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Healthy Meals = Healthy Families
Quick, simple tips from a mom

AS THE OUTPATIENT DIETITIAN at Northwest Hospital, Tricia Clement, RD, spends her days helping patients create healthy diets for their specific health conditions and circumstances. As a working mom, she also understands the challenges of trying to prepare healthful meals for her family after a busy day at work.

"We can rethink healthy eating and strike a balance between family favorites and convenience," she said. "Most people can improve their meals significantly by focusing on three specific areas."

  • Salt – Most people eat at least three times the recommended amount every day.
  • Fruit and vegetables – We all need to eat more.
  • Refined sugars and starches – Just say no to refined carbohydrates.

Seventy-five percent of the average daily intake of salt comes from prepared/pre-packaged foods, according to Clement, and it’s not what we shake onto our food from the salt shaker. When preparing your own entrees at home, you can cut your sodium intake dramatically by trying the following options for more flavor:
  • Herbs and spices – Especially fresh herbs, such as basil and cilantro. If these are too expensive due to seasonal availability, use dried herbs. Basil, oregano, Italian seasoning, dill, rosemary and thyme are versatile choices. Spices with robust and satisfying flavor include chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin and lowsodium lemon pepper.

  • Juices and sauces – Use lemon and lime juice/zest, flavored vinegars, hot sauces, Worcestershire or chili sauce. A little goes a long way and may help you cut down on sodium. Be careful with soy sauce or pickled condiments since they have a lot of sodium per serving.

Did you know you should be eating at least five to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day? Here’s how Clement recommends ramping up consumption.
  • Vegetable of the week – Challenge your family to eat something new. Have you ever tried jicama? Kohlrabi? How about that bright green broccoflower or purple potatoes? One website she recommends is http://fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month.

  • Salads – You can get several servings of vegetables just by adding a variety of them to a salad, like beans to really boost fiber and antioxidants. Cherry tomatoes, carrot or pepper strips are also great sources of fiber and vitamins. No time to make salad? Use a package of pre-washed salad greens or spinach with the veggies already added.

  • Soup – Make a healthy soup base with low sodium vegetable broth, a can of no salt tomatoes and chopped or frozen vegetables and beans, herbs and spices. Freeze the broth in portions, then reheat and add cooked chicken or leftover meat, grains, pasta or potatoes for an easy lunch or light dinner.

  • Fruits – Easy to add because they are naturally sweet and provide all kinds of vitamins and antioxidants. Add dried fruit to your morning oatmeal or blend some frozen berries into your yogurt smoothie.

Look for the words "whole grain" to get more nutritional value from foods such as bread, pasta, rice, crackers, chips and breakfast cereals.

"There are so many interesting grains to try, like wheat berries, barley, wild rice, millet and quinoa," said Clement. "All can be used in salads, soups or as a replacement for rice or a hot cereal for breakfast. I like to use whole grain or corn tortillas as wraps instead of sandwich bread. Or make your own whole wheat pita crisps or tortilla chips and serve them with hummus."

Patricia Clement is a certified diabetes educator and co-teaches the "Living Well with Diabetes" classes at Northwest Hospital. She received her degree in clinical dietetics from the University of Washington and is an active member of the Weight Management Practice Group of the American Diabetes Association. For information on diabetes education at Northwest Hospital, call (206)368- 1564. For the Outpatient Nutrition Clinic, call (206) 368-1919.

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