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Obvious choices of fruit and vegetables are not necessarily the healthiest, new research has suggested. Scientists have come up with a list of five “powerhouse” foods that may be better alternatives. Experts recommend five portions a day of fruit and veg in a healthy diet – plant foods are known to contain “phytonutrient” chemicals that can protect the heart and arteries and prevent cancers – but the most popular varieties may not be the best, according to US researchers.
Scientists analysed data from US health surveys of people's dietary habits to examine sources of phytonutrients. They found that for 10 of the 14 phytonutrients studied, a single food type accounted for two-thirds or more of an individual's consumption. It made no difference whether or not a person was a high or low consumer of fruit and veg.
The most common food sources for five key phytonutrients were: carrots (beta-carotene), oranges / orange juice (beta-cryptoxanthin), spinach (lutein/zeaxanthin), strawberries (ellagic acid) and mustard (isothiocyanates).
However, for each of these phytonutrients there was a better food source available.
These were listed as follows: sweet potatoes (nearly double the beta-carotene of carrots), papaya (15 times more beta-cryptoxanthin than oranges), kale (three times more lutein/zeaxanthin than spinach), raspberries (three times more ellagic acid than strawberries), and watercress (one cup contains as much isothiocyanate as four teaspoonfuls of mustard)
Study leader Keith Randolph, technology strategist for the supplement company Nutrilite, said: “These data highlight the importance of not only the quantity but also the significant impact the quality and variety of the fruits and vegetables you eat can have on your health.”
The findings were presented at the 2010 Experimental Biology conference in Anaheim, California.
Ever wonder what happens to that nice, balanced lunch you packed for your child to take to school? Does it get eaten or traded or even tossed in the bin? Parents want kids to eat nutritious lunches, while kids want lunches that are fun and great-tasting. Never fear— you can improve the odds that your kids will eat what you pack and like it, too! Try these lunch-packing strategies:
Think variety. Try to include something from most of the Food Pyramid food groups in every lunch. Rotate choices to promote variety and prevent boredom. This also helps to ensure that lunch will provide about one-third of a child's daily nutrient needs.
Send what kids like. Ask your child to make a list of his/her favorite lunch ingredients from each Food Pyramid food group. Then use this list to create his/her lunch menus. Better yet, get him/her involved in the shopping and packing.
Break out of the peanut butter rut. Experiment with some new fillings for sandwiches, like low-fat lunchmeats, cheeses, grilled veggies or chicken, tuna and egg salad (see “Keep lunches safe” section below). And try using different types of breads, such as bagels, rolls, pita pockets, English muffins, raisin bread or waffles (use whole-grain varieties whenever you can). If your child is devoted to peanut butter, jazz it up with sliced bananas or apples, raisins, shredded carrots or granola.
Go beyond sandwiches. The options are endless. Send pasta salad made with fun-shaped, colored pastas. Make a pizza or quesadilla on a tortilla or pita round. Or roll meat and cheese slices in a flour tortilla to make a pinwheel sandwich. Leftovers are great too—like spaghetti, a chicken leg or a hearty soup, to name a few.
Got milk? Look for individual milk boxes at the grocery store. Milk tastes best when it is ice cold, so freeze the milk the night before, and by lunchtime it will be thawed, but chilled. Mini-cheese wedges, cheese cubes and cheese sticks are kid favorites, too. Yogurt and pudding cups make a nutritious dessert.
Play up the produce. Baby carrots, celery sticks, sweet pepper slices, cherry tomatoes and other crunchy veggies are great for dipping in low-fat ranch dressing, salsa or hummus (chickpea dip). Slice apples, pears or other fruits for dipping in low-fat vanilla or lemon yogurt. Make fruit kebabs with fresh fruit chunks on straws. Or send single-serve cups of fruit, apple sauce or dried fruits.
Pack some pizzazz. Kids love fun and surprises in their lunch. Be creative with shapes, colors, and themes. For example, pack a round meal—a bagel with veggie cream cheese, an orange, carrot rounds and jelly beans. Or cut sandwiches into puzzle pieces. Have a “red lunch” day with spaghetti, red grapes, strawberry milk and red fruit leather. Make a backward lunch with a sandwich made with the meat and cheese on the outside and a note written in reverse telling the child to eat dessert first. Throw in an extra touch with a love note, joke or comic strip.
Keep lunches safe. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold. Use an insulated lunch box or small cooler. Include an ice pack or frozen bottle of water, juice or yogurt to help keep things cold. Use a Thermos™ to keep soups, casseroles or chili hot.
For more kid-friendly meal ideas speak to Nastaran.
Although most people think that healthy eating takes a long time, this isn’t actually the case.
Try these timesaving tactics for healthy eating – feed your family well–and with great taste, too:
Healthy Eating Tip #1. Make simple switches at the supermarket
It doesn’t take extra time to buy products such as whole grain cereal, fat-free milk, lean ground beef, baked chips, whole wheat bread or reduced-fat cheese. Ditto for high-nutrition snacks such as yogurt, raisins, frozen fruit juice bars, hummus (chickpea dip) and whole-wheat pita bread.
Healthy Eating Tip #2. Poke the produce
There’s a washed, cut and ready-to-eat fruit and veggie ready for every taste bud. Think about bagged lettuce and spinach, baby carrots, cut-up broccoli and cauliflower, cubed cantaloupe and pineapple. Of course, favorites such as apples, pears, oranges, bananas and grapes are fast fruit, too. For a switch, try new varieties–you often can try a sample right in the produce department.
Healthy Eating Tip #3. Swing by the salad bar
Sure you can use it to quickly assemble a salad. But think outside the bar! Save prep steps by picking up ready-to-go ingredients for tonight’s recipe. Try sliced onions, celery and carrots to start a soup or stew, or chopped lettuce, tomato and shredded cheese for taco-toppers. While you’re at it, pick up some fruit salad for dessert.
Healthy Eating Tip #4. Pad your pantry
Don’t get caught short. Stock up on often-used quick meal fixings such as canned beans and tuna, various pasta shapes, jars of spaghetti sauce and quick-cooking brown rice. Stash away some canned or frozen fruits and veggies, too. They’re always there when you need them and just as nutritious as fresh ones because they’re packed at the peak of freshness.
Healthy Eating Tip #5. Make it big on the weekend
Block out a few hours to make a daal, a hearty soup, a pasta dish or a casserole. When schedules heat up during the week, you and your family can just zap-and-eat.
Healthy Eating Tip #6. Use time-saving cooking techniques
Bake chicken instead of frying, or let a pot of bean soup bubble away on the back burner. Meanwhile, you can prepare the rest of the meal, get caught up on some household chores or just kick back and relax for a few minutes.
Healthy Eating Tip #7. Slip good nutrition into fast favorites
Make instant oatmeal with milk instead of water. Load sandwiches up with lettuce and tomato. Toss frozen mixed vegetables into canned soup. Top your favorite frozen cheese pizza with a rainbow of veggies like broccoli florets, chopped red peppers or sliced zucchini. (Tip: Toss veggies in a little vegetable oil first so they don’t dry out.)
Healthy Eating Tip #8. Demand double duty from big restaurant portions
Bring some home to make a quick start on tomorrow’s meal. For instance, slice up steak from your doggie bag to star in tonight’s beef and broccoli stir-fry.
Source: International Food Information Council