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Healthy You

Best and Healthiest Meal Choices" Know the Do's and Don't's

Thursday, August 02, 2012 9:05 AM

Just as athletes need to properly stretch and hydrate before and after a workout or event, they also need to be making smart meal choices. What you eat—regardless if you are an athlete or not—will greatly impact your health.

It can often be hard to determine which foods are best, especially with the myriad of options available at most grocery stores. A good place to start is learning how to make smart nutritional choices when it comes to fats, carbohydrates and proteins.

Our physician experts at Northshore give advice on the best meal choices for both athletes and non-athletes alike:

  • Focus on eating “good” fats. These include vegetable oil, olive oil and foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids (such as seeds, nuts and fish).
  • Avoid transfats and limit your consumption of saturated fats.
    o    Transfats (think commercially baked goods) can be deadly. Try to avoid anything that says “partially hydrogenated” on the label. Make smarter pit stops – skip the fast food whenever possible.
    o    Saturated fats should be consumed on a limited basis. These include fatty cuts of red meat, pork (bacon) and whole fat dairy products (whole milk, yogurt and cheese). Choose leaner cuts of beef and pork, and if possible, eat meat and eggs from cows and hens that are grass fed.
  • Skip the white, choose whole wheat. Selecting the most enriched carbohydrates can be confusing. It’s always better to choose a whole grain bread (whole wheat, whole oat or whole rye should be the first ingredient); you’ll get more fiber and less of a rise in blood sugar. Processed white bread provides very little nutritional value and contains higher amounts of sugar. It’s best to choose whole wheat over white; this applies to rice (brown is better than white), pasta and most baked goods. Choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes, and make sure to eat the skin (which contains much of the fiber).
  • Pass on any sweetened drinks (made with either sugar or high fructose corn syrup).  In moderation, natural sugars (like those that come from fruit) are best. Check labels carefully and try to limit the grams of sugar in anything you buy.
  • Eat nuts in moderation. A handful a day is a good serving size since nuts are very high in calories. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber and good fat. According to the Nurses’ Health Study, those who eat a handful of nuts a day lower their risk of heart disease. Some good options include: almonds, pistachios, walnuts and hazelnuts.
  • Make smart protein choices. Eat lean meat, pork and poultry. Eat fish twice a week and limit you consumption of red meats to no more than two times per week.

What smart meal choices do you make to maintain your health?