Many of us grew up with nutrition habits we thought were healthy. But, according to today’s standards, some of those habits should be laid to rest …
1. I eat vegetables every day at dinner, so I’m healthy.
Not so fast! Eating one serving of vegetables a day will no longer cut it, especially if they’re starchy vegetables like corn, peas, potatoes, sweet potatoes or winter squash. Although still good for you, a serving of these actually counts in place of bread, pasta or rice. For optimum cardiovascular health, aim to eat half a plate of non-starchy vegetables — asparagus, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans, lettuces, onions, peppers, tomatoes and zucchini — at lunch and dinner. Aim for at least five or six cups of raw leafy greens or three cups cooked or raw vegetables every day, and remember: There’s no maximum on these non-starchy vegetables. They pump you full of fiber and phytonutrients and are low in calories.
When taking a blood thinner such as warfarin, it’s important to maintain a healthy intake of vegetables — no more “I’m on a blood thinner so I can’t eat veggies.” Instead, be consistent with Vitamin K content from day to day and you’ll have no problems and be healthier.
2. I eat wheat bread so I’m getting whole grains.
Unfortunately, “wheat bread” — along with its cousins “enriched” and “multigrain” — is typically made from white flour. These are all stripped of key whole grain components like fiber and B vitamins. For higher quality carbohydrates, try minimally processed whole grains like quinoa, millet, amaranth, barley and buckwheat. Yes, there are some great alternatives to constant whole wheat and brown rice — variety is the spice of life!
If you’re still craving processed products like breads or crackers, choose ones labeled as “100 percent whole grain” or with the whole grain postage stamp from the Whole Grain Council.
3. I need to get my money’s worth.
Your mother’s dinnertime motto echoes in the back of your head: “Clean your plate.” Or maybe you’ve eaten so much at a buffet that your button pops open. Instead, try following this Japanese teaching: “Eight parts of a full stomach sustain the man; the other two sustain the doctor.”
Use a side plate at a buffet to help manage portions and still feel satisfied. Avoid supersizing — it’s not saving you money in the long run. Last, when you’re overly full, how do you feel — sick, lethargic? Be mindful of these feelings and you’ll be less tempted to overeat the next time.
4. I have to add salt to my food.
Are you in the habit of salting every meal before even tasting it? Even chefs taste food first before judging how much salt to add. You should too. Once you reduce the amount of salt added to foods, your cardiovascular system thank you and your taste buds will adapt — in fact, they’ll learn to welcome the nuanced flavors of fresh foods.
What can you use as substitutes? Herbs and spices of course — numerous salt-free blends and marinades are available. For something less conventional, give the yellow and green flakes of nutritional yeast and kelp granules, respectively, a try.
Take the next step:
- Get more information about following the rainbow to healthy eating.
- Discover five tips for heart-healthy eating.
Nora White, MPH, is a recent Master of Public Health graduate from the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She is currently doing a on-month rotation in Cardiovascular Nutrition at Domino’s Farms during her dietetic internship through the University of Michigan. Once she becomes a registered dietitian, she aspires to work in the field of chronic disease reversal.
The University of Michigan Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center is a top ranked heart and heart surgery program among Michigan hospitals. To learn more, visit our website at umcvc.org.