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Better Food Choices
What should we eat daily?

Choose Healthier Foods

For years, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been trying to help people make healthier and more balanced food choices. They have been tweaking the Food Pyramid and grouping foods together hoping Americans will use a simple guideline of what to eat every day.

According to the USDA an adult on a 2,000 calorie a day diet should eat this:

  • 2 cups of fruit.
  • 2 1/2 cups of vegetables.
  • 6 ounces of grains with 3 of them being whole grains.
  • 5.5 ounces of meat, poultry, fish, nuts, seeds and/or dry beans.
  • 3 cups low-fat or fat-free dairy.
  • 6 teaspoons or 24 grams of oils.

If you followed that, you would then have about 267 calories leftover that you can choose to fill with the foods of your choice.

The USDA has conveniently laid out exactly how much you should eat from the six major food groups with the recommendations above. But even with all that, people still manage to make unhealthy choices while following the guidelines. What people don't seem to understand is how devastating poor choices can be to our bodies, even when those choices are small. Here's an example.

If you currently drink two cups of 2% milk every day, you're taking in almost 10 grams of fat and 244 calories. Switch to fat-free milk and you'll drop 63 calories a day. It may not seem like much, but 63 calories add up to 6.5 pounds a year. And that's just for switching your milk.

To educate and help us make better choices, a series of books have come out under the title, "Eat This, Not That!" I want to congratulate the authors because they help people see what's wrong with their current choices and then they show alternatives that are better for you. The problem is, many of those alternatives are still poor choices. Here's an example.

"Eat This, Not That" shows a McDonald's Big Mac with 540 calories and 29 grams of fat as a better choice. They compare it to the Burger King Whopper with Cheese that has 760 calories and 47 grams of fat. If those two burgers were your only choice of food in the world, they'd be right, pick the Big Mac. But there are several other options on both restaurant menus that would make far better choices.

Visit McDonald's and you can get a Mac Snack Wrap (which still has beef) that has only 330 calories and 19 grams of fat. Burger King sells the Double Burger which has only 370 calories and 19 grams of fat. While neither of those could be considered healthy foods, they're both significantly better than the "good" choice of a Big Mac.

To help make healthy choices easier, I've decided to combine two things. The serving recommendations of the six food groups by the USDA with a list of foods grouped into better and worse choices. Instead of just saying you can eat beef, poultry or fish, I list cuts of meat that are leaner and the ones higher in fat to avoid.

I've made these lists as a tool so you can plan in advance what you're going to eat. Consider what you're going to cook on the spot, what can be made in advance and what you can grab when you're on the go. Remember to include any sauces, dips and drinks in your total calculations.

There's just one catch. Before you get the list, I want you to spend the next six days keeping a food log. Figure out what you're putting in your body now, so you'll be able to quickly see what things you can change out.

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