Diet and Recipe Articles
THE BIG EASIES
by Linda Rao
25 diet-bolstering tricks that take zero effort but bring you better health even on your busiest days.
It happens. The busier you are, the harder it is to find time to take care of yourself. Pretty soon, you're watching those good eating habits circle the drain.
That's why we came up with 25 ridiculously easy tips--total no-brainers--that make impressive nutrition happen even on days when you're on autopilot. Do the Big Easies, and you'll automatically get seven servings of fruits and veggies, all the calcium you need, plenty of fiber and omega-3 fats, tons of healing antioxidants, and more.
And the payoffs? You improve your chances of fending off cancer, stroke, heart attack, and diabetes; have more energy; stay slimmer; keep your mind sharp; and sidestep urinary tract infections.
Imagine it's a typical weekday, and you're busier than ever. Now, do the Big Easies!
6 AM: Rise and Shine
You hit the snooze button for the last time and fumble your way into the kitchen. Now try these tips:
1. Drink Orange Juice with Added Calcium
If you start the day with orange juice, don't miss the chance to get calcium too. This superstar mineral fends off PMS, high blood pressure, and osteoporosis. And the latest? It might even help you lose weight! Most calcium-fortified orange and grapefruit juices have as much calcium as milk--or more!
2. Take a Multi
One little pill, such big benefits! People who take a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement have dramatic reductions in the risk of colon cancer and heart disease, studies show. Another benefit: The folic acid in your multi is almost two times more absorbable than the form of this vitamin found in food.
3. Have "7-gram" Cereal
That means cereal with at least 7 g of fiber per serving, because eating cereal is your easiest chance to get lots of fiber in a small package. Not only is fiber a cancer fighter, but it actually cancels out some of the calories you eat! For example, if you eat 30 g of fiber a day--slightly more than double what most of us get--your body will absorb 120 fewer calories a day. That adds up to a 13-lb loss in a year!
4. Toss Some Blueberries on That Cereal
Blueberries are youth berries. Even frozen blueberries are so packed with antioxidants that just 1/2 cup can double the antioxidant power of most people's diets--something that experts suspect will slow down your aging clock. Blueberries actually reversed memory loss in one animal study!
5. Make Your Coffee with Milk
If you make instant coffee with hot water, all you're getting is a wake-up call. Use milk, and you've got cafe au lait--along with insurance against osteoporosis from the calcium and vitamin D in the milk.
6. Drink a Glass of Water When You Brush Your Teeth
You've got the water and the glass right there. So drink! Only one-third of all Americans get the recommended eight glasses daily. Think a little shortfall doesn't matter? Signs of mild dehydration include fatigue upon awakening, fatigue at midday, lack of concentration, and headaches.
8:00 AM: On the Job
With these tips, snacks at work can make you healthier:
7. Take an Apple to Work
Put one on your desk in the morning, and an apple becomes see-food--the handiest snack to grab when the munchies hit. If it's not there, you'll be hunting for sticky buns or whatever else is around. In addition to apples being a low-cal snack, a recent study revealed that the lungs of apple-a-day eaters may have better protection against air pollution.
8. Stash Nuts In Your Desk
Probably because nuts are rich in healthy monounsaturated fats, vitamin E, magnesium, and phytochemicals, folks who snack on a small handful of them four or five times a week tend to live longer, several studies suggest. Just don't overdo it: One ounce of peanuts (approximately 1/8 cup) contains about 170 calories and 14 g of fat.
11:30 AM: Grocery Shopping
You dash out for groceries over your lunch hour. Here's how to be a healthy shopper even when you're on autopilot:
9. Buy Better Bread
If you eat white bread, you're eating vitamin-fortified starch. Whole wheat bread has fiber, important nutrients such as selenium and copper, and a treasury of other healthy ingredients. Maybe that's why whole-grain eaters seem to have less diabetes, breast cancer, and heart disease. Just don't be fooled by a dark color: Unless the first ingredient includes the word "whole," it isn't whole wheat bread.
10. Choose Canola Salad Dressing
Are you a salad eater? Terrific! Now look for a dressing made with canola oil, rich in alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). One study found that nurses who got more than 1 g of ALA per day had half the number of fatal heart attacks.
11. Be Picky about Decaf Tea
Regular tea delivers a rich stew of healing antioxidants--but some decaf teas don't. If the decaf method isn't listed on the package, assume they used ethyl acetate, which dramatically lowers antioxidant levels. Look for tea that says it's been decaffeinated with water and carbon dioxide (sometimes called "natural" or "effervescence")--which preserves antioxidants.
12. Pick Up Whole Wheat Pasta
Do you need more help getting to your 30 or so g of daily fiber? Try doing this: Substitute 1 cup of whole wheat pasta (6.3 g of fiber) for the same amount of regular (2.4 g). This one easy switch pushes you 4 g closer to your total daily fiber goal.
13. Find Ice Cream that Builds Bones
You know you want some. So find a brand with 15 percent of the Daily Value (DV) for calcium in a 1/2-cup serving. That means when you eat a cup of ice cream, you'll get 30 percent of the DV for calcium--as much as a glass of milk. Same tip applies to frozen yogurt.
12:30 PM: Takeout Pizza
Buying pizza to eat lunch at your desk? Give it this instant healthy makeover:
14. Order Pizza the "Double-Half" Way
When you order, ask for double tomato sauce and half cheese. Double sauce? Many studies link higher consumption of cooked tomato products with reduced risk of prostate and other cancers. Half cheese? You'll cut down on artery-clogging saturated fat. Trust us, after just one "double-half" pizza, you'll never go back!
4:00 PM: Party Time
Your division boss is retiring, and there's a goodbye reception. These tricks build automatic nutrition into calorie-laden buffet tables:
15. Sidle Up to the Shrimp
These denizens of the deep are ultralow in fat and calories, but they taste so rich that you can really satisfy yourself--without gaining weight! (Twelve large nonbreaded shrimp contain just 65 calories and less than 1 g of fat!)
8 PM: In a Restaurant
The choices! The sauces! Here's how to automatically make your restaurant meal healthier than ever:
16. Order Dessert First
Ask your waiter if they have berries for dessert then order them as an appetizer. Low-cal raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and ellagic acid, a compound that's being studied as a colon cancer fighter. Since restaurants get the very best berries, don't pass up this heavenly superfood!
17. Order Half Your Entrée as Takeout
One restaurant portion could feed an entire fraternity house--who needs all those calories? So when you order an entree, ask them to automatically put half of it directly into a take-home box. That way, it'll never show up on your plate! Staying slim helps lower your risk of cancer, diabetes, stroke, and many other illnesses. And you'll have a ready-made meal for tomorrow!
18. Reach for the Sparkling Water
Few things are more chic--or better for your health! So whatever else you drink at the party, make sure you also sip on a glass of club soda or seltzer. Staying well hydrated helps fight urinary tract infections by keeping your urine diluted.
19. Dip Your Carrots
Are you snacking only on carrot sticks? Make sure you eat them with some fat--a dab of dip or a cube of cheese. Without any fat, you absorb very little of carrot's cancer-fighting carotenoids.
20. Say "Salmon!"
Don't miss this boat! Salmon is one of the richest--and possibly most delicious--sources of omega-3 fats. By boosting your intake of omega-3s, you may help ward off depression, severe menstrual cramps, macular degeneration (a cause of blindness), fatal heart attacks, and possibly even breast cancer. (A 3-oz serving of cooked salmon has 1.9 g of omega-3s; in comparison, 3 oz of cooked chicken breast has a mere 0.05 g.)
21. Side with the Veggies
It's easy to leave a restaurant without touching any vegetables except french fries--unless you routinely order a side dish of broccoli, spinach, or whatever they've got that sounds good. The antioxidants in veggies--including vitamins E and C--prevent the free radical damage that promotes cancer, cataracts, and memory loss. Antioxidants can also bolster immunity, fending off things such as the flu. Not a veggie lover? Make them taste better by adding a little pat of butter--but remember that a little goes a long way.
22. Finish with Tea
Don't miss this chance for a tidal wave of antioxidants--tea has more than most veggies. People who drink 4 cups of green tea a day seem to get less cancer, perhaps due to a powerful antioxidant called EGCG. Black tea contains quercetin, a compound that helps prevent blood clots--the immediate triggers of most heart attacks.
11:00 PM: Bedtime
Congratulations! The day is over ... at last. Now finish up your healthy day with a few more Big Easies:
23. Have a Cup of Hot Cocoa
Love chocolate, but still want to be healthy? Good news! Cocoa (chocolate with much of the fat removed) actually has even more antioxidant power than tea!
The flavonoids in cocoa can keep blood platelets from clotting, which may prevent heart attacks. Plus, the milk in hot cocoa loves your bones! (Note: An average cup of cocoa has less than 1/10 the caffeine of instant coffee. But if you're very caffeine sensitive, bedtime isn't the best time for any caffeine.)
24. Not Drinking Cocoa? Pop a Calcium Supplement
Most women get less than one-half of the calcium they need for strong bones, so if you're not drinking cocoa, bedtime is a great time to take a calcium supplement. (If your tummy is empty, calcium citrate supplements are absorbed best.)
25. Drink Another Big Glass of Water After You Brush Your Teeth
Yup, more water. And another solid reason why: In a study last year, people who drank lots of water had less colon cancer. Down the hatch!
Linda Rao is a freelance writer.
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