Posted Mar 5, 2012

Spring is just around the corner, and with it comes a bounty of fresh vegetables and fruits ripe for the picking.

In today’s hyper-paced world, much of what busy people choose to eat is processed and packaged, rather than fresh.

But making a few changes, and “de-cluttering” the pantry may not only help people shed a few pounds, but can become an overall way of eating in general.

According to Dr. Jonathan Wright, co-author of “Eating Clean for Dummies,” said forming a plan to make changes is best.

“Remember, eating clean is not a diet,” said Wright. “It’s a lifestyle. It does not include a complicated regimen that restricts entire categories of food. With fewer chemicals to deal with, your body becomes better able to concentrate on keeping you healthy.”

Essentially, Wright’s eating clean plan calls for the following steps:

–Eat the foods made by nature, not by man.

–Plan to eat five or six meals and snacks throughout the day.

–Avoid processed foods (anything in a box with a label).

–Use healthy cooking methods.

–Eat before you become super-hungry.

–Stop eating when you’re satisfied, not stuffed.

–Don’t count calories, fat grams or points.

–Enjoy and appreciate its flavor.

Heather Winn, educator for Family and Consumer Sciences at the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service, agreed with much of the “Clean Eating for Dummies” information, and found it to be an “easy read.”

“The information I perused was accurate and followed the basic principles that OSU Extension educators teach using the USDA dietary guidelines and,” said Winn.

“I do encourage consumers to visit the Tahlequah Farmers’ Market and other local vendors for their purchases of fresh ‘whole’ foods, when possible.”

James Newman, clinical nutritionist at Tahlequah City Hospital, said the U.S. is facing an epidemic of chronic, degenerative diseases.

“Nearly all of the leading causes of death in the U.S. are lifestyle- and nutrition-related,” said Newman.

“It is estimated that every 30 seconds, another person will be diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic. Each day, another 3,000 Americans wil need to have a life-saving cardiac procedure. If so many of these problems are diet and lifestyle related, we have to ask ourselves: What’s on my plate?”

Newman said many of these diseases can not only be prevented or stopped, their symptoms can be reversed.

“The power to do so lies in our hands, in the choices we make about what to put on our plates. Sometimes, the most effective, most elegant solution is also the most simple. Eat your fruits and vegetables.”

Kathy Tibbits, Adair County resident and participant in the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, advocates eating fresh foods in place of their processed counterparts.

“Wild foods are really special to me,” said Tibbits. “Wild onions now, and at other times of year, persimmons, polk, mulberries, blackberries, etc.

“My dad used to say there is a health reason that foods grow when they do. In fall, there are hubbard squash and apples that keep a long time to give vitamins in winter, for example. This time of year, maybe all there is available is bark, but make a sassafras tonic and it give you vigor so you have energy to plant a garden. One of my most memorable meals is from this time of year: onion and garlic soup with cheese and homemade bread.”

Winn said families should make an effort to fill half their plates with fruits and vegetables.

“Be sure to include red, orange, dark green vegetables and fruits, as well as beans and peas,” said Winn. “Also, moderate evidence shows that adults who eat more whole grains, particularly those higher in dietary fiber, have a lower body weight compared to adults who eat fewer whole grains.”

According to Wright, 10 foods people looking to eat cleaner can incorporate into their diets include sweet potatoes, wild salmon, olive oil, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, avocados, leafy greens, curry powder, berries, and garlic and onions.

According to The Center for Science in the Public Interest, sweet potatoes are ranked as No. 1 in nutrition, and are packed with fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins, potassium, magnesium, zinc, carotenoids, iron and calcium.

Sweet potatoes have more than twice the recommended dietary allowance of vitamin A, more than 40 percent of the RDA of vitamin C, and four times the RDA for beta carotene; and each potato only contains about 130 calories.

Wild salmon contains high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, magnesium, protein and vitamin D. It’s also a good source of niacin, selenium and vitamins B12 and B6.

“Eating salmon also helps prevent heart disease and diseases caused by inflammation,” said Wright.

“Scientists have found that omega-3 fatty acids can help slow the degenerative effects of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. These fatty acids can also help lower the risk of depression and aggressive behavior.”

Winn said the 2010 USDA dietary guidelines recommend making seafood the primary protein at least twice a week.

Cruciferous vegetables include broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, Kohlrabi, cabbage, kale, and bok choy. According to Wright, many studies have found a link between eating these veggies and protecting the body from cancer.

Winn said switching to 1 percent milk and varying proteins are other ways of making healthy changes.

“Choosing fat-free or 1 percent milk and milk products provides the same nutrients with less solid fats and fewer calories,” said Winn. “If you don’t prefer to drink low-fat milk, at least consider cooking with it. Also a dinner plate should consist of one-quarter protein, which is a good way to reduce fat. Also choose preparation methods that are low in fat, such as baking, broiling, grilling and poaching.”

Newman said, at TCH, the staff encourages people to enjoy a whole food, plant-based diet.

“Clearly, the best bank for your nutritional and health buck is found in fresh produce,” said Newman.

“They are excellent for those individuals who are minding their financial bottom line and/or their waistlines.

“For many people, such dietary advice may be considered a significant change, and indeed, it is, but so is a four-vessel open-heart bypass surgery of a lifetime of diabetes.”

©2012 the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.)

Visit the Tahlequah Daily Press (Tahlequah, Okla.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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