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Foods with minimal nutritional value must be discretionary items in diet

By Sherri Halsell
Texas AgriLife Agent

Healthful eating habits should start early in life or as soon a possible. Adults’ and children’s diets should include fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low- and non-fat dairy products, beans, fish and lean meats.

Calorie-dense foods and beverages with minimal or no nutritional content must return to their role as occasional discretionary items in an otherwise balanced diet. And that’s not all. Sodium and cholesterol levels in children’s diets should be reduced and calcium levels should be increased.

Sodium (salt) is not just an issue for older adults. The entire family can benefit from a diet that is lower in sodium than current intake levels. Use the nutrition facts panel (on food labels) when shopping for food and select brands that are lower in sodium. Consider these heart tips on implementing these guidelines in daily diets:

  • Reduce the amount of sugars in daily diets, including limiting amounts of drinks and juices sweetened with sugar.
  • When preparing foods, use vegetable oils (such as canola, corn, soybean or safflower) and soft margarine low in saturated fats and trans-fatty acids.
  • Use recommended portion sizes (check label recommendations).
  • Serve fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables at each meal, but go lightly on the added sauces, syrup and sugar.
  • Serve fish, even if it has to be introduced gradually.
  • When serving chicken or other poultry, remove the skin first.
  • Limit the amounts of high-calorie sauces, such as cream or cheese sauce.
  • Serve whole-grain breads and cereals – check the label to make sure “whole grain” is listed first on the ingredients label.
  • Occasionally serve beans and tofu entrees instead of meats.
  • Check for sodium, sugar and fiber content in canned soups and other prepared foods, cereals and breads.

And don’t forget healthful snacks. These foods can be a part of a nutritious diet. A healthful snack packed with calcium and potassium is a banana sandwich on whole wheat bread with a glass of milk. For more information call Sherri Halsell at (940) 538-5042 or by email at swhalsell@ag.tamu.edu.


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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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