Eat Smarter
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Eat Smarter

15 Easy changes to make in your family's diet right now

Four Starters

1. Enjoy soy

Eating soy -- fresh soybeans (edamame), nuts, soy milk or soy burgers, and perhaps the most famous form, tofu -- can reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, and breast and prostate cancers and may relieve the symptoms of menopause. The Food and Drug Administration now allows health-claim labels on foods that deliver at least 6.25 grams of soy protein per serving (based on the assumption that we need 25 grams each day).

Soyful scalloped potatoes Tofu and golden potatoes make this dish as tasty as the traditional version.

Prep time: 30 minutes plus standing Baking time: 55 to 60 minutes

  • 1 package (19 oz.) firm tofu
  • 4 teaspoons butter, divided
  • 1 medium (12 oz.) sweet onion, cut into very thin wedges
  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme
  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 1/3 cups chicken broth

Arrange tofu on 4 layers of paper towels; top with one layer of towels, a cookie sheet and 2 large cans. Let stand 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 400 degrees F. Melt 3 teaspoons butter in a 12-inch nonstick skillet. Add onion and thyme and cook, stirring, until golden.

Toss potatoes, salt and pepper in a bowl. Arrange half the slices in a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Crumble half the tofu over potatoes, then half the onion and cheese. Repeat. Add broth and dot with remaining butter. Cover dish; bake 40 minutes. Uncover and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Let stand 10 minutes. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 280 calories, 10.5 g total fat, 3.5 g saturated fat, 10 mg cholesterol, 546 mg sodium, 33 g carbohydrates, 17 g protein, 231 mg calcium, 3 g fiber

2. Eat more fish

Fish is the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, often in short supply in the American diet. Omega-3s help reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes and increase immune response. The American Heart Association guidelines now recommend eating fish twice a week.

Salmon and soba noodles Poaching salmon in an aromatic broth is a healthy way to prepare it.

Prep time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 10 minutes

Soba noodles

  • 8 ounces soba noodles
  • 2 bags (10 oz. each) fresh spinach
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil Pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
  • 4 (4 oz. each) skinless salmon fillets

Broth

  • 1 can (14 1/2 oz.) chicken broth
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 large clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 quarter-sized unpeeled ginger slices
  • 2 tablespoons sake
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/3 cup sliced green onions

Cook noodles according to package directions. During last 2 minutes of cooking, add spinach to same pot; cover and cook just until wilted. Drain and toss in a bowl with the sesame oil and salt. Spoon noodles and spinach into four bowls; keep warm.

Rub ginger and garlic over salmon. Make broth: Combine all ingredients in a deep 12-inch-wide skillet. Add fish and bring to a simmer. Cover and simmer 4 to 5 minutes; let stand 2 minutes. Transfer salmon to bowls. Remove star anise, garlic and ginger slices. Ladle hot broth into bowls. Sprinkle with green onions. Makes 4 servings.

Per serving: 535 calories, 19.5 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 84 mg cholesterol, 1,289 mg sodium, 51 g carbohydrates, 42 g protein, 190 mg calcium, 6 g fiber

3. Got calcium?

In combination with vitamins D and K, calcium helps build bone, but only until about the age of twenty-five; then the goal is to maintain the bone you've got. Dairy products are the best source of calcium, but if you don't get enough calcium from your diet, your body will leech what it needs from bone, which ultimately leads to thinning. Calcium is also crucial for normal blood pressure and heart health, so women should try to take in a minimum of 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily from foods or supplements.

White pizza with broccoli The nonfat dry milk in the crust and the cheesy topping gives each serving of this pizza about as much calcium as a six-ounce glass of nonfat milk.

Prep time: 40 minutes plus standing Baking time: 15 minutes

Dough

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F.)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup nonfat dry milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Topping

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large bunch broccoli (1 lb.), trimmed and cut into 1 inch florets
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons nonfat dry milk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil, patted dry
  • 1 cup shredded low-fat yogurt cheese or part-skim mozzarella cheese

Make dough: Sprinkle yeast over warm water in a cup; let stand 5 minutes, until yeast is bubbly. Add 3/4 cup water, oil and honey.

Pulse together flour, dry milk and salt in a food processor. With motor running, pour yeast mixture through feed tube; process until mixture forms a ball. Pulse dough 1 minute. Place dough in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough; divide in half. (Wrap one piece of dough in plastic. Refrigerate overnight or freeze up to 1 month for another pizza.)

Arrange oven rack on bottom shelf. Heat oven to 450 degrees F.

Make topping: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add broccoli; cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Stir in broth and garlic. Cover skillet; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until broccoli is tender, 5 minutes. Cool.

Sprinkle large cookie sheet with cornmeal. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 12-inch circle. Transfer to prepared sheet. Combine ricotta, dry milk and sun-dried tomatoes. Spread ricotta mixture evenly on top of dough, then sprinkle evenly with cheese. Arrange broccoli mixture on top. Bake pizza until crust is golden brown, 15 minutes. Makes 8 servings.

Per serving: 340 calories, 8.5 g total fat, 1.5 g saturated fat, 7 mg cholesterol, 432 mg sodium, 52 g carbohydrates, 13 g protein, 187 mg calcium, 3 g fiber

4. Go with the grains

Fiber is crucial for digestive health, but it also may help you eat less fat (people who eat lots of fiber generally weigh less than those who don't). Another bonus of whole grains is that they supply vitamins E and B6, and magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese and potassium -- vital nutrients often lacking in the average person's diet. Aim to eat at least six servings (20 to 35 grams) daily, with at least three whole grains, such as whole wheat, oatmeal, barley and brown rice, for the biggest fiber boost.

Barley Waldorf Salad To bring out barley's best nutty flavor, we toasted the grains just before tossing them with some crunchy apple, celery and grapes.

Prep time: 25 minutes plus cooling Cooking time: 27 to 35 minutes

  • 3/4 cup pearl barley
  • 3 3/4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 tablespoons light mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons plain low-fat yogurt
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon peel
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups green and red seedless grapes, cut in half
  • 1 Gala or Fuji apple, cored and diced
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
  • Grapes, for garnish

Heat a large skillet over medium heat 2 minutes. Add barley and toast, stirring occasionally, 4 to 5 minutes, or until barley is golden brown. Combine barley, water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a 3-quart saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer 27 to 35 minutes until tender. Drain. Cool 30 minutes.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon peel, juice, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt and sugar in a large bowl. Stir in the barley, grapes, apple and celery. Sprinkle salad with walnuts; garnish with grapes. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 210 calories, 6 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 2 mg cholesterol, 257 mg sodium, 35 g carbohydrates, 6 g protein, 50 mg calcium, 7 g fiber

Six Smart Solutions

5. Go vegetarian sometimes

Replacing a meat-based meal two or three times a week with one built on vegetables is not only economical but also healthy. Be sure to plan your menu to include lean nonmeat protein, such as eggs, beans or soy.

Roasted vegetable frittata Roasting the vegetables intensifies their flavor and can be done a day ahead.

Prep time: 35 minutes Baking time: 50 minutes

  • 1 tablespoon plus 11/2 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into quarters
  • 2 yellow bell peppers, cut into quarters
  • 4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 zucchini (1 lb.), cut into 3x1/2- inch-thick slices
  • 1 onion, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 8 large eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Arrange oven racks on lower and center third of oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees F. Line the bottoms of a broiler and a jelly-roll pan with foil. Brush pans with 1 teaspoon oil.

Arrange bell peppers and garlic on one pan and zucchini and onion on the other. Brush vegetables with 1 tablespoon oil. Roast zucchini and onion on lower rack and bell peppers and garlic on center rack 15 minutes. Remove zucchini and onion from oven. Transfer bell peppers to lower rack; roast 10 minutes more, until charred. Cool vegetables 5 minutes. Remove garlic from skins. Coarsely chop garlic and vegetables. Transfer to bowl. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon salt and parsley. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Brush a 9-inch nonstick cake pan with remaining oil. Whisk eggs, remaining salt and ground red pepper in a bowl. Stir in vegetables and Parmesan. Pour mixture into a cake pan.

Bake 50 minutes, until center is set. Cool in pan 5 minutes. Invert fritatta onto a large serving plate, then invert again. Makes 6 servings.

Per serving: 230 calories, 16.5 g total fat, 4 g saturated fat, 288 mg cholesterol, 480 mg sodium, 10 g carbohydrates, 12 g protein, 135 mg calcium, 2 g fiber

6. Eat breakfast and lose weight

Perhaps the best reason to eat this meal is that after an overnight fast, your body needs fuel to get moving. Otherwise, metabolism slows, which reduces how many calories you burn. Another side effect of missed breakfast is you'll be more apt to overeat at lunch. Studies have shown that children who skip breakfast have difficulty concentrating during the day. It's true for adults, too.

Banana oat muffins These tasty muffins freeze beautifully, so you can have a supply at the ready for the a.m. rush.

Prep time: 20 minutes Baking time: 20 to 22 minutes

  • 2 1/4 cups old-fashioned oats, divided
  • 3/4 cup rye or whole-wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger, divided
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 large ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line twelve 2 1/2-inch muffin-pan cups with cupcake/muffin liners.

Process 2 cups oats in a food processor until fine. Transfer oats to a bowl; stir in flour, 1/3 cup sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and 1/4 teaspoon ginger. Whisk together buttermilk, banana, eggs, 2 tablespoons oil and vanilla in bowl. Stir buttermilk mixture into flour mixture until blended.

Combine remaining oats, sugar, oil, cinnamon and ginger in a cup.

Spoon batter into muffin-pan cups. Sprinkle tops with oat mixture. Bake 20 to 22 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in center of a muffin comes out clean. (Can be made ahead. Wrap and freeze up to 1 month. Thaw at room temperature 2 hours.) Makes 12 muffins.

Per muffin: 160 calories, 4.5 g total fat, 1 g saturated fat, 36 mg cholesterol, 222 mg sodium, 25 g carbohydrates, 5 g protein, 62 mg calcium, 3 g fiber

7. Get your five-a-day

The science is loud and clear: Fruits and vegetables are nutritional gold mines, yet most Americans eat only about one quarter serving of produce a day. And half of us eat no fruits at all on some days. While supplements can supply vitamins, minerals and fiber, they can't supply other nutrients, like phytochemicals and antioxidants, in produce that help maintain health, improve immunity and reduce effects of aging. A "serving" is only about half a cup, so a five-a-day program is a doable goal.

8. Go nuts

A handful of peanuts, a few chopped walnuts, pecans -- there's good reason to enjoy them more often. Although nuts are a high-fat food, they are an excellent source of fiber, zinc snd iron, plus the antioxidants vitamin E and selenium. Some research shows that when people include nuts in their diet, total calorie intake does not increase, and appetite may actually decrease. There is no evidence to show that weight gain is associated with eating nuts as part of a healthy diet.

9. Have a snack

Research shows that when people snack, they are less likely to overeat at meals. A typical three-meals-a-day-no-snack pattern of eating can be unhealthy if you eat lunch at noon and must wait six to seven hours for dinner, as the body is better able to absorb and use the nutrients in foods when intervals between meals are shorter. Plan snacks as mini meals, with some protein, carbohydrates and just a bit of fat to carry you to your next meal.

10. Fill up on folate

Folate (a.k.a. folic acid, folacin) is a crucial nutrient in normal fetal development. Without adequate folate in the early stages of pregnancy, a woman has a greater risk of having a baby with neural tube defects, such as spina bifida. Folate is also associated with decreased risk of cervical cancer and heart disease. Researchers are so convinced that folate is vital to health that dietary recommendations have recently been doubled. Dark-green leafy vegetables and legumes are especially rich sources, as are most enriched grain products.

Final Five Winners

11. Eat like a child

Watch children at mealtimes and you'll see they eat when they're hungry and stop when they're not. As adults, we've become used to cleaning our plates and eating on a time schedule, all the while ignoring our inborn hunger clues. Listen to your body and be mindful about meals. An adult woman needs a minimum of 1,200 calories a day and a man needs at least 1,600 calories each day.

12. Get an oil change

To reduce your risk of heart disease, it's important to lower your blood level of cholesterol. You can do that by eating less saturated fats (such as butter and the fat on meat) and trans-fats (found in some margarine and commercially prepared foods containing partially hydrogenated oils). Switch to polyunsaturated vegetable oils, corn, safflower, sunflower and salad oils to help lower your total cholesterol level; monounsaturated olive, canola and peanut oils lower only the harmful kind of cholesterol, the LDLs, and have no effect on HDLs, the good cholesterol.

13. Count calories, not fat grams

A recent University of Vermont weight-control study divided a group into "fat counters" versus "calorie counters." The fat counters were told to restrict fat, but no limits were put on how many calories they could eat. The other group counted calories but were not restricted on fat grams. After six months, the calorie counters lost more than twice as much weight as the fat counters! One reason: Many low-fat foods have exactly the same number of calories as the regular ones. The fat counters were eating too many calories even though they were eating hardly any fat.

14. Drink water

Studies show that when you think you're hungry, often you're actually thirsty. Dehydration is a major cause of fatigue. So if you find yourself reaching for a little pick-me-up, drink a glass of water first. This is especially important in air-conditioned and heated buildings, where moisture is removed from the air, and your body. The average adult loses about 2 1/2 quarts of water a day. Drink up.--Jane Kirby, R.D.

15. Great snacks for 100 calories or less

10 Under 100

Got the munchies? You dont have to spend the afternoon trying to avoid a craving, just keep it in check with one of these choices
2 Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins 80 calories
10 Terra Blues Potato Chips, 40% fat reduced 90 calories
2 tablespoons hummus on 1 Wasa rye cracker 95 calories
2 tablespoons dry-roasted sunflower seeds 95 calories
10 dried apricots 100 calories
2 JJ Flats Flatbread (plain) 100 calories
2 regular Oreo cookies 100 calories
6 dried plums 100 calories
1/2 fresh cantaloupe 100 calories
1 Sara Lee Chocolate Dipped Original Cheesecake Bite 100 calories

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