The hectic pace of modern life often takes a toll on nutrition--as we fuel our fast-paced lifestyles with fast food and squeeze our meals into the corners of ever-tightening schedules. But the busier our lives become, the more crucial it is to provide our bodies with nourishing foods that will sustain the level of energy we need to keep us going. So, if delivery, carryout, fast food, snack foods or skipped meals have become a regular part of your routine, it's time to get back on track with good food and sound nutrition--and Simply Organic can help! Here are the basics of healthier eating--along with some tips and recipes to help make it easier and more enjoyable.
A healthy diet consists of a combination of grains or grain-based products, vegetables, fruits, dairy, protein and fat. Each of these areas offers daily opportunities for healthy choices.
Grains (barley, cornmeal, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, rice, rye, or wheat) or grain products (bread, crackers, tortillas, hot or cold breakfast cereals, pasta, or couscous) should be enjoyed regularly as part of a healthy food plan. Whenever possible, opt for whole grains or whole grain products rather than refined grain products, as whole grains contain the dietary fiber, iron and B vitamins that are lost when grain is milled and processed.
To make sure you're purchasing whole grain products, read the ingredients panel. If "whole oats," "whole rye," "whole wheat," "oatmeal" or other whole grain is listed first , you're purchasing a healthier product. Many breads, crackers, and grain products sound as though they're whole grain, but may or may not be--including "seven grain," "multi-grain," "100% wheat," or "cracked wheat." Also compare the percentages of fiber listed on the nutritional panel — a higher percentage offers a greater quantity of whole grain.
To boost your grain intake, add whole grains to your soups, combine grains and greens for salads, or prepare grain salads or pilafs as side dishes. If popcorn is popular in your household (it's a great treat that offers an excellent way to get more grain and fiber into your diet), enjoy it often--but healthfully. Instead of topping it with butter and salt (which add calories, fat and sodium), substitute Simply Organic seasoning packets.
The grains in your diet can provide a wealth of fiber and nutrition, as well as a great selection of flavors and textures. They're delicious on their own, or when combined with nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. But factor in the variety of taste sensations you can create with the addition of herbs and spices, and the possibilities for delicious, healthful meals are practically endless!
Virtually any Simply Organic herb or spice can be added to a grain dish. Try adding cumin, cayenne, chili powder, dried chiles and/or cilantro for a Southwestern flair. Basil, garlic, marjoram, rosemary, thyme, or bay leaf will bring a savory aroma and classic flavor to rice and other grain dishes. Sweet spices, such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and allspice, are key to many ethnic grain specialties, and you can also use them to create delicious grain-based desserts or grain-and-fruit combinations.
Remember to add herbs and spices to your grain or other recipes sparingly. Your goal is to enhance the flavor of your dish, not overpower it. On average, a dish that serves four to six people would call for 1/2 tsp. of spice, 1/2 tsp. of powdered herbs or 1 1/2 tsp. dried herbs. It's always better to be conservative at first and add more if necessary.
To save time, grains and rice can be easily prepared in a crockpot--by the time you get home from work, the mainstay of your evening meal will be ready to go! Grain recipes are easy to create on your own, but you may also want to try a special recipe, like one of our many grain-based recipes.
A variety of vegetables should be eaten every day--ideally as a mix of the five vegetable groups: dark green vegetables, such as broccoli, spinach, or Romaine lettuce; orange vegetables, such as squash or carrots; starchy vegetables, such as corn, green peas, or potatoes; dried beans and dried peas, such as black beans, lentils, kidney beans, soybeans and even tofu; and other vegetables, such as asparagus, beets, cabbage, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and zucchini. Dried beans and soyfoods are crossover foods--they can be considered either a vegetable or a protein.
While you may not be able to include selections from each of the five vegetable groups on a daily basis, you should have some from each group over the course of the week. Vegetables in juice form (100% vegetable juice preferable) also count.
Vegetable dishes, like grain dishes, can be taken to a whole new culinary level with the addition of herbs and spices. The same herbs listed in the grain section would make excellent additions to most vegetable dishes, along with other popular choices like caraway, chives, dill, fennel, ginger, oregano, parsley, and tarragon. Seasoning blends, such as Garlic 'n Herb Seasoning, Italian Seasoning or Vegetable Grilling Seasoning also add delicious flavor and aroma to vegetable recipes.
Fruit should be a part of your daily routine. For optimum health, enjoy a variety of fruits--apples, bananas, citrus fruits, grapes, melons, and berries. While canned, frozen, or cooked fruits provide health benefits, fresh raw fruits will deliver the greatest amount of vitamins and fiber. Fruit juice is also an option if it's 100% juice, but with most juices, you'll be missing out on some of the dietary fiber you'd be getting from raw fruits. When using canned fruits, your best choices are brands that are packed in 100% fruit juice or water, rather than syrup.
Dried fruits are also good choices, but because they tend to be higher in sugar (the natural sugars in the fruit are concentrated in the dehydrating process) you'll need to watch how many you consume. And dried fruits are often processed with sulfur dioxide or meta bisulfate to maintain color and extend shelf life. They may also be treated with preservatives or mold inhibitors, including methyl bromine, sorbic acid or potassium sorbate. When buying dried fruits, it's best to choose organic ones whenever possible.
To work more servings of fruit into your day, add fresh fruit to your breakfast cereal or yogurt (or use the yogurt as a fresh fruit dip), create a colorful fresh fruit kabob, add fruits such as apples, grapes, and berries to your green salads, or get out the blender and make a refreshing fruit drink like a refreshing smoothie. Fruits also make great desserts — a small dish of fresh raspberries, strawberries or sliced apples make a simple yet satisfying end to a meal. For a special dessert, try a fruit crumble any season!"
Sweet spices like allspice, anise, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg go particularly well with fruits.
Dairy foods include milk, hard cheese (such as cheddar or Swiss), soft cheese (such as ricotta or cottage cheese), cream cheese, yogurt, and dairy-based desserts, such as pudding, frozen yogurt, and ice cream. For better health, choose fat-free or low-fat varieties. While kids (or others in your family!) may love chocolate milk or some of the new strawberry or other flavored milks, you should try to avoid these or serve them only as an occasional treat, as they are usually high in sugar.
While we always recommend organic over commercially grown foods, choosing organic dairy products is especially beneficial. Commercial dairy operations routinely use antibiotics and growth hormones in their production. These substances can be passed through to the milk, and, ultimately, the butter, cheese, yogurt, and other dairy products that are manufactured from the milk source--as well as the consumer who eats them. Organic dairy products are a considerably healthier option, because organic regulations do not allow use of these substances, and any cow that requires antibiotics for treatment of disease or illness must be removed from the organic dairy herd.
Sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish or shellfish, eggs, dried beans or peas, nuts and seeds, nut and seed butters, and soy products including tofu, tempeh, or TVP (texturized vegetable protein). Cheese is another source of protein, although officially it's classified in the dairy category.
When selecting meat or poultry, choose lean or low-fat cuts and trim off visible fat before cooking. The fat found on meats is saturated fat, which can increase cholesterol and, in turn, increase the risk for heart disease. The body requires a small amount of fat to maintain good health, but the majority should not come from saturated fats. Instead, select proteins that provide monounsaturated fatty acids and polyunsaturated fatty acids, the types of fats found in nuts, seeds, and fish.
Simply Organic herbs and spices add a particularly delicious flair to proteins include:
- Beans - cumin, cayenne, chili, onion, parsley, pepper, sage, savory, and thyme
- Beef or pork - basil, bay, chili pepper, cilantro, cumin, garlic, marjoram, mustard, oregano, parsley, pepper, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon, and thyme
- Cheese - basil, caraway, celery seed, chervil, chili peppers, chives, coriander, cumin, dill, garlic, horseradish, lemon peel, marjoram, mint, mustard, nutmeg, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, and thyme
- Chicken, turkey, or other poultry - allspice, basil, bay, cinnamon, curry, dill, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, paprika, saffron, sage, savory, and tarragon
- Eggs - basil, chervil, chili peppers, chives, curry, dill, fennel, ginger, lemon peel, marjoram, oregano, paprika, parsley, pepper, sage, tarragon, and thyme
- Fish - basil, bay, chives, curry, dill, fennel, garlic, ginger, mustard, oregano, parsley, savory, and tarragon
- Lamb - basil, bay, cinnamon, coriander, cumin curry, dill, garlic, mint, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, and thyme
- Soyfoods - Any herbs or spices you would typically add to meats can be used with tofu or other soyfoods.
Also, Simply Organic offers a wide variety of seasoning blends that are great with the foods listed above, including Simply Organic Steak, Chop, Seafood, Vegetable and Poultry Grilling Seasons.
Dietary fats are classified as either solid fats (butter, margarine, shortening, fats from meat or poultry, or lard), or oils (from vegetables, nuts or seeds). While all fats and oils include saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, there are higher levels of saturated fats and trans fats in solid fats--the types that can increase total cholesterol, raise "bad" LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol, and lower "good" HDL (high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol.
Oils, on the other hand (like the proteins fish, nuts, and seeds) are higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. (The exceptions are coconut oil and palm kernel oil, which are high in saturated fats and should be minimized like solid fats.) Even though oils in general are a healthier option than solid fats, some types of oils are preferable to others. Many oils contain high levels of trans-fatty acids--natural fat molecules that are found in animal fats and that are also created in the oil hydrogenation process. Trans fats are as detrimental to the heart, arteries and overall health as saturated fats. Your healthiest choices are extra-virgin olive oil, expeller-pressed canola oil, flaxseed oil, hempseed oil, and walnut oil. Others--including corn oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, and vegetable oil--are not as healthy as olive oil and the others listed because of the amount of trans fat they contain. They are, however, still a better option than solid fats.
Other sources of fat in the diet include mayonnaise and most salad dressings. Because oils and fats are high in calories, they should be consumed in very small amounts. With about 120 calories per tablespoon, the dressing alone on a large chef salad or Cobb salad could account for well over half a day's total recommended calories!
Quick, healthy meals
Don't fall back on fast foods just because schedules in your household are jam-packed and leave little time for meal preparation. Many natural foods can be prepared quickly and easily. With convenient Simply Organic mixes, for example, you can serve up healthy, nutritious, organic meals in just minutes. Here are some of our snack and mealtime mixes to help you put delicious natural meals on the table in no time at all:
- Dip and Salad Dressing Mixes: French Onion Dip Mix, Italian Dressing Mix, Ranch Dip & Dressing Mix and Guacamole Mix.
- Gravy and Sauce Mixes: Brown Gravy, Roasted Turkey Gravy, Chicken-Flavored Gravy Mix and Mushroom Sauce Mix
- Chili Seasoning Mixes: Mild Chili, Spicy Chili, Veggie Chili Seasoning Mixes
- Southwest Seasonings: Fajita, Fish Taco, Southwest Taco Seasoning Mixes
- Pasta Sauce Mixes: Alfredo, Italian Roasted Spaghetti Sauce Mix Sweet Basil Pesto
Visit our recipe page for more great recipes.
- Instead of white rice, choose: brown rice or wild rice.
- Instead of white flour, choose: whole wheat flour. If you prefer a less hearty flour for your baked goods, mix equal amounts of unbleached white flour and whole wheat flour for lighter results.
- Instead of highly processed breakfast cereals, choose: muesli, granola, oatmeal, or hot or cold cereals made with whole grains.
- Instead of refined sugar, choose: honey, molasses, sorghum, maple syrup, barley malt, or rice syrup. Or, if you really prefer sugar, choose organic. Another idea for reducing your intake of sugar is to substitute cinnamon, cloves, allspice, ginger, anise, and fennel for some of the sugar in fruit-dessert recipes.
- Instead of pasta made from white flour, choose: whole wheat, soy, spinach, artichoke, sesame, rice, amaranth, quinoa, or corn pasta.
- Instead of peanut butter with sugar and preservatives, choose: natural peanut, almond, cashew, or sesame (tahini) butters
- Instead of processed cheese, cheese snacks and spreads, choose: organic nonfat or lowfat cheeses
- Instead of salt, choose: Strong, flavorful herbs and spices, such as black pepper, curry, cumin, basil, oregano, onion, and garlic, or salt-free seasoning blends.
- Instead of breadcrumbs, choose: ground, unsalted nuts and seeds.
- Instead of half-and-half or cream, choose: dried mushrooms that have been rehydrated and pureed.
Take your time!
One last tip for eating healthfully--find a restful place and take an appropriate amount of time for your meals. If you regularly eat on the run, in the car, or at your desk (while simultaneously taking phone calls), it's time to break those habits! Your body is not unlike an automobile. It needs fuel to keep it running--and when you fill the tank, the car should be turned off and in park. Do the same when you fuel. It will be better for your digestive system and your physical and mental well-being if you take a few minutes to sit, relax, de-stress, and enjoy the foods that will fuel your body. During the day, instead of hurried, stressful snacking, substitute a relaxing cup of tea.
With just a few changes to what--and how--you eat, you can be on your way to better physical health, increased mental energy and a more positive lifestyle.
We're committed to providing you with products that provide superior flavor, quality, purity, and nutrition--and that, whenever possible, are organic as well. In order to be labeled "organic," products must be grown and handled according to strict procedures that prohibit the use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers. Organic certification also means that the foods cannot be genetically modified or irradiated.
Simply Organic organically grown foods are great choices for a healthier diet --and for the well-being of those who grow our food, the nurturing of the world's farmland, and the protection of our air and water resources. Organic agriculture supports the sustainable preservation of a planet that, with proper care and attention, will continue to feed, nurture, and provide for all of us for generations to come.