Healthy foods may provide some protection against cancer, diabetes, heart disease and other chronic health conditions. That's why we encourage residents of LifeStream at North Phoenix to eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, lean meats and whole grains. Our garden homes also have fully equipped kitchens, making it easier to prepare your favorite meals with fresh ingredients from Arizona producers.
One thing that makes healthy eating so difficult is that some items are advertised as healthy when they have high levels of sugar and other ingredients that aren't necessarily good for you. The next time you shop for groceries or dine at your favorite restaurant, you may want to leave these foods off your list.
When it comes to nutrition, yogurt does have some good points. It's high in protein and contains beneficial bacteria that may support your immune system and improve your gut health. Some flavored yogurts, however, have a full day's worth of sugar in them, especially if they come with chocolate chips, granola or other toppings. To enjoy the health benefits of yogurt without the extra sugar, avoid flavored varieties and stick with plain.
Trail mix is packed with high-protein ingredients, but it's not always good for you, especially when you buy packaged varieties containing candies and other high-sugar ingredients. The good news is that you can increase your protein intake without increasing sugar consumption by creating trail mix at home. The National Foundation for Cancer Research recommends including at least one nut, a high-fiber ingredient, dried fruit, and a little dark chocolate in your homemade trail mix. With so many nuts and dried fruits available, you don't have to worry about getting sick of the same flavors — all you have to do is create a mix with different ingredients.
Eating more salads is an easy way to add vitamins and minerals to your diet, but if you're using bottled salad dressings, you may be canceling out some of the benefits of consuming more vegetables. Bottled dressings often contain high amounts of sodium, calories, saturated fats and added sugar. If you're cutting calories or watching your sugar intake, try making your own dressing at home. A vinaigrette made with olive oil, fresh garlic and vinegar adds flavor without adding a lot of sugar and saturated fat.
On a busy day, eating a protein bar is an easy way to satisfy your hunger when you don't have time for a full meal. These bars are certainly better than chips, cookies and other desserts, but processed protein bars may contain high levels of sugar and saturated fats from milk chocolate, high-fructose corn syrup and other unhealthy ingredients. For a healthier snack, make some homemade trail mix with almonds, unsweetened coconut and a little dark chocolate. You'll get the nutrients and crunch of a protein bar without the extra sugar and saturated fat.
If you normally start your day with a bowl of cold cereal, you may be surprised to learn that cereal isn't as healthy as manufacturers would like you to believe. Many varieties contain added sugar and refined grains, both of which may cause your blood sugar to spike, leading to afternoon sugar crashes that leave you feeling sluggish. If you just can't live without a bowl of grains in the morning, try muesli or another high-fiber option made with whole grains instead of refined ones.
Many seniors turn to salads to increase their vegetable intake, but just because a menu item has the word "salad" in its name doesn't mean it's good for you. Chef salads typically contain large amounts of meat and cheese, increasing your consumption of sodium and saturated fat. Processed meats often contain high levels of sodium nitrite, a preservative that can react with other substances in the body, increasing the risk of cancer. Many chef salads also contain croutons and other ingredients that add calories and fat. Instead of eating a chef salad, try a plain garden salad with lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and light dressing. To increase the protein content of your salad, add a small amount of slivered almonds or sunflower seeds.
Many seniors drink smoothies because they want to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their diets. Smoothies also take a lot less time to prepare than home-cooked meals, making them a popular choice for busy people who don't have much time to cook. What many people don't realize, however, is that some smoothies are loaded with sugar and fat. Smoothie shops may add honey, sweetened protein powders, nut butters and other ingredients to make their products taste better, increasing the calorie count of each item. If you want to enjoy a smoothie once in a while, make your own with spinach, frozen blueberries and a tablespoon of flaxseed to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C, potassium and iron.
Phoenix has plenty of things to do, from trips to the Desert Botanical Garden to tours of Heard Museum. To ensure you have enough energy to enjoy them all, focus on eating nutrient-dense foods with a limited amount of sugar and saturated fat. Consult your doctor if you have any questions about which foods are best for your diet.