Ways to eat healthier this new year

Published: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 7:29 p.m.

The new year is here and it did not arrive without baggage. I know that we think of this time of the year as a chance to make a new start, and I agree with that thought. But I cannot help the guilt that comes as a result of the eating season that started with Thanksgiving and ended with the black-eyed peas and collard greens on New Year's Day.

If you agree, you already know I am talking about the increased circumference of most of my body parts. Without getting on the scales, my clothes tell the story loud and clear. If my body baggage had to be loaded onto an airplane, the chances of having to pay additional baggage charges are a devastating reality.

Now, if you are among the sensible people who managed to make it through those five weeks without acquiring additional baggage, I applaud you. I also envy you and hope you are at least sympathetic with those of us who could use a warm friend and a few kind words such as, "How can I help you get back on the healthy-eating wagon."

That said, let's just take a look at what we might do to change the results of the past five weeks. I read a column based on the book, "Eat This Not That," written by Dr. David ZincZenko and Matt Goulding, and was shocked at what I learned.

As do many of you, I do read labels, most of the time. At other times, I trust the manufacturer to package the food that it claims is on the package cover. However, through the process of manufacturing, there are many additives at the expense of the ingredients we expected.

Here's an example: I don't like avocados, but I have enjoyed guacamole at parties. The author of this article states that if you buy bean dip, you expect it to be made from beans. And when you buy guacamole, it seems reasonable to expect it to be made from avocadoes. But is it?

He answers his own question by giving his version of the truth: Which is, most guacamole with the word "dip" attached to the label suffers from a lack of real avocado. Take Dean's Guacamole, for example. This guacamole dip is composed of less than 2 percent avocado. The rest of the green goo is a cluster of fillers and chemicals, including modified food starch, soybean oils, locust bean gum and food coloring.

Dean's is not alone in this offense. In fact, this avocado caper was brought to light when a California woman filed a lawsuit against Kraft after she noticed "it just didn't taste avocadoey."

Try eating avocados instead. They are loaded with fiber and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. Trading the good stuff in for a bunch of fillers is cheating both your belly and your tastebuds. Either look for the real stuff (Wholly Guacamole makes a great guac) or mash up a bowl yourself. Scoop out the flesh of two avocados, combine with two cloves of minced garlic, a bit of minced onion, the juice of one lemon, chopped cilantro, one chopped tomato and a pinch of salt.

Another shocker for me was what some manufacturers sell as bacon bits. The article warns if we choose the BAC-O BITS by Betty Crocker, what we are really getting is basically a soybean product. Actually, the product is described as one that is basically formed by tiny clumps of soy flour bound with trans-fatty, hydrogenated soybean oil and laced with artificial coloring, salt and sugar.

According to this information, we are buying a product that's actually less healthy for our heart than the real thing.

The author asks that you consider eating this instead: A Hormel product called Real Bacon Bits, and as the name implies, it's made with real bacon. If Hormel can make a nutritionally superior product using real bacon, then why would you ever choose the artificial one that's loaded with partially hydrogenated soybean oil?

Think you've heard it all? Not yet. Another commonly used food item that caught my attention was turkey bacon.

This article quotes the truth about bacon and the substitution of turkey in its place. The author advises us to stick with the bacon if calories are our concern. It seems that the difference between the two is negligible and states that depending on the way that the bacon is sliced, the turkey bacon may have slightly more fat. Another eye-opener is the fact that although the turkey is a leaner meat, the turkey bacon is not made from 100 percent bird. Of particular importance also is the sodium content of the turkey bacon, which is actually higher than what you'll find in the pork bacon. The author advises that if you're worried about your blood pressure, opting for the original version is usually the smarter move and that you might choose to eat regular bacon instead. He suggests Hormel Black Label and Oscar Meyer center cut bacon for some low-cal, low-additive options.

Along with a happy lean new year, I hope that you have resolved to pay attention to your healthy eating habits and that along with practicing the art of being an informed consumer, you also will add a little more activity to your day.

Vivian Filer is a retired professor of nursing at Santa Fe College. E-mail your questions, with "Health Files" in the subject line, to news@gainesvilleguardian.com.

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