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Unhealthy foods to toss from your kitchen

May 18, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
Beyond food safety, keeping a fridge stocked with nutritious food can be challenging. We know when a food looks or smells bad, it's time to toss, but there are other things in the larder to lose so that you and your family can make some health gains.

Paulette Lambert, nutrition director at the California Health & Longevity Institute, says that means slashing salt.

"That pinch of salt that you add when you cook isn't what we're talking about. The extra sodium is coming from all the processed food," said Lambert.

Restaurant food is drowning in it, and at home, you'll find sodium in salad dressing, pasta sauce, even deli meats, which often contain sodium nitrates-- a huge food felony.

"The nitrates cause an inflammatory reaction in the body just like the bad fats do and again that causes more heart disease, cancer, diabetes," said Lambert.

Lambert suggests eating foods with sodium nitrates only a few times a month. This can be a worry for those who are eating deli turkey, ham, and such on a daily basis.

Hormel Natural Choice brand is sodium-nitrate-free or ask the butcher for nitrate-free deli meats.

As always, check nutrition facts and consider your sodium intake.

"Think about a per meal basis. So we're thinking about 700 milligrams per meal and about 200 for a snack will get you to that 2,300 that we like you at," said Lambert.

Saturated fats is another inflammatory component, so say so long to sauces, dressing, full-fatted mayo. Instead go with "lite" or "light" versions or olive-oil-based products, which offer fat that is heart healthy.

If you want cheese, think of the drier ones.

"A lot of the drier Italian cheeses, such as Provolone, Mozzarella, Parmesan, you can use smaller amounts of those to food. We just need to make sure we're not globbing it in and using too much," said Lambert.

What's also overlooked is nondairy creamers and other foods containing trans fats especially products claiming they're trans fat-free, as there is a caveat.

The government allows a half gram of trans fat per serving for a product to be labeled trans fat-free.

Nondairy creamer, for example, fits this bill. Use more than the suggested serving size, and you could be downing more of this unhealthy fat than should.

If you see partially hydrogenated oil in the ingredient list, the product contains trans fat.

Better choices are: Fat-free half and half or rice, nut, or soymilk.

Packing your fridge with produce is a great way to gain water, fiber, plant chemicals, vitamins and minerals. But, veggies start losing their nutrients as soon as they are exposed to air. So to keep important B and C vitamins in your vegetables, use them within the first three to seven days of peeling.

Finally, remember three days for perishable proteins. And dishes such as pastas have a three-day fridge shelf life. You know the rule: When in doubt, throw it out.

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