Making choices from the food groups
When shopping, aim for a wide variety of foods from all the major foods groups.
Breads, rice, and pasta
- Pasta is available in hundreds of forms. Although traditionally made from refined grain, wholemeal versions that boost fibre intake are your best choices.
- Brown rice is best as it has not had its nutritious bran coating removed.
- The healthiest breads are wholemeal, Granary, and fibre-enriched white.
- Leaves or greens should be crisp and free of wilting.
- Buy only what you can use within a few days, since long storage times diminish nutrient levels and flavour.
- Some frozen vegetables such as sweetcorn, peas, and spinach, which are processed quickly after picking, offer more nutrients than their fresh counterparts that have been on the greengrocer's shelves too long.
- Canned vegetables are a very useful standby: look for those packed without added salt or sugar.
- Choose fruits with a good colour and smooth skin, and avoid any that have blemishes or insect holes.
- Bear in mind that dried fruits are a concentrated source of dietary fibre, but higher in calories than fresh fruit.
- Compared to whole or full-fat milk at 3.9 per cent fat, skimmed milk contains 0.1-0.3 per cent fat and semi-skimmed milk 1.8 per cent fat
- Cheese is milk in concentrated form, so it has far more fat than milk, and the fat is highly saturated. So choose lower fat cheeses such as cottage cheese, fromage frais, and ricotta, or reduced-fat varieties of other cheeses.
- Full-fat yogurt contains three per cent fat, whereas low-fat yogurt has less than one per cent.
Available in many different sizes and types. Check use-by or best-before dates and always open the box to check for broken or cracked eggs.
- The leanest choice is white meat from the breast of chicken or turkey.
- Although skinless dark meat (legs and thighs) is also lean, it has almost twice the fat calories of breast.
Fish and shellfish
- If you are buying fillets or steaks, they should not have brown edges.
- Frozen fish should be completely frozen rather than partially thawed, should be odourless, and should show no discoloration.
- Look for meat that has a good healthy colour and that is fresh and moist.
- Check labels on minced meat for fat content and opt for the leanest. Or buy lean meat and mince it yourself in a food processor or mincer.
- When choosing meats from the deli counter, the best are turkey breast, lean ham, and roast beef. Processed meats such as salami, pastrami, and chorizo sausage are high in fat.
- On packaged meats, check the use-by or best-before date.
Look for dried beans, peas, and lentils of a bright colour and uniform size, clear of defects such as cracked seed coats, foreign matter, or pinholes made by insects. Buying in bulk is the cheapest option; however, to ensure freshness buy from a source with a rapid turnover. For convenience, you can use canned beans and lentils. Before using, drain and rinse them to reduce the salt content. This is also thought to minimize flatulence.
- Angel cake
- Ginger nuts
- Wafer biscuits
- Cereal bars
- Baked tortilla chips
- Plain popcorn
- Nuts (unsalted or dry-roasted)
- Frozen yogurt
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