Healthy Eating Made Easy

Balance, variety and moderation are the keys to a healthful diet. There are many sources available for help in putting these three concepts into practice. For example, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 provide general information on choosing a healthful diet, and MyPyramid food guidance system puts these principles into practice by recommending individualized daily food choices. Still, many consumers feel overwhelmed when it comes to nutrition. What should they do?

"Most people don't have to completely overhaul their diet to make it healthy," says Kristine Clark, Ph.D.,R.D., director of sports nutrition at Pennsylvania State University in University Park. "Making only one or two changes is usually all it takes, depending on what your individual goals are -- and you don't have to sacrifice good taste for health either."

Creating healthy, tasty foods is easy once you know how to balance your diet by choosing foods from each of the food groups listed on MyPyramid. According to Clark, most people fall short in at least two or three groups, but these foods are too important to miss.

"Each group provides its own special nutrients. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of anti-oxidants, carotenoids, vitamins and minerals, grains are high in B vitamins and meats are rich in iron and zinc," says Clark.

Pump up your daily servings of vegetables by making small changes like topping turkey sandwiches with lettuce and tomato or adding shredded carrots or mushrooms to tomato sauce. Try choosing fruit over soda or candy as an afternoon snack. Another easy way to add more of these foods to your diet is to combine vegetables and even fruits with main-dish meals.

MyPyramid suggests eating two to three servings from the "meat group" each day. In addition, the Dietary Guidelines recommend selecting the lower-fat options from this group. It's easy to do when you consider turkey, which is lower in fat and calories than many other foods in this group. Turkey couscous is a perfect example of a main dish item which features all the food groups in one meal -- fruits, vegetables, grains, dairy and protein.

Variety is also important to good health. "I encourage people to look beyond what they typically buy and think about trying new things," says Clark. Only eating one type of food means you're missing out on a variety of nutrients as well as different tastes and textures. Be adventurous and try ground turkey instead of ground beef, turkey thighs instead of chicken or even turkey tenderloins in place of veal or steak.

Finally, select foods in moderation. Nutritionists cite overconsumption of fat, sodium and calories as our biggest problem. For a healthful diet, eat small portions and choose lower-fat foods whenever possible, especially in the protein group. Turkey is a good choice because it's leaner than most red meat and even chicken. In fact, a 3-ounce portion of roasted skinless turkey breast contains only 3 grams of fat and is naturally low in sodium, containing less than 25 milligrams per ounce.

Modifying recipes by substituting low-fat foods for higher-fat ones is the best way to skim the fat. Turn traditional meat lasagna into a more healthful entree by switching from ground beef to ground turkey breast and adding extra vegetables like eggplant, mushrooms and carrots. High in fiber and flavor, vegetable turkey lasagna is a nutritious meal that's quick, easy and convenient.

Remember, you don't have to sacrifice good taste for good health. The many turkey cuts and products available today can be incorporated into any meal, which means cooking delicious, convenient and healthy meals is easier than ever.