Forget ‘Forbidden’ – Focus on Foods to Eat More Often

AMES, Iowa – Many people make New Year’s resolutions to slim down. Their plans often involve rigid diet regimens that end after a month or so; likely because they feel deprived.

“Instead of concentrating on how to avoid what you may consider to be ‘forbidden’ foods, focus on foods you can eat more often,” said Sarah Francis, an Iowa State University assistant professor and ISU Extension and Outreach nutrition specialist.

My Plate In 2011 the USDA released the MyPlate icon, featuring a plate half-filled with fruits and vegetables. Whole grains fill a fourth of the plate, with lean protein covering another fourth, and a dairy serving at the side.

“These foods are nutrient rich, meaning in addition to tasting great, they provide essential vitamins and minerals,” Francis said.

Francis suggests following these tips to eat more healthful foods.

  • Use fruits and vegetables to make meals more colorful. Choosing a colorful array of produce ensures that a meal is providing many phytochemicals important in protecting against chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease. “If you are hesitant to purchase fresh vegetables because they may go bad before you use them, choose unseasoned frozen vegetables. They are just as healthy as fresh and are quick and easy to use,” Francis said.
  • Fruit makes a great snack and dessert. In addition to fresh fruit, keep a supply of unsweetened dried, frozen or canned (in 100 percent juice or water) fruit on hand.
  • Whole grain products offer more fiber than refined grain products. Substitute a whole grain product in place of a refined one, such as whole wheat spaghetti in place of regular spaghetti. “If you’re not used to the taste of the whole grain product, mix half and half. You’ll still get the health benefits,” Francis said.
  • Try using a variety of lean protein foods throughout the week. Experiment with entrées made with seafood, beans and nuts in addition to those made with chicken, pork or beef.
  • Dairy foods are a great source of a calcium, vitamin D and protein. Choose fat-free or low-fat milk to save on calories and fat, but still get the same vitamins, minerals and protein as the higher fat varieties.

In addition to MyPlate, which helps people visualize what a healthy meal plate should look like, the USDA recently released the free online tool, SuperTracker,

“Tracking is a great way to monitor your success in adopting a healthier diet and fitness lifestyle,” Francis said. “The SuperTracker provides personalized nutrition and physical activities plans, allows you to track your dietary intake and physical activity to monitor your progress, and provides tips and support to help you make healthful decisions.”

Live Healthy Iowa

Join the Live Healthy Iowa 100-Day Challenge. This team-based weight loss and physical activity program helps Iowans make positive changes that lead to a healthier lifestyle. The 2012 program begins Jan. 23. For more information or to register, visit Live Healthy Iowa is a partnership of the Iowa Department of Public Health, Iowa Sports Foundation and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

For more information on nutrition and health or to receive a weekly e-mail from ISU Extension and Outreach including a food, recipe and activity of the week, visit

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