Basics for Healthy Eating, Healthy Meal Recipes

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It's great to learn some healthy meal recipes from others. It's even better if we can have some of our own that are tailored to our own taste and needs.

And that requires some basic information to develop your style of healthy cooking. The first step to create healthy recopies is to understand the food nutrients.

Understanding the Five Food Groups

We have the old and new USDA food pyramids on the previous page. Here we'll look into some details to help you have your own healthy meal recipes, though we also offer many on this site.

1. Grain Group

This grain stripe is relatively large on the food pyramid. It includes two subgroups:

  • Whole grains
  • Refined grains

Cereals, bread, rice, crackers, grits, tortillas, pasta, etc., are all grains.

Whole grains

They contain ALL parts of the grain kernel, including the bran, germ, and endosperm, which mean we have all the nutrients a grain contains. When you buy it, look for the word “whole” on the pack. Oatmeal and brown rice are whole grain examples.

Whole grains are important ingredients of healthy meal recipes.

Refined grains

They are the grains that have been processed or milled, which removes the germ and the bran, thus gives them a longer shelf life and finer texture, which we love. But this process removes some important nutrients, like iron, dietary fibers and B vitamins.

It's kind of ironic that so much money is spent to make the food worse for our health.

Degermed cornmeal and any flour, rice and bread with a word "white" on it are refined grains.

What's the big deal about losing the iron, dietary fibers and B vitamins in whole grains?

  • Iron's function is carrying oxygen around in your blood. It's especially important for girls and women who have menstrual cycles to stay healthy. Whole grains are one of the major sources of non-heme iron in American diets, which is also found in red meats.

  • Dietary fiber plays a good role in weight control (it gives you less calories) and digestive organ health. It reduces blood cholesterol levels, lowers the risk of coronary heart disease, constipation and diverticulosis. When it's removed, its health benefits are also gone.
  • B vitamins include thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and folate. They are essential for a healthy nervous system and play a key role in good metabolism.

    Folate (folic acid) also helps the body form red blood cells. If you are a pregnant woman, make sure you have the right amount of it to reduce the risks of neural, physical and other birth defects that would otherwise affect your baby negatively.

How About Enriched Grains?

Due to the health concerns, most refined grains are enriched, which means the iron and some B vitamins, such as folic acid, thiamin, niacin and riboflavin are put back after milling.

But not the dietary fiber, whose benefits were mentioned above. If you like refined grains, it's a good idea to eat the enriched version and find other ways to add dietary fiber to your diet.

Should a refined grain product be enriched, you'll see the word “enriched” on the package.

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