Charlyn Fargo Ware: What Healthy Eating Means Now | Your Health


There’s a lot of chatter about what healthy eating really means. How do you put healthy eating into your everyday meals and snacks?

If you’re looking for a roadmap, turn to the new 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines (released in January). You can also look to organizations such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

And then there’s your mom’s tried-and-true wisdom. An apple a day may really have benefits, just like she said.

The message today may seem like a new approach, but the basic premise has remained: lots of whole foods and whole grains, plant-forward eating and more seafood than meat. The emphasis is on oil-based fats more than saturated, and a balanced diet is low in processed foods and added sugars. No foods should be eliminated, but all foods should be consumed in the right portions.

Every bite counts, and what we put into our mouths can keep us healthy (or not).

Here are a few of the other current thoughts on healthy eating:

» All foods can fit. The new Dietary Guidelines want us to “personalize” healthy eating to fit into all cultures, enjoying a variety of wholesome, nutritious foods that promote health.

» Plant-forward. That doesn’t mean you have to exclude meat, but it doesn’t have to be the center of the plate. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains take center stage, filling our plates with their disease-fighting benefits of antioxidants; fermented foods have anti-inflammatory powers.

» Whole foods, minimally processed. Turning fresh-picked tomatoes into a no-salt-added tomato sauce is an example of minimally processed. Frozen vegetables are minimally processed. Choose the freshest ingredients you can, and turn them into your own creations.

» Health-promoting foods. Foods that promote gut health (think probiotics in yogurt) or help prevent diseases such as heart disease (think oatmeal lowering cholesterol or salmon providing healthy omega-3 fatty acids) are foods you want to choose more often. We want to fill our plates with foods that reduce our risk of diabetes (less sugary drinks and sweets) and cancer (more antioxidants from broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower) and enhance our immune systems (foods high in vitamin A, vitamin C and protein).

» Flavors and global cuisine foods. The coronavirus pandemic has limited all of our physical travel, but we can still experience a new destination through its food. Trying a new cuisine offers a chance to explore. And exploring helps our mental state.

» Shared food. One of the things the pandemic took away from us was a chance to share experiences with friends around the table. When we can get back to those dinners with friends, slowing down and savoring the pleasure of sharing a meal, our health and well-being is restored, not only from the food but also from our sense of community.


Q: What’s the best diet after being diagnosed with breast cancer?

A: You may want to consider a diabetic risk reduction diet. In a study presented at the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in December 2020, women with stage 1 to stage 3 breast cancer who chose a diabetes diet improved their survival.

Called the diabetes risk reduction diet, it included a higher intake of foods such as nuts, coffee and whole fruits, and a lower intake of sugary drinks, trans fats and red meat.

Data from women with stage 1 to 3 breast cancer with a follow-up of 16 years found that those with higher adherence lowered their risk of all-cause death by 33 percent and 17 percent for diabetes-related death.

Black and Blue Salad

When I think of spring, I think of lighter, healthier food. Here’s a Black and Blue Salad to celebrate spring’s soon arrival. It’s from CookingLight.


» 2 (4-ounce) beef tenderloin steaks

» Cooking spray

» 4 cups romaine lettuce hearts, sliced

» ½ cup red onion, vertically sliced

» 2 plum tomatoes, quartered

» 6 tablespoons reduced-fat blue cheese dressing

» ½ to 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Heat a medium cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium high. Coat steaks with cooking spray. Add steaks to pan. Cook steaks 2-3 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. Remove steaks from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Cut each steak into thin slices.

Place 2 cups lettuce on each of 2 large plates. Sprinkle each salad with ¼ cup onion slices. Arrange 4 tomato quarters around edge of each salad. Place 1 sliced steak in center of each salad; drizzle dressing evenly over salads, and sprinkle with pepper.


Servings: 2 (2 cups salad, 3 ounces beef and 3 tablespoons dressing each)

Per serving: 242 calories; 26 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fat (3 grams saturated); 3 grams fiber; 6 grams sugars (0 added); 506 milligrams sodium

— Charlyn Fargo Ware is a registered dietitian with SIU School of Medicine in Springfield, Illinois. Contact her at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter: @NutritionRd, or click here for additional columns. The opinions expressed are her own.


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