February 5, 2007

To help Americans eat, look at the world

In order for us, Americans, to eat better, let's take a look at the best food traditions in the world.

The magazine Cooking Light came up with 5 of the World's healthiest food habits.

Healthy Habit #1
Eat Plenty of Produce and Whole Grains

Countries known for putting it into practice: China and Greece
Research finds that three servings or more a day of produce can lower the risk of stroke, heart disease, and some cancers. Harvard University's Nurses Health Study, for example, which examined almost 85,000 women over 12 to 14 years, found that those who ate the most fruit and vegetables had a 20 percent lower risk for heart disease.

[Everyone knows that fruit -- not fruit drinks -- fills you up. But it's a rare restaurant that serves fruit for dessert.]

Healthy Habit #2
Savor Leisurely Dining
Countries known for putting it into practice: Italy, France, Spain, Greece, Japan
A meal in these countries often lasts several hours. In fact, one of Greece's dietary guidelines, its version of our usda dietary guidelines, is to "eat slowly, preferably at regular times of the day, and in a pleasant environment." Sharing a meal is so important that Greeks call someone a friend "by saying we have shared bread together."

[If only we had the time. It's probably rare for a family to eat a nice leisurely dinner together. So when we find the time at a restaurant, it's even more important that they serve us appropriate portions. See habit #3.]

Healthy Habit #3
Practice Portion Control

Countries known for putting it into practice: France, Japan
We have an abundance of delicious and nutritious food available in America; we just need to pay attention to portions. An average meal in France is 25 percent smaller than one in America, according to a 2003 University of Pennsylvania comparison, which examined portion sizes at 11 similar pairs of establishments, from pizza parlors to ethnic restaurants. The study also found that a typical carton of yogurt sold in Philadelphia was 82 percent larger than one offered in Paris, and a soft drink was 52 percent larger. In Japan, foods also come in smaller sizes and are often eaten out of bowls, rather than large plates or platters.

[Do I need to say more?]

Healthy Habit #4
Eat a Variety of Unprocessed, Fresh Foods
Countries known for putting it into practice: Italy, France, Greece, Japan, the United States
Shopping in countries such as France and Italy may also involve several stops—at the butcher, the greengrocer, and the baker—which not only increases the shopper's activity level, but also results in meals made with unprocessed ingredients. Studies show that fresh foods provide more fiber; fewer calories, saturated fats, and trans fats; and less added salt and sugar.

Healthy Habit #5
Spice Up Your Plate
Countries known for putting it into practice: India, China, Thailand, the United States
Herbs and spices add delicious, attractive, and healthful flair to your plate. In addition to being low in calories and virtually fat free, researchers are discovering that herbs, such as garlic, thyme, and rosemary, and spices, like cinnamon, cloves, and curcumin (also known as turmeric), may fight disease.

[I spice up my plate, because it makes appropriate portions more tasty and inviting.]

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