Here are 5 things to ditch, and 5 healthy alternatives.
1. What to ditch…
Raw chicken and chicken parts like breasts, even “100% natural” and “antibiotic-free” ones, can be injected, or “enhanced,” with saltwater – lots of it – during processing.
You get just 50 to 70 milligrams of sodium in a 4-ounce serving of no-salt-added, skinless chicken breast. But that same serving plumped up with saltwater shoots sodium levels up to about 440 milligrams, nearly a third of the maximum daily intake of 1,500 milligrams recommended by the Pritikin Eating Plan and health organizations like the American Heart Association.
That’s right, one little chicken breast could eat up 30% of your sodium limit for the day, even before you start cooking.
Chicken with a well-read food label
When shopping for chicken, purchase white meat only (breasts), and always turn your packages around and inspect the Nutrition Facts label and Ingredient List.
If the Nutrition Facts label says that sodium content per serving (4 ounces raw) is 300 to 500 milligrams, you can bet the chicken’s been enhanced with saltwater and/or heavily salted chicken broth. Put it back. If the package’s Ingredient List has “sodium” or “salt” in it, put it back.
On the Nutrition Facts label, sodium content should not stray higher than 70 milligrams per 4-ounce serving. In the Ingredient List, the only ingredient listed should be chicken.
By reading the food labels, you’ll be taking good care of your blood pressure and your money. That’s because the saltwater not only adds salt, it adds water weight, which means you’re paying chicken prices for water. The Truthful Labeling Coalition, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of poultry producers that do not enhance their products, estimates that consumers are paying an average of $1.50 for added saltwater per package when they purchase enhanced chicken.
2. What to ditch…
Yogurt with “extras”
Yogurt is usually a great source of protein and calcium, not to mention a delicious and filling snack or dessert, but these days yogurt cups in supermarket aisles are stuffed with a lot more than yogurt. You’ll find sprinkles and cookies and sugary fruit preserves and super-calorie-dense granola and chocolate-covered balls called Choco Balls.
So what you’re eating isn’t really yogurt. It’s more like a candy bar with a little milk splashed on top.
And if you’re not careful, you’re also eating a lot of artery-damaging saturated fat. Watch out for words on the product like “indulgent” and “traditional.” More importantly, look at the food label. In the Ingredient List, you might see whole milk or whole milk plus cream. And the Nutrition Facts label might show 5 to 10 grams of saturated fat, and about 200 to 250 calories, for each 6-ounce serving.
Yogurt? Well, these “indulgent” yogurts are actually more like premium ice cream, which means they’re supremely good at coating your arteries with plaque.
Fat-free plain Greek yogurt
Creamy, thick, and delicious, the many fat-free (also called “0%”) plain Greek yogurts in supermarkets nowadays are an indulgence all on their own. Excellent brand choices include Athenos, Chobani, Dannon, Eros, Fage, Green Valley Organics, Liberte, Oikos, Siggi’s, Stonyfield Organic, and Voskos.
Each serving (5 to 6 ounces) is only about 80 calories, and saturated fat content is zero.
Want a little sweetness? Just swirl in a packet of sucralose or stevia.
Want mix-ins? There’s nothing tastier or better for you than fresh fruit like strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, kiwis, and bananas.
3. What to ditch…
A lot of us would love to have freshly-made batches of chicken, vegetable, or fish stock sitting in our fridges, just like the savory, made-from-scratch, no-salt-added stock we learned how to make in cooking school at the Pritikin Longevity Center.
But often, we just don’t have the time. In years past, that was a problem because store-bought stocks and broths were usually packed with sodium – 800 milligrams and more for a mere cup. Even today, so-called “low sodium” and “less sodium” varieties, like Swanson, can ratchet up 570 milligrams per cup, which is more than a third the sodium most of us should be having for the entire day.
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Frozen Greek Yogurt
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The days of mega-amounts of sodium as your only choice for store-bought stocks are over. On supermarket shelves now are several brands that are not only genuinely low in sodium, they’re great tasting, like Kitchen Basics Unsalted Stocks – vegetable and chicken varieties. They have no added salt, but, like our Pritikin chefs’ homemade stocks, lots of veggies like carrots, onions, celery, and mushrooms, and herbs like thyme, rosemary, and bay.
Other brands with no-salt-added varieties include Imagine, Pacific Natural Foods, Shelton, Trader Joe’s, and even several store brands.
And hey, starting with these ready-made stocks, do a little jazzing up of your own. It takes just a few minutes. Pour a couple of quarts of your store-bought stock into a stockpot on the stove. Toss in any veggies you already have in the refrigerator, particularly celery, carrots, and onions but also non-cabbage-family varieties like asparagus, tomatoes, lettuce, and mushrooms, plus some minced garlic. Bring to a boil, then let your creation simmer for about 30 minutes. Strain, discard the veggies, and voila! It’s almost made-from-scratch, Pritikin-delish stock.
4. What to ditch…
Cereal and granola bars
Sure, they’re quick and easy. Just peel off the wrapper and you’ve got breakfast or a snack.
But this is “quick” with a hefty price. These bars, often small in size, tally up around 140 to 250 calories each, which means you’re swallowing about 50 to 80 calories per bite. Yep, in three bites they’re gone. Is just one going to fill you up? Keep you satisfied for the next three hours? Probably not.
And what you’ve swallowed usually has little in the way of whole grain goodness. It’s sugar (like Kashi’s Honey Bars) and chocolate (Fiber One’s Chocolate Chewy Bars) and often a dessert-style combination of sugar, fat, and hyperprocessed grain (Kellogg’s Special K Chocolate Caramel Protein Meal Bars).
Cooked whole-grain cereal
Instead of eating a candy bar (which is what these cereal and granola bars essentially are), take just three to four minutes and microwave a nice steaming bowl of cooked whole-grain cereal like oats, buckwheat, or barley, no sugar added. There are many superb brands on the market, including Arrowhead Mills, Bob’s Red Mill, Country Choice, Erewhon, McCann’s, Mother’s, Nature’s Path, Old Wessex Ltd., Pocono, Quaker Old Fashioned, Scottish Porridge Oats, Stone Buhr, Wheatena, and many store brands.
Then create your own sweet goodness on top – some fresh berries, a sliced banana – blended with soymilk or nonfat milk.
Rushing out the door? Stop off at Starbucks for their delicious combination of rolled and steel cut oatmeal. (If you’re watching your weight, don’t open the dried fruit, nut, or brown sugar packets.) Or try Starbuck’s new Hearty Blueberry Whole-Grain Oatmeal. Yum.
5. What to ditch…
Before you get upset with us, we do have a healthy, chocolaty alternative (just keep reading!). So ditch the batch that’s currently in the fridge. Chances are, each brownie contains about 240 calories and 10 grams of artery-sickening saturated fat. It’s the sat fat equivalent of downing a Big Mac.