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10 tips from a dietitian

For The Baltimore Sun

Nutritionists and dietitians from the University of Maryland Medical System regularly provide a general information column to The Baltimore Sun's health blog. The latest post is from Rebecca Drudi.

People are constantly bombarded with nutrition information from social media and news stories. Instead of hopping on the next trendy diet bandwagon, aim for long-term lifestyle changes that will help you be the healthiest you. Here are 10 tips to filter through all the nutrition “white noise.”

1. Aim for a diverse/well balanced diet. All foods contain different nutrients and health benefits. The more variety you eat, the more nutrition you get. Be creative and buy a vegetable or fruit you have never tried before.

2. Eat more fruits and vegetables. You can add vegetables to most recipes. Put them on your whole wheat pizza, mix spinach into smoothies, throw greens in your pasta/grain dishes or load up a sandwich with tomatoes, onions, peppers and arugula. Don’t forget about breakfast – add mushrooms, peppers and spinach to an omelet. Try a fresh, juicy peach instead of a high sugar, processed dessert item.

3. Stick to the periphery of the grocery store. All the fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, fish and low fat dairy can be found on the periphery of the grocery store. Processed, high salt and high sugar foods are usually found within the aisles. Exception: brown rice, quinoa, lentils and dried beans might be found in the aisles and are great sources of protein and fiber. Cook more at home. Making your own meals from whole, unprocessed foods allows you to control what you put into them. Save eating out for special occasions.

4. Choose whole grains over refined grains. Whole grains have more vitamins, minerals and fiber.

5. There is not one “magic” food that will make you healthy or unhealthy.

6. Read the Nutrition Facts Label when buying packaged foods. Pay attention to the serving size. A food item that appears low calorie or low salt can quickly add up if you do not pay attention to your portion sizes. Try measuring out your food to help you visualize how much 3/4 cup of cereal or half cup of rice is.

7. Organic food is not necessarily better; organic foods are made with ingredients that do not use synthetic additives like pesticides, chemical fertilizers and dyes. Processed, packaged foods that are organic can also be loaded with salt, sugar and fat. If you do choose organic produce, check out the 2017 Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen List.

8. Limit added sugars. The Dietary Guidelines for America recommend less than 10% of calories come from added sugar. Check the label for ingredients like brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose and/or turbinado sugar. A major source of added sugar is found in sweetened beverages.

9. Pack your own well-balanced lunches for work or school.

10. Avoid getting too hungry – this can lead to impulse eating and over eating. Have snacks packed and available on the go. Try veggies with hummus or a 1 ounce portion of nuts.

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