Kitchen Makeover Series Week Three: Get Fridge Fit
by David Grotto, RD, LDN
The refrigerator is the main artery of the kitchen. It should be free and clear of unhealthy stoppages. Here, we show you how to establish a fit flow.
If you’re going to drink your calories, you should at least earn nutritional benefits. Opting for 100 percent fruit juice is your best bet. Unfortunately, you miss out on fiber, which the juicing process removes, but it’s better than sipping empty calories. Keep juice intake to four ounces daily to avoid breaking the calorie bank.
Dodge Diet Drinks
Manufacturers came up with a solution for calorie-conscious consumers: Diet drinks. The majority of research to date suggests that beverages that contain artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, are safe to consume. But according to some studies, diet soda may not be a dieter’s best friend.
Researchers at University of Texas found that there was a 41 percent increase in the risk of being overweight with every diet soda consumed. Other studies associate a higher body mass index with diet soda consumption, especially in women. One theory suggests that drinking diet soda instigates sweet cravings. Because you’re “tricking” your body into thinking its getting real sugar when it actually isn’t, you may end up wanting additional sugary foods and beverages. More research is necessary, but it makes you wonder how effective diet beverages have been as a tool in fighting a rising obesity epidemic.
The nutritional perks of eggs are not in question—they’re a great source of protein and B-vitamins. What is in question is how you should eat your eggs.
Love runny yolks? You run the risk of being exposed to salmonella. Look for “pasteurized in shell” eggs at your local grocery store, and let go of the image of Rocky Balboa eating raw eggs. Not a good idea.
Concerned about cholesterol and weight gain? Many people only opt to eat the whites. However, to date, the research on the link between egg consumption raising human cholesterol is pretty weak. And with 70 calories in an average large egg, whole eggs can fit into your healthy diet. The yolk also packs protein and the B-vitamin choline, which boosts brain health. I’m a yolk fan!
Thinking of going organic or cage-free? You want the hens to eat a natural and nutritious diet. Yet there’s no science to support the notion that organic or cage-free eggs are safer or healthier than other eggs.
Take the Milky Way
Rich in calcium, protein, and vitamins A and D, milk, and its first cousin, yogurt, do a body good. The friendly bacteria in yogurt will also improve your digestive and immune health. Two potential stumbling blocks for both are fat and sugar. Full-fat milk and yogurt boasts 5 grams of saturated fat per serving. That’s nearly 24 percent of your daily value. All dairy products contain naturally-occurring sugars—that’s not the problem. The conflict is with added sugars in popular, flavored items. A six-ounce cup of yogurt can easily contain more than 27 grams of sugar.
Instead of reaching for the raspberry-flavored sugar bomb, add your own fresh fruits and spices to enhance the flavor. And you don’t have to go fat-free. Reduced-fat options may taste better, and the small amount of fat helps keep you sated. Another favorite pick are Greek-style yogurts. Due to a unique process where the yogurt is strained of water, which concentrates the solids, the end result yields more creaminess and protein compared to regular yogurt.
Be Sandwich Savvy
The two building blocks of a great “sammy” are cold cuts and cheese. Unfortunately, the downfalls of both are sodium and fat. Choose strong, flavored cheeses, such as sharp cheddar or cave-aged shredded Gruyere, where a little can go a long way. Reduced-fat varieties are also easy to find.
Deli meat is a healthy way to go, as long as you pick the right slice. Lean cuts of chicken, turkey, baked ham and roast beef are best. Cut down on salami, pepperoni and cured hams, which are super-high in salt. Low-calorie, trim beef jerky may appear to be a smart choice, but it’s a salt assault. Prepare homemade jerky instead using a small amount of lite soy sauce. Search for easy recipes online.
The verdict is in: The American Heart Association and the new dietary guidelines for Americans conclude that fish is a key component of a healthy diet, particularly the types high in omega-3 fats, such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, herring and arctic char. Studies show omega-3 fats help boost immune function, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, fight depression, and build lean muscle mass, independent of physical activity. Although fish is very healthy, people tend to prepare it in unhealthy ways (hello, deep dryers!).
Grilling, poaching, baking, broiling, microwaving and pan-frying are the best ways to cook fish. Canned and smoked varieties contain the highest amount of sodium. Go for frozen or fresh, and keep these tips in mind:
- Fish should smell like the sea but not “fishy.” If it’s funky, throw it back.
- The flesh of fresh fish should have a glossy appearance and be firm to the touch.
- When buying fresh fish whole, the eyes should look glossy and not sunken in.
- Cook it quickly—fresh fish has a short shelf-life in your fridge. If you can’t prepare it in a day or two, freeze it immediately.
Author David Grotto is a FitStudio advisory board member, registered dietitian and the founder and president of Nutrition Housecall. He is the author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life and 101 Optimal Life Foods. He served as a national spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association for more than six years.