applesauce and add spices such as ground cinnamon. Applesauce can be used to replace fat in baked goods.
- Fruit is always a better choice than juice because it contains fiber and is more filling for the calories you are consuming.
- If choosing juice, drink 100% fruit juice. Fruit drinks and fruit beverages are high in calories and sugar. These are not 100% juice regardless of added vitamin C.
- "Light" juices are available. These contain water as the first ingredient and are sweetened with artificial sweeteners to decrease calories.
- Buy low sodium varieties of vegetable juices.
- Beans are a good source of protein and fiber.
- So easy, but high in fat and sodium.
- Use 1/3 of the seasoning package and limit amount of added margarine or oil.
- Add vegetables to increase nutrient value.
Snacks are a good way to meet recommended intakes for whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Be cautious of snacks that provide no real nutritional benefit.
- 100 calorie packs are portion controlled and convenient, but have little nutritional value. South Beach Diet™ Bars have added whole grains and fiber.
- Fruit newtons, animal crackers, gingersnaps, graham crackers or vanilla wafers are often lower in fat than cookies.
- Choose crackers wisely to meet your whole grain goal. Some whole grain options are Nabisco Triscuits®, Kellogg’s All-Bran® Crackers, and Nabisco Multi-grain Wheat Thins®.
Grains & Pasta – Make half your grains whole!
People who eat whole grains as part of a healthy diet have a reduced risk of some chronic diseases. Whole grains contain the entire grain kernel (the bran, germ, and endosperm) and are higher in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Check the ingredient panel for “whole grain” as the first ingredient.
- Experiment with many whole grain varieties such as whole wheat pasta and brown rice.
- When buying egg noodles look for those without the yolk.
- Use reduced-sodium options such as Healthy Request®.
- Try low sodium broth for making homemade soups.
- Add veggies to soup for more nutritional value.
- Decrease sodium in a high sodium soup by initially removing some of the broth. Replace that broth with water.
- Choose nuts without added salt. Almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts are a rich source of vitamin E. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids which have several health benefits. Keep to only one portion as nuts are high in calories.
- Popcorn counts as a whole grain! Try low-fat varieties such as Orville Redenbacher Gourmet® Smart-Pop 94% fat-free.
- Dried fruits are high in sugar. Limit serving size to ¼ cup.
- Choose oils high in polyunsaturated (PUFA) or monounsaturated (MUFA) fats for good health. Canola oil is a healthy oil which may reduce your risk of coronary heart disease.
- Whole wheat flour is an easy way to add nutrient value to your homemade products.
Butter and Margarine: Know the limits on fats, sugars and salt!
Make the most of your fat sources from fish, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- When looking for a low calorie all-purpose spread, your best bet for margarine is light tub margarine. Good selections are Promise® Light, Smart Balance® Light, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter® Light, Country Crock® Plus Calcium, and Brummel and Brown® Natural Yogurt.
- Low calorie margarine substitutes are available as sprays or in squeeze bottles. These are low in calories and fat because they are mostly made of water and flavoring.
- Medicinal margarines, like Take Control® and Smart Balance® plus Flax Oil, have been shown to help lower cholesterol when part of a heart healthy diet. These can be good choices but are often more costly.
- Stick margarine works best for cooking and baking. Use one that claims no trans-fats such as Promise® Healthy Heart.
- Limit solid fats like butter, stick margarine, shortening, and lard, as well as foods that contain these.
- Egg substitutes are a low cholesterol alternative to eggs.
- Choose “light” or “fat-free” cream cheese.
- Whole wheat tortillas are an option for meeting your whole grain goal.
- Choose "reduced fat" canned biscuits, croissants and sweet rolls, but limit to an occasional treat since they offer no real nutritional benefit.
Cereal bars are a healthier alternative to cookies and candy bars. They have some nutritional fiber and vary in fiber, sugar, fat, and calorie content.
- Look for cereals that are whole grain, low fat, and contain 2 or more grams of fiber per ounce.
- Good choices are Cheerios®, Mini-Wheats®, Wheat Chex®, Fiber-One®, All Bran®, Total®, Bran Flakes®, and Wheaties®.
- Oatmeal is a good choice. Check the individual serving packets for sugar content.
- Tea and coffee are calorie free beverages. They contain caffeine and are not counted in your 8 cups of fluid per day. These beverages, especially green and white tea contain phytochemicals that have added health benefits.
Milk Corner - Get your calcium-rich foods! Get 3 cups every day.
People who have a diet rich in milk and milk products can reduce the risk of low bone mass throughout their life cycle. Foods in the milk group provide calcium, potassium, vitamin D, and protein that are vital for health and maintenance of your body. If you do not get 3 cups of milk and yogurt each day, you should take a calcium supplement.
- Cheese is high in fat, saturated fat and sodium. Low fat versions are available, but are still high in sodium. Try using half the amount of cheese in a recipe. Substitute strong flavored cheeses such as parmesan, sharp cheddar, or blue cheese to get the flavor with a small amount.
- Buy low fat spreads and condiments such as sour cream and cream cheese.
- Choose fat free or low fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese products.
- If skim milk is not palatable at first start with 2% and work down to 1%; consider trying Skim Plus milk which is thicker and higher in calcium.
- Try soy milk for an added option to meet calcium needs and added heart health.
- Most chips have little nutritional benefit. Baked chips, pretzels, flavored rice cakes or reduced fat cereal snack mixes (Chex® brand mixes) offer lower fat options but are not low in calories. Keep portion sizes to those suggested on the food label.
- Whole-grain chip varieties (Sun Chips®) provide some nutritional benefit.
- If choosing juice, select 100% fruit juice.
Frozen and deli garlic breads are high in fat and calories. Make your own garlic bread using Italian or French bread, light margarine and garlic powder.
- Frozen vegetables and vegetable medleys without added sauces are a convenient low sodium option for meeting your daily intake of vegetables.
- Look for healthy frozen meal options such as SmartOnes®, Healthy Choice®, and Lean Cuisine®.
- Frozen fruit without added sugar is a convenient option.
- You need about 8 caffeine-free glasses of fluid per day. Your needs increase if you are in hot weather and if you are active.
- Water is the best choice.
- Many low calorie and no calorie beverages are available such as diet pop, crystal light, sugar-free lemonade, and flavored waters.
Check portion sizes on the nutrition facts label for frozen desserts. Low fat, fat-free and sugar free still contain calories. Fudge bars, sugar-free popsicles, light ice cream, frozen yogurt, and skinny cow bars are low in fat and moderate to low in calories.
Bread – Make half your grains whole!
The first ingredient should be "whole _________ " (fill in the blank with: wheat; corn, cracked wheat, millet, oats, etc.) Look at the fiber content which should be 2-4 grams / slice if it's a whole grain.
“Light” breads are lower in calories than regular breads when compared slice for slice. Fiber is added to “light” bread, but it is not a whole grain.
- Avoid large bagels, muffins, and sweet breads which are often 3-5 ounces each and high in fat and calories.
- Whole wheat English muffins, pitas, and bagels are another way to meet your whole grain goal.
Endorsement Statement: The WILL Network does not endorse commercial products or companies even though reference may be made to trade names, trademarks or service names.
This handout was developed by Brenna Swanson, Registered Dietitian, for Cavalier County Memorial Hospital and Macine Lukach, Cavalier County Extension Agent, Nutrition, Food Safety and Health; Nutrition Education Agent, Family Nutrition Program.
Read It Before You Eat It!