Eating a healthy diet is more than counting calories. As has been recently pointed out, not all calories are created equal.
So it is important to eat the right kinds of calories, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recently laid out a way to consume a healthier diet by limiting three things; sugars, sodium, and saturated fats.
Food processors add sugar to products to make them taste better -- but that better taste can come with a price. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. government, consumers should get no more than 10% of their daily calories from added sugars.
In fact, Academy spokesperson Lisa Cimperman says you should choose food and beverages with no added sugars whenever possible. That requires reading food labels closely, along with the list of ingredients.
Cimperman says you should be on the lookout for the following ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, evaporated cane juice, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose, brown rice syrup, honey, agave, or maple syrup.
As an alternative to a sweetened beverage, drink more water, low-fat or fat-free milk, and 100% fruit or vegetable juice.
Sodium, or salt, is another ingredient food companies use to enhance flavor. It is in so much processed and restaurant food that it is easy to get too much – and too much can lead to high blood pressure.
The government's Dietary Guidelines recommend keeping daily sodium consumption to no more than 2,300 milligrams per day. That's why reading a food product's Nutrition Facts label is important. It not only tells you how much sodium is in each serving, but also what percentage of your daily total it makes up.
When shopping, Cimperman suggests looking for products, either canned or frozen, that contain no salt. Then, season them to taste using other non-sodium-based ingredients. You can still get a flavorful taste using citrus, herbs, and spices.
One of the best ways to cut down on sodium is to cook meals from scratch at home, limiting restaurant and take-out meals, which tend to be heavy on sodium use.
There are different kinds of fats, some of which are actually healthy. They tend to occur naturally in nuts, and can also be found in most fish. However, the Dietary Guidelines suggest limiting saturated fat to less than 10% of your daily calorie intake.
You'll find saturated fats mostly in meat, whole milk, cream, butter, and cheese. You can cut down on saturated fat consumption by switching to skim or low-fat milk, looking for low-fat cheese, cooking with oils instead of butter, and selecting lean cuts of meat.