Finding healthy and convenient foods

Three containers, each filled with a variety of colorful fruits, vegetables and legumes.

Balancing familial, career and social obligations while eating healthy may seem impossible, but a nutrition expert at Baylor College of Medicine shares the steps to incorporate healthy, convenient foods into your daily routine.

“First, you want to try to limit, not necessarily eliminate, processed or fast-food intake,” said Dr. Luis Rustveld, assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor. “Common culprits that are unhealthy when overconsumed include bacon, sausage, hot dogs and deli meats. These are high in calories, sodium, nitrites and sulfites It is possible to incorporate them into a healthy diet in moderation.”

Re-thinking healthy eating

Busy schedules do not always allow for the healthiest eating habits. Rustveld reminds patients to practice moderation when eating food that may not be the best for you. Instead, make sure your schedule includes time to plan what food you can bring from home or where you can pick up healthier foods during your hectic days. This may look like incorporating whole grains and lean proteins in meals or snacks you can prepare in advance or taking a few minutes to review restaurant menus to see which items fit into your eating habits.

“Improving eating habits with a busy schedule is not about being perfect; it’s about understanding your environment and making sure that you have healthy alternatives if your schedule doesn’t always go to plan,” Rustveld said. “Even with a refrigerator stocked with nutritious fruits and proteins, their nutritional benefits won’t truly count if you don’t deliberately allocate time to incorporate them into your daily meals.”

To eat and not to eat

When looking for food on the go, Rustveld says to make sure your meals or snacks have whole grains, like brown rice, oats, barley or quinoa and lean proteins, like beans, lentils, non-fried chicken and fish. Frozen vegetables also allow diets to include more vegetables while being able to be stored longer.

When looking at foods to limit, steer clear of sodas and juices, as these lead to easily consuming large amounts of sugar and calories, quickly. Refined grains, such as white-flour products, tend not to have a lot of fiber and should be limited. Packaged and fried foods with high amounts of trans fats, found in partially hydrogenated oils, raise the low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the “bad” cholesterol, levels and increase the chance of heart disease.

When do I need help with my eating habits?

Many people seek assistance with eating habits; however, before you reach out for assistance, Rustveld reminds people to be sure why they are reaching out in the first place.

“We are a medical institution, so our patients commonly seek out eating advice related to medical conditions, like heart disease, gastrointestinal issues, hypertension or even post-partum recovery. There are even dietitians who provide eating plans for athletes to improve athletic performance,” Rustveld said.  “When seeking assistance from an expert, it’s crucial to clarify your objectives and identify the solutions you can collaborate on to achieve them. This ensures not only the accomplishment of your goals but also the establishment of sustainable habits.”

By Aaron Nieto

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