How to choose healthy foods

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Did you know that the healthiest foods are also the most colorful, and that we should have at least five colors daily? And no, you can't get them from a package of M & M's. Dr. Pamela Peeke explains how to choose the healthiest foods.

How to choose healthy foods

Confused about how to maintain a healthy diet? Medicine and science make it as easy as one, two, three:

1. Quality

The best way to ensure that you are eating good quality foods is to look for whole foods that are different colors. Eat a minimum of five different colored foods each day. (Preferably seven, but five is the starting point.)

Foods that are a richer color have a deeper level of antioxidants, and these are vital to augment your fight against the effects of aging.

2. Quantity

You may be eating good quality food, but may be just eating too much of it! To control quantity, you must read food labels to understand portions and serving sizes. For example, oatmeal is a wonderful whole grain, but a serving size is just one half cup, uncooked. Add blueberries or other fruit to a serving, and you have a fabulous breakfast.

And speaking of breakfast, research shows that if you don't start your day with a wholesome breakfast, you won't be able to achieve --- or maintain --- optimal body composition for health and fitness.

3. Frequency

Your body works best when you eat every three to four hours. Too much time between meals or snacks causes your insulin levels to be too high, then too low, and then too high again. That sparks that horrible, almost insatiable appetite that causes us to eat too much of the wrong foods.

An ideal day would consist of:

  • Breakfast: Fruit and whole grains.
  • Snacks: yogurt, cottage cheese, maybe a small amount of granola for crunch. A wonderful blend of carbohydrates, high quality protein and fat.
  • Lunch or dinner: Lots of greens and vegetables -- remember your five colors -- and lean fish or poultry protein. Maybe a veggie burger on whole grain bread.


Eating healthy foods will help you feel better, improve your energy during the day, and help you maintain both good body composition and your ideal weight.

Transcript Hi, I’m Dr. Pam Peeke. I’m the author of Fit to Live. Hmm, confused about what to eat? Well I’m going to help you. I’m going to use cutting edge medicine and science to be able to point the way. Well, I’m going to make it simple. Three elements: quality, quantity, frequency. Follow with me.

The first one is quality. How do you know you’re eating quality food? Well the first thing is, here’s a tip: look for five colors in your eating. That means as you look at whole foods like this, look I can count, hmm, seven colors here. Be macho and go for the big seven. Five is the basic. Why? Because the richer the color, the deeper the level of antioxidants, and we love that because that helps augment aging. So when you look at a doughnut and an apple, come on, quality: what’s not to believe?

Quantity: now here’s where everyone gets an F minus.  I know you’re eating healthy foods, but you’re eating mountains of them. Quantity means looking at the serving size, the portion size. Grand majority of people are so confused about this that even if you’ve got quality down to a fine science, quantity falls apart. You have to read the label. Understand what a serving is. So as you’re looking at a serving of everything. For instance, oatmeal. This is a wonderful whole grain. But you have to have a half a cup uncooked, and then go for it. Add some blueberries. People are eating just plain too much food.

And the next thing you want to look at is frequency. Frequency means you eat every three to four hours. Most people leave years between meals. You don’t want to do that because that plays with your insulin levels. They go way too high, way too low. That sparks that horrible appetite to eat anything that’s not tacked down. So what you want to do is starting with a healthy breakfast in the morning, here’s a little factoid: if you don’t have a healthy breakfast every morning, research shows you will never be able to achieve optimal body composition and be the healthiest you can possibly be, nor maintain that. So it’s important to have that healthy breakfast. Orange juice, good old Florida citrus over here. You’ve got blueberries. You’ve got whole grains you can have. Good grief, fruit. And then as you go through the day, how about snacks? Every three to four hours means you have to fill in those blanks. You could use something as simple as yogurt or cottage cheese. Why? They have a wonderful blend of carbohydrate, high quality protein, and fat. Add a little granola for some crunch too. Lunchtime comes around and it can also look like dinner. That means lots of greens, wonderful vegetables, lots of colors too as well as lean protein. That means lean poultry, as well as fish, or even how about a veggie burger, a whole grain? All of this comes together to say, hmm, we have quality, quantity, frequency. If you put those together then what you have is healthy eating at the cutting edge.
meet theexpert
  • Dr. Pamela Peeke

    Dr. Pamela Peeke Fitness Expert and Author Dr. Pamela Peeke is author of best-selling books, "Fight Fat After Forty" and "Body-for-LIFE for Women." Dr. Peeke is Chief Medical Correspondent for Discovery Health TV and a member of Oprah Winfrey’s O Team of Medical Experts. more about this expert »

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