12. Spend some time in the condiment aisle. With the following basic ingredients you have the underpinnings for wonderful sauces, low-fat marinades, and low-salt flavorings. These delightful flavorings enable you to stay away from the less-healthy condiment items, such as mayonnaise, butter, stick margarine, creamy salad dressings, and so on: flavored ketchups and barbecue sauces (look for sugar-free varieties), horseradish, mustards, flavored vinegars, extra-virgin olive oil, jarred bruschetta and pesto sauces (luscious spooned atop salmon and baked), capers, jarred olives, sun-dried tomatoes, jarred spaghetti sauce, anchovies, roasted red peppers, Worcestershire sauce, chili sauce, hot pepper sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, walnut oil, teriyaki sauce, jarred salsas, and various kinds of marmalades.
13. Try some of the new whole grain alternatives. Today you can find wonderful whole grain pastas and couscous, instant brown rice that cooks up in 10 minutes instead of the old 50, even whole grain crackers. Hodgson Mills makes a delicious whole wheat pasta with flaxseeds. It really tastes great, and you can scarcely do any better when it comes to nutrition. While you’re at it, pick up a bag of whole wheat flour to replace the white stuff in your canister.
14. Choose prepared foods with short ingredient lists. We don’t expect you to cut out prepared foods entirely. Just remember: The shorter the ingredient list, the healthier the food usually is. Of course, if the ingredients are sugar and butter, put the item back on the shelf.
15. Reject foods and drinks made with corn syrup. Corn syrup is a calorie-dense, nutritionally empty sweetener perhaps even worse than refined sugar. A shocking number of foods and drinks are thick with it, including such apparently healthy foods as fruit juices, premade spaghetti sauces, and even bread. Some experts argue that corn syrup is one of the main causes of America’s obesity problem. If a food has corn syrup in its first four ingredients, then it lacks the wholesomeness and healthiness you want.
16. Look for fiber. You want at least 1 to 2 grams of fiber for every 100 calories you consume.
17. If partially hydrogenated oil, or trans fats are listed on the label, step away from the box and nobody will get hurt.
18. Pick up a jar of dried shiitake mushrooms. They may look weird, but toss them in some hot water for half an hour and you have a meaty, healthy addition to soups, stews, and sauces, not to mention a unique filling for tarts and omelets. Plus, they keep forever.
19. Whenever you find yourself reaching for a package of ground meat, switch over to the poultry section instead and pick up ground turkey, ground chicken, or soy crumbles. Works just as well as ground beef for meatballs, meat loaf, or chili. This little substitution can cut more than 30 percent of the calories and at least half of the fat and saturated fat in a three-ounce serving, says Blake. When it’s smothered in a zesty tomato sauce or flavored with seasonings, you’ll never be able to tell the difference. If you’re feeling a little gun-shy about abandoning the beef, use half turkey and half lean beef, or half soy crumbles and half beef.
20. Choose strong cheeses. Instead of American, cheddar, or Swiss, pick up feta, fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano, or a soft goat cheese. These strongly flavored cheeses will satisfy your yen for cheese without damaging your waistline, says Blake. Learn more about the health benefits of cheese.