Dietitians suggest easy ways to eat healthier

Pan-fried perch with lemon tartar sauce adds a tasty, nutritious meal to the dinner table.
William Archie/Detroit Free Press/MCT
Story by Susan M. Selasky
(Detroit Free Press)
Tue, Mar 15, 2011
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The U.S. Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services' 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provide a path to improving public health and reducing chronic disease.

They come "when the majority of adults and one in three children is overweight or obese, and this is a crisis that we can no longer ignore," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.

The main focus of the 2010 guidelines is on weight management through reducing calorie intake.

Here are some key recommendations:

Enjoy your food, but eat less of it.

Avoid oversized portions.

Eat more vegetables and fruits. Fill half of your plate with them.

Eat more whole grains. They should constitute at least half of all the grains you eat.

Switch to and increase your intake of fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk.

Increase the amount and varieties of seafood you eat as a substitute for meat and poultry.

Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread and frozen meals; opt for those with lower numbers.

Cut back on solid fats, using oils if possible.

Drink water instead of sugary drinks.

Balance calories with exercise.

* * *

Few Americans will read the government's entire dietary guidelines report, so here is some easy-to-follow advice from area registered dietitians on how you can achieve some of the key recommendations:


Consume no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day (about 1 teaspoon of salt). If you're 51 and older, African American or have hypertension (more than half the population), cut that to 1,500 milligrams (about 3/4 teaspoon).

Why? It's estimated Americans consume more than 3,400 milligrams a day (about 1 1/3 teaspoons), mainly from processed foods.

Dietitian: Aarti Batavia, Henry Ford Health System, says to get creative with herbs and spices as a way to reduce sodium and provide flavor and health benefits. "Herbs and spices are excellent antioxidants and work to neutralize attacks made by free radicals against the body," Batavia says.

Recipe: Baked Fingerling Potatoes. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut 1 pound of fingerling potatoes into rounds and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle with 3 cloves minced garlic, 1 teaspoon cumin powder, 1 teaspoon dried rosemary and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Toss to coat. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes; remove foil and roast potatoes for 20 to 30 minutes more or until crisp.


Americans should consume 2 1/2 cups of vegetables a day, raw or cooked. When planning meals, your plate should be half full of vegetables.

Dietitian: Susanne Consiglio, St. Clair Shores, Mich., says if you think you dislike certain vegetables, try them again. Eat veggies without salad dressing so you keep the sodium down. And keep bags of veggies already cut up, ready for snacking.

"If you're not used to eating them without dressing, try dipping them in hummus," Consiglio says.

For dinner, have fresh or frozen varieties on hand. But Consiglio recommends buying only what you can use within five days.

Recipe: Veggie Sandwich. Spread 2 tablespoons hummus or low-fat ricotta cheese on a whole-grain wrap. Sprinkle with Italian parsley flakes. Layer with thinly sliced cucumbers, red and yellow pepper strips, red onions, spinach or romaine leaves.


Americans eat enough total grains; unfortunately, we're mainly eating refined grains, not whole grains and, at 6.3 ounces a day, too much of them.

The recommendation is no more than 3 ounces of refined grains a day plus at least 3 ounces of whole grains.

Dietitian: Kathleen Poore, Ann Arbor VA Health System, says one way to get more whole grains is to simply include rolled oats.

"It's a pantry staple for many, and all by itself, it's a quick, easy and nutritious breakfast," Poore says. "Added to cookies, quick breads and other desserts, it can boost the nutritional value of almost anything — even meatloaf.”

Poore recommends rolled oats because they contain soluble fiber, which she says "is very good for helping to keep your cholesterol level healthy, and it's low in sodium, fat and calories.”

Recipe: Apple Crisp. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly butter an 8-inch- by- 8-inch baking dish. Place 4 cups peeled and sliced apples in the dish and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar; toss to coat. In a small bowl, mix together, 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, 1 cup old-fashioned oats, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon salt, 1/4 cup softened unsalted butter and 1/4 cup canola oil. Sprinkle oats mixture over the top of the apples. Make sure the apples are covered with the dry mixture so that they don't dry out. Bake for about 45 minutes, until the apples are tender and the topping browns.


Dietitian: Letitia Warren, Children's Hospital of Michigan, says an easy way to eat more fruits every day is to have them readily available and easy to grab.

"Many times I clean the fruits, such as grapes, apples, pears, berries or bananas, and have them in a bowl on the kitchen counter," Warren says. Have more perishable fruits cleaned and ready to grab out of the refrigerator.

Recipe: Grape Salad (given to Warren by Erin Helmick). Mix together 8 ounces softened low-fat cream cheese, 1 cup low-fat sour cream or nonfat yogurt, 1/2 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla. Mix in 1 1/2 pounds each of green and red grapes. Top with 1/2 cup toasted pecans and sprinkle, if desired, with brown sugar.


Replacing some meat and poultry with seafood is a top recommendation. Look for seafood high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, mackerel and tuna. It's estimated that Americans consume just 3 1/2 ounces of fish a week. Try to increase that to 8 ounces.

Dietitian: Bethany Thayer, national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, says omega-3 fatty acids are associated with reduced cardiac deaths among individuals with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease.

And if you are worried about seafood and mercury, Thayer says, there is evidence that the health benefits of eating a variety of seafood outweigh the risks.


Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 5 minutes / Total time: 20 minutes

The warm, sweet balsamic dressing tenderizes the peppery watercress to make a bed for the seared salmon.

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon confectioner's sugar
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 4 salmon fillets (5 to 6 ounces each, about 1-inch thick), skinned
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 cups trimmed watercress (about 8 ounces)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the vinegar and sugar; bring to a boil. Cook until the liquid is reduced to 1/4 cup (about 7 minutes).

Place the mixture in a large bowl and let it cool slightly.

While the vinegar mixture cooks, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat and coat it with nonstick cooking spray.

Sprinkle the fish with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Add the fish to the preheated skillet; cook 4 minutes on each side or until the fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Add a pinch of salt, the watercress and the pepper to the vinegar mixture; toss to coat.

Place about 1 1/2 cups of the watercress mixture on each of 4 plates; top each serving with 1 fillet.

From Cooking Light Magazine, August 2004 issue. Tested by Cooking Light.

297 calories (39 percent from fat), 13 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 3 grams carbohydrates, 41 grams protein, 263 mg sodium, 111 mg cholesterol, 0 grams fiber .


Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 35 minutes / Total time: 50 minutes

  • 4 fresh or frozen (thawed) halibut steaks (about 5 ounces each and 1-inch thick)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, divided
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
  • 1 cup finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup seeded and chopped tomato
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
  • 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

Rinse the fish and pat dry with paper towels. Season both sides of the halibut with salt and pepper. In a small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1 tablespoon of the parsley and the oregano. Rub both sides of the halibut with the parsley mixture; set aside.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the corn and cook about 4 minutes or until it just starts to brown, stirring occasionally. Stir in the bell peppers and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in the garlic, 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and the cayenne pepper. Cook and stir for 1 minute more. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

Preheat the broiler to high or preheat the grill.

Place the fish on the broiler pan and broil 4 inches from the heat for 8 to 12 minutes or until fish flakes easily, turning once halfway through broiling.

Meanwhile, for the relish, in a medium bowl combine the corn mixture, tomato, red onion, remaining 3 tablespoons parsley, white wine vinegar and remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Mix well. Serve each steak with 1/2 cup of the relish. Cover and chill any remaining relish.

Adapted from "The Sonoma Diet Cookbook" by Dr. Connie Guttersen (Meredith, $24.95).

282 calories (38 percent from fat), 12 grams fat (2 grams sat. fat), 13 grams carbohydrates, 32 grams protein, 283 mg sodium, 45 mg cholesterol, 2 grams fiber .

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