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Practical Nutrition Tips

Spring 2002

Eating a Healthy Diet

Your food choices can have a significant impact on your health. Part of good health is eating a well-balanced diet. Make sure you regularly eat healthy, nutritious foods that are high in fiber, contain vitamins and minerals, and are low in fat (fruits, vegetables and whole grains).

Change takes time, so don't get discouraged.

  • Keep a food diary to track what you eat and drink for two to three days, and to help you identify areas in your diet that may need improvement.

  • Are you eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day? Did you consume any whole grain foods that are rich in fiber, such as beans, legumes, whole wheat breads and cereals?

  • How much fat are you eating? Bake, steam, or grill instead of frying foods. Use vegetable oils instead of butter or lard when cooking.

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  • Are you drinking enough water? Limit your intake of sodas and other high-sugar beverages. Remember, fruit "drinks" contain more sugar than fruit juice.

  • Make small, realistic changes in your diet, instead of trying to make large, unattainable changes. This will make it easier to adapt and incorporate the changes into your everyday eating habits. If you eat a slice of chocolate cake once a week, make sure to eat fruit as your dessert for the rest of the week.

There is no magic solution when it comes to good nutrition. Adding a multivitamin or mineral supplement to your food intake is a simple way to ensure that you receive adequate vitamins and minerals, but it doesn't replace the importance of eating a well-balanced diet.


Planning Your Meals Saves Time and Hassle

Simplifying your meal preparation can help combat problems such as fatigue, loss of appetite and a general sense of feeling overwhelmed. Here are a few suggestions you can try:
  • Weekly menu planning can save time and extra trips to the store. Prepare a shopping list before you go to the store and try to stick to buying only those items.

  • Become familiar with the layout of your supermarket. Most healthy foods are located against the walls of the store (the outside aisles). The middle aisles can easily distract you and lead to impulse buying.

  • One-pot skillet meals, such as casseroles and stir-fry's, take less time to prepare. You can vary the recipes by substituting different vegetables, meats, and seasonings. Broiling and microwaving are other quick options for food preparation.

  • Stock your freezer with frozen vegetables. Prepare sauces, stews, soups, and meats in large quantities and freeze the leftovers. When you're not feeling well or have medical appointments, these items can be removed and easily reheated.

  • Buy healthy snacks, such as yogurts, fruits, vegetables, and nuts, which can be consumed between meals.


Getting the Most for Your Money

Create a budget and stick to it! Sticking to a financial budget can be challenging. Prepare a monthly spending plan that considers how much money you spend on food, household items, medical costs, housing, and entertainment. At the end of the month, examine how well you were able to stick to your plan and note expenses that exceeded your budget.
  • Try to avoid impulse purchases. Keep track of unscheduled purchases and decide whether they need to be incorporated into your monthly budget.

  • Reduce any unnecessary spending, such as eating out, by planning your meals weekly and sticking to a shopping list.

  • Shop at supermarkets and farmers' markets. Foods are more expensive at delis, bodegas, and gourmet stores.

  • Don't shop when you're hungry. You'll end up buying more items than you anticipated.

  • Purchase generic brand products instead of premium products at the supermarket (premium brands cost more due to packaging and marketing costs). Clip coupons only for items that you normally purchase. Even though coupons may slightly reduce the cost of premium brands, the generic brands tend to be cheaper.

  • Buy non-perishable items in bulk supply when they're on sale. Perishable items like meat, chicken and fish may also be purchased on sale, but label, date and freeze what you don't plan to use immediately.


Practicing Food Safety

Keep in mind, food poisoning most often occurs at home. Once shopping is complete, observing safe food handling practices is paramount to avoiding illness.

Buy, prepare and store foods the proper way to reduce your chances of getting sick.

  • Before opening, inspect packages and cans for visible signs of damage such as dents, tears, bulges or leaks. Check the "use by" date on food packages, and discard items once the date has passed.

  • Freeze all meats and fish if you won't be cooking them within two days to preserve their freshness. Double bag fish, chicken and packaged meats before placing them in the freezer to avoid freezer burn.

  • Defrost all frozen food in the refrigerator, not in sinks or on countertops.

  • Keep raw meats and vegetables separate. Germs love to mix between them.

  • Cooking to the proper temperature destroys harmful bacteria. Cook meats until they are no longer pink, and fish until it flakes.

  • Right before eating any fresh fruits and vegetables, wash them to get rid of chemicals, pesticides and bacteria.

  • Always wash your hands before and after handling foods.

  • Use hot, soapy water to clean all utensils, cutting boards, appliances, and countertops.

  • Bacteria thrive in dirty sponges and dish towels. If they smell, discard or throw them in the washer.

Remember the saying: When in doubt, throw it out.




  
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This article was provided by AIDS Community Research Initiative of America. It is a part of the publication ACRIA Update. Visit ACRIA's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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