Weight Loss Program, Part 7: Grocery Shopping & Modifying Recipes

Friday, October 27, 2006 - 10:05am

Read the following pages/chapters in your text, Dieting For Dummies this week: Chapters 14-16, pages 165-197, Chapter 24, pages 263-286


Even the best weight loss intentions can go awry if you don't have diet-friendly foods readily available in your home. Part seven of this weight loss program will teach you to make wise decisions in your grocery store aisles and how to stock a healthy kitchen. You'll learn about the most nutritious choices available on a product-by-product basis. You'll also gain a better understanding about how to modify your favorite high-calorie, high-fat recipes to make them more nutritious and less calorie laden.

Topic outline for Part Seven:

Healthy grocery shopping

Reaching a healthy weight begins with selecting the most nutritious foods at the supermarket. Take this aisle-by-aisle tour of your grocery store, and you'll get some hints on choosing the more healthy and diet-friendly foods available.

Produce - stock up on healthy items

You really can't go wrong with produce. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals, which are strongly linked with preventing chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. High-fiber foods can also keep you feeling full and satisfied longer than lower-fiber foods. So be sure to stock up on these healthy items. A helpful hint - most frozen and canned fruits and vegetables contain just as many (and often more) vitamins and minerals than their fresh counterparts. Watch for salt and sugar with canned products, however. Choose fruits packed in their own juice (rather than syrup) and canned vegetables with no or low-sodium content. The following list contains particularly nutrient packed super-foods:

  • Fruits:
    Oranges, grapefruit, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, mango, papaya, guava, kiwi, tangerines, apricots

  • Vegetables:
    Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard), green peppers, red peppers

Another general hint - the deeper the color, especially green, yellow and orange, the more nutritious.

Breads and grains - go for whole grain

  • When you buy bread, be sure the first ingredient listed is a whole grain, such as "whole wheat flour," oat, or millet. White flour has been stripped of many important nutrients and also has little fiber. Always choose a whole grain. Watch out for breads that say "wheat bread." This term is neither the same nor as nutritious as "100% whole wheat bread" or "whole wheat bread." This logic applies to muffins, tortillas, bagels, English muffins, pizza dough, and other flour-based products as well.

  • Although rye and pumpernickel bread are dark, they are not made with whole grain flour, and their fiber content is usually similar to white bread.
  • Some good guidelines when choosing a cereal:
    • at least 3 grams of fiber per serving
    • less than six grams of sugar per serving
    • three or less grams of fat per serving
    • Whole-wheat, bran and oat cereals are generally more nutritious than corn-based or rice cereals.

  • Brown rice has three times the fiber of white rice, is more nutritious, and might keep you feeling full longer.
  • Whole-wheat pasta is higher in fiber and more nutritious than regular pasta made with white flour or semolina.
  • Go easy on the fat-free (and regular) crackers, cookies, baked goods, and snacks. Just because they're fat-free doesn't mean they're nutritious or will keep you from gaining weight. These foods are fine to have in moderation or as a treat, but don't fool yourself into thinking you're purchasing health food. When you buy fat-free versions of foods, be sure they really do have fewer really calories as well. Sometimes you're just getting extra sugar and the same number of calories, even without the fat.

Dairy products - look for skim and low-fat

  • The dairy product section is one big exception to the "lower-fat does not necessarily equal lower calorie" rule. Skim and low-fat dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and sour cream contain less fat and significantly fewer calories than their high fat or whole milk based counterparts. So naturally, go for the low-fat or fat-free products in the dairy case. If you are used to whole milk or cream-based products, try weaning yourself down gradually. First try 2% milk or low-fat products. Once you get used to them, try 1% and even lower-fat selections. Finally, give skim and fat-free products a try. Since the fat in dairy products is saturated, reducing this type of fat helps your health, not just your weight.

High protein foods - meats, seafood, fish, eggs, nuts, legumes and beef

Beef - how to find the leaner cuts

The fat content of beef cuts can vary tremendously. Look for the white marbling and gristle. The more you see, the higher the fat content.

Some leaner cuts of beef are:

  • Flank
  • Round
  • Sirloin
  • Tenderloin

Of important note: meats labeled "select" are leaner than meats graded "choice."Look for "extra lean" ground beef instead of regular.

Which are the leaner cuts of pork?

Leaner cuts of pork include:

  • Canadian bacon
  • Tenderloin
  • pork chops
  • Pork roast

Watch out for spare ribs, bacon, salt pork, and sausage.

Chicken and turkey - avoid the skin and dark meat

The skin on chicken and turkey contains the greatest content of saturated fat. However, it's fine to cook turkey or chicken with the skin on and then remove it later

Darker cuts of poultry, such as the legs and thighs, have more fat. The breast is usually the leanest part.

Be careful when purchasing ground chicken or turkey, turkey dogs, turkey ham, turkey bacon, and turkey sausage. Many times, the manufacturer uses the fatty turkey or chicken parts to make these products. Therefore, they're often no lower in fat, saturated fat, or calories than ground beef or regular hot dogs, sausage, and bacon. Read your labels carefully and choose products made from lean poultry parts or those products with the lowest fat content.

Fish - very healthy eating option

Fish is another nutrition superstar fitting right in with healthy staples like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It's low in saturated fat and high in protein and many important minerals. Fish also contains compounds called omega 3 fatty acids. These have many important and wide-ranging health benefits, including reducing the risk for heart disease. Try to substitute fish for other meats at meals at least 3 times a week.

Seafood - low fat and good protein source

Seafood gained a bad reputation in years past due to its high cholesterol content. However, we now know that saturated fat, not cholesterol alone, is the real culprit when it comes to cholesterol build-up in the body. And seafood is naturally low in all types of fat, so it's a good source of protein to have at meals instead of higher fat meats.

Eggs - good for protein and fat-soluble vitamins

Recent studies show that eggs also aren't quite as bad we used to think as far as their effect on blood cholesterol level is concerned. Having up to 3 eggs each week (yolks and all) is acceptable (don't forget to include those used in baking!). Eggs are an excellent source of protein as well as fat-soluble vitamins.

Nuts - very healthy in small quantities

Nuts are another nutrition superstar, but not for the dieter. They're packed with protein and the good-for-you kinds of fats (monounsaturated), as well as a hard to get nutrient, vitamin E. Unfortunately, they are calorie packed as well. Consider that a cup of nuts is 800-900 calories, while a cup of popcorn or pretzels is only 50-80 calories, and a cup of raw vegetables is only 25 calories! Nuts are definitely a healthy addition to the diet, but keep your portions small!

Be careful when choosing peanut butter. Some reduced-fat varieties contain just as many calories per serving as the regular peanut butters. Sugar is often substituted when the fat is taken out. Go with the regular fat product if the calories are the same. Calories from healthy monounsaturated fats keep you feeling full more than the added sugar will. Peanut butter is also calorie-laden, so watch your portions.

Dried beans and peas - low-fat, high nutrition

Nature's perfect food. Dried beans and peas. Legumes. They're packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals, protein, complex carbohydrates, and phytochemicals. They're also low in fat. Stock up on these nutritious staples:

  • black beans
  • kidney beans
  • lentils
  • chickpeas
  • navy beans
  • lima beans
  • peas

Which fats and oils?

Butter and margarine - which ones are more healthy?

Probably one of the most confusing and most asked about areas in the grocery store is the butter and margarine section. While neither is a particularly healthy food, some choices are certainly better than others:

  • Choose spreads instead of sticks. They have less total fat and calories.
  • Watch out for the terms "hydrogenated" or "partially hydrogenated" oil on the ingredient list. These ingredients are “trans fats”, which can be just as bad for your heart as saturated fats. Look for "trans-fat free" margarines.
  • Choose the spread that is lowest in fat and is still tasty to you. If you abhor the fat-free margarines, use a reduced fat or regular fat spread, but in smaller quantities.
  • New spreads called "Take Control" and "Benecol" might actually help lower cholesterol levels. These spreads contain plant compounds that help prevent absorption of cholesterol-raising substances in foods.

Oils - go for olive and canola oil

All oils contain the same number of calories per serving. Therefore, when it comes to your weight, they're all created equal, and they all should be used in moderate portions. But, not all of them have the same health benefits. The best oils are low in saturated fat and high in monounsaturated fats such as olive oil and canola oil.

Grocery list for healthy shopping

Based on the rundown of your grocery aisles above, here is what a basic, healthy shopping list might look like (keep in mind that this is not an all-inclusive list - just a guideline of some very healthy foods to help keep the nutritious aspects of your diet in check):

  • Fruits -- oranges, grapefruit, honeydew melon, cantaloupe, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, mango, papaya, guava, kiwi, tangerines, apricots

  • Flavorings -- fresh or dried herbs, fresh or dried spices, flavored or herb vinegars, garlic
  • Dairy -- skim milk, low fat cheese, fat free yogurt, light cream cheese, fat free sour cream, soy milk, soy yogurt, soy cheese
  • Vegetables -- brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, tomatoes, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, spinach, kale, mustard greens, swiss chard, green peppers, red peppers
  • Canned and Frozen – Vegetables (look for low sodium in canned), Fruits (look for “packed in juice” in canned), tomato sauces
  • Grains -- whole wheat bread, whole wheat bagels, whole wheat flour, wheat or bran cereal, whole wheat pasta, brown rice
  • Proteins -- extra lean ground beef, pork tenderloin, Canadian bacon, chicken breasts, salmon steaks, trout (or any other fish), tuna packed in water, shrimp, eggs, peanut butter (go easy!), nuts (go easy!), black beans (any other bean too), kidney beans, garbanzo beans, black-eyed peas, reduced fat tofu
  • Oils and Fats -- Benecol margarine or light margarine spread, olive oil, canola oil
  • Beverages -- green or black tea (these have lots of good-for-you anti-oxidants!), water/seltzer water

Modifying recipes for healthy eating

Use the following table as a reference guide to help you make healthier substitutions for common ingredients in everyday recipes. These substitute ingredients are lower in fat and/or calories than the original ingredients. Therefore, trying these substitutions will greatly reduce the calories and/or fat per serving. Many substitutions sacrifice little in the way of flavor. However, you will need to experiment a bit to see how much your taste buds will sacrifice in the name of calorie reduction.

  • Instead of: 1 cup cream
    Substitute: 1 cup evaporated skim milk

  • Instead of: 1 cup butter, margarine or oil
    Substitute: ½ cup apple butter or ½ cup prune puree + 1-2 Tbsp. Butter, margarine or oil (See recipe for prune puree below)
  • Instead of: 1 egg
    Substitute: 2 egg whites or ¼ cup egg substitute
  • Instead of: Pastry dough
    Substitute: Graham cracker crumb crust or phyllo dough
  • Instead of: Butter, margarine or vegetable oil for sautéing
    Substitute: Cooking spray, chicken broth, or a small amount of olive oil
  • Instead of: Bacon
    Substitute: Lean turkey bacon
  • Instead of: Ground beef
    Substitute: Extra lean ground beef or ground turkey breast
  • Instead of: Sour cream
    Substitute: Fat free sour-cream
  • Instead of: 1 cup chocolate chips
    Substitute: ¼ - ½ cup mini chocolate chips
  • Instead of: 1 cup sugar
    Substitute: ¾ cup sugar (this works with most everything except yeast breads)
  • Instead of: 1 cup mayonnaise
    Substitute: 1 cup reduced-fat or fat-free mayonnaise
  • Instead of: 1 cup whole milk
    Substitute: 1 cup skim milk
  • Instead of: 1 cup cream cheese
    Substitute: ½ cup ricotta cheese pureed with ½ cup fat-free cream cheese
  • Instead of: Oil and vinegar dressing with 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar
    Substitute: 1 part olive oil + 1 part vinegar (preferably a flavored vinegar such as balsamic) + 1 part orange juice

Prune puree: Combine 1 1/3 cups (8 ounces) pitted prunes and six tablespoons hot water in processor or blender. Puree until smooth. Makes one cup. Many grocery stores now sell canned prune puree for baking. Check baby food aisles for prune puree also.

Next: Label Reading and Dining Out

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