The feel-good diet

Want to add zest to your days and years to your life? We'll show you how

Not long ago, I swore off my usual staples of whole grains and fresh fruit and tucked into platefuls of fried eggs, bacon and steak. The high-protein, low-carb diet seemed like bliss at first. But within days, I looked pasty and felt sluggish. Today, I know there’s no need for restrictive diets when I can lengthen my life and shed pounds with a variety of nourishing foods. Besides, eating whole grains, fruit, beans and fish makes me feel terrific. “A healthy diet also reduces your odds of developing disease and dying early. It’s as clear as that,” says Katherine Gray-Donald, director of the School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition at McGill University in Montreal.

If you’re a low-fat fanatic or a no-carb crusader like I was, though, you could be missing out on vitamins, minerals and essential fatty acids. So, fight those food phobias with these expert-recommended strategies. Just click on the type of eater that most describes you and get great tips on how to add the nutrition you’re missing to your diet. Then, read on to discover what’s really in a serving and how to understand the new nutrition labels.

Produce protester

You think cherry-flavoured gum counts as a fruit. But the World Health Organization recently noted that diets low in real fruit and vegetables are responsible for about 31 per cent of heart disease cases and 19 per cent of gastrointestinal cancers worldwide. Produce gives you the 25 to 35 grams of fibre you need each day, too.

What you need Eight to 10 servings a day of fruit and vegetables

Eat this!
· Fruit after every meal
· V8 or carrot juice daily
· Raw broccoli, carrots and cherry tomatoes, deskside
· Pizza with peppers, mushrooms and spinach
· Frozen vegetables added to stir-fries and pastas

Bar none A cup (250 mL) of raspberries has eight times more fibre (6 g) and 16 times more vitamin C (32 mg) than an apple-raspberry fruit bar.

Think pink Pink grapefruit offers 27 times more vitamin A than white grapefruit.

No-carb crusader

You’ve sworn off bread, pasta and rice even though studies show that eating whole grain foods regularly limits food cravings. Whole grains can also lower your risk of heart disease and breast cancer.

What you need Five to seven servings a day of carbs

Eat this!
· Half a whole grain bagel
· Breakfast cereal with at least four grams of fibre per serving
· Whole grain crackers, such as Wasa or Ryvita, with at least two grams of fibre and less than three grams of fat per 35 grams
· Savoury brown rice or whole wheat pasta salads
· Homemade mini pizza on a whole wheat pita

Snack smart Say no to foods with hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil or shortening listed in the ingredients. Over the years, even one gram of trans fat a day can boost heart disease risk by about 20 per cent.

Top pops Popcorn is considered a whole grain. Choose a brand that contains no trans fat, such as Orville Redenbacher’s Smart Pop.

Low-fat fanatic

You count every gram of fat that passes your lips even though monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats help lower bad cholesterol levels, and may also guard against aging and skin and breast cancers.

What you need Three servings a day of heart-healthy fats such as olive, canola and flaxseed oils

Eat this!
· Soft tub margarine made with canola oil and no hydrogenated fat
· Trail mix with walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and dried fruit
· Black olives tossed in salads and pasta
· Popcorn topped with flaxseed oil instead of butter
· Vegetables stir-fried with pasta splashed with canola or olive oil

Like a virgin Light olive oil doesn’t contain less fat—it’s just lighter in colour and flavour. Drizzle greens with extra-virgin olive oil, which has more flavour and heart-protecting monounsaturated fats, instead.

For goodness, bake Use store-bought ground flax meal in place of half the oil or margarine when baking muffins, pancakes or bread. 25 grams of flax meal serves up just 130 calories and 12 grams of mostly unsaturated fat.

No-dairy diva

You prefer pop and juice over milk even though research shows that getting enough calcium helps reduce body fat and protects against heart disease and osteoporosis.

What you need Three to four servings daily of low-fat dairy or calcium-fortified products. (More than half of Canadian women eat fewer than two.)

Eat this!
· A breakfast smoothie with skim milk or yogurt, banana and frozen berries
· A glass of calcium-fortified orange juice with one meal a day
· Skim milk or calcium-fortified silken tofu instead of water in soups and stews
· Slices of low-fat cheddar or partly skimmed mozzarella on whole grain crackers
· A low-fat yogurt or chocolate pudding cup for dessert

Bone up Cream cheese isn’t the best calcium source. You’d need to eat 370 grams—or 25 tablespoons—containing 125 grams of fat, to get the calcium found in 45 grams of Edam or cheddar.

Say cheese Parmesan adds flavour and calcium to pasta dishes. Two tablespoons (30 mL) equals half a serving of calcium with only 58 calories and four grams of fat.

Finicky fish eater

Unless it’s battered and served with fries, you never eat fish. Yet, omega-3 fatty acids in high-fat fish curb your appetite and your risk of heart and Alzheimer’s diseases.

What you need Two servings a week

Eat this!
· Salmon or tuna-salad sandwich
· Savoury anchovies or sardines on whole grain crackers
· Broiled or grilled salmon made from a box of frozen unbreaded fillets
· Niçoise salad with canned albacore tuna
· Smoked salmon tossed in whole wheat pasta and tomato sauce

Batter up Breaded frozen fish from the supermarket is usually pre-fried and high in unhealthy fats. Try dipping fresh or frozen fillets in egg whites and cornmeal for a light and healthy coating.

Cut calories Canned sockeye salmon is swimming with as many omega-3s as rainbow trout, but it’s lower in calories. Try our Effortless Salmon Fettuccine with canned salmon, for example—it’s ready in just 15 minutes.

Meat-free mama

You rarely make room for meat on your plate even though protein-rich foods build muscle. They also contain iron and zinc, minerals that prevent fatigue and fight infections. Many women lack these nutrients.

What you need Two to three servings a day of lean meats and alternatives. (Half of Canadian women don’t get enough.)

Eat this!
· Egg salad, lean ham or sliced turkey breast in a sandwich, wrap or six-inch sub with whole grain bread and mustard instead of mayonnaise
· A scoop of cottage cheese, a large hard-boiled egg or sliced cooked chicken breast on a spinach-and-red pepper salad
· Lean Cuisine frozen entrées with protein and fewer than 10 grams of fat
· A lean beef, chicken or tofu stir-fry with vegetables
· A vegetable, salsa and cheese omelette for a quick protein-rich dinner

Thigh high Skinless chicken legs and thighs have more calories and saturated and total fat than pork tenderloin and certain cuts of lean beef.

Here’s the beef This red meat delivers iron and zinc, and a 3-ounce (85-g) serving of sirloin has just 158 calories and two grams of saturated fat. Our Acton’s Shanghai Noodles recipe with strips of cooked roast beef, for instance, serves up 8.9 grams of protein with just 4.1 grams of fat and 250 calories per serving.

Nut naysayer

You’re too worried about gaining weight to enjoy nuts, even though regularly munching a handful may help prevent heart attacks and keep your appetite in check.

What you need One ounce (28 g) most days

Eat this!
· Peanut butter on whole wheat toast
· Pecans in salads, cereal or yogurt
· Toasted slivered almonds or cashews with green beans or in stir-fries
· Trail mix with almonds, dried fruit and seeds
· Almond butter spread on a bran muffin

Stay regular Skip reduced-fat peanut butters—added sugars make their calorie count equal to regular varieties.

Go nuts Peanuts don’t necessarily pack on pounds, according to a small Purdue University study. Researchers speculate that peanut fats are poorly absorbed by the body.

Anti-bean queen

You think beans are a pain to prepare even though meeting your quota of canned and dried beans helps fight heart disease, diabetes and breast and colon cancers.

What you need Three to five servings a week

Eat this!
· A three-bean salad or tossed salad with chickpeas
· Hearty vegetarian chili
· An Indian chickpea roti or Taco Bell’s Bean Burrito (hold the sour cream)
· Whole grain pita dipped into hummus or black-bean salsa
· Hamburger patties with white and navy beans

Mixed in Discover the dark side. The darker the bean, the higher the antioxidant level, researchers at Michigan State University have concluded.

Grill a better burger Veggie burgers made with soybeans are a tasty and slimming way to get your beans. One Yves Good Veggie Burger contains 109 fewer calories and 12 fewer grams of fat than a regular beef burger.

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How to read the new nutrition labels

Most prepackaged foods now feature the Nutrition Facts table—mandatory by 2006—listing calories, fat and thirteen key ingredients. Here’s what you need to look for to make informed food choices:

For more information, scroll over the list of nutrients.

Nutrition Facts
Valeur nutritive

Per 125 mL (87 g) / par 125 mL (87 g)

% Daily Value
% valeur quotidien
Calories / Calories 80
Fat / Lipides 0.5 g 1 %
    Saturated / saturées 3 g
    + Trans / trans 0 g
0 %
Cholesterol / Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium / sodium 0 mg 0 %
Carbohydrate / Glucides 18 g 6 %
Fibre / Fibres 2 g 8 %

Sugars / Sucres 2 g  
Protein / Protéines 3 g
Vitamin A / Vitamine A 2 %
Vitamin C / Vitamine C 10 %
Calcium / Calcium 0 %
Iron / Fer 2 %