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Favorite Foods in a Balanced Menu

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All foods can fit into a balanced lifestyle, even dessert! How is this possible? Unless allergies or medical history dictate the avoidance of a food, every food fits in a meal plan, but of course some foods are better than others due to the mix of nutrients provided in every choice.

Instead of giving up favorite foods that contain extra fat and calories, think of ways to add them to the menu in addition to increasing the healthier favorites that are bursting with nutrients, like whole grains, lean meats, low fat dairy, fruits and vegetables. Remember, it is important to watch portion sizes of foods that contain saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, and cholesterol – so read labels to choose wisely! It’s always good to talk to the doctor before making changes to any diet or exercise program.

Fruits and vegetables: are some of the most nutrient packed foods on the menu. Typically, they contain the least amount of both calories and less desirable fats while providing many of the important nutrients needed for good health. Remember to choose the deepest, brightest colors to get the most vitamins and minerals possible in produce choices. Choose fruits and vegetables every day.

Figure out fat: Choose liquid oils over solid fats as these are typically better for the heart. Make sure to measure the amount of fat used no matter what type. Use fat in portion controlled amounts to keep fat and calories in check. To keep favorite fried foods on the menu without blowing the fat and calorie budget, don’t fry every dish at one meal. Balance one high fat menu item with lower fat choices. This will help make that meal a little healthier. Additionally, remember to include appropriate activity to help burn off extra calories.

Practice portion control and plan for fun foods: It is absolutely fine to have a piece of birthday cake, just don’t eat the entire cake at once. Think about snack and meal choices to balance out that special dessert, and don’t be afraid to freeze leftovers in individual servings to enjoy later. This also keeps tempting treats out of sight and not so available on the days following the celebration.

Find the hidden sources of extra fat and calories: Sometimes, it’s not the meal but the “extras” that are added that contribute those pesky extra calories during the day. Measure sauces, gravies, dressings and other condiments in order to combat extra calories.

Read labels: on every food and beverage choice to find the most nutrients for calories consumed and to make wise choices from every food group.