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If you establish resolutions for the new year, I encourage you to resolve to adopt healthy eating habits that align with your food preferences, lifestyle and health concerns. I firmly believe there is no single meal pattern that is “right” for everyone. Healthy eating patterns can vary greatly. With the variety of ethnic food choices available, you have more options than ever when planning healthy meals and snacks.

How do you personalize eating plans while still eating healthfully? Begin with the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The guidelines - plus the recommended number of servings of foods for individuals in varying age groups - can be accessed at the United Stated Department of Agriculture web site: www.choosemyplate.gov.

In addition, I recommend you consider adopting as many principles of an anti-inflammatory diet as possible. Chronic inflammation has been shown to be the cause of many types of cancer as well as heart disease. In addition, there is strong evidence that inflammation may be involved in Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and some forms of depression. To reduce the chance of chronic inflammation, strive to obtain most of your calories from plant foods including vegetables, fruits, intact grains, beans, Asian mushrooms, soy, nuts, seeds and plant oils. With these foods forming the base of your dietary intake, you can add fatty wild caught fish (e.g. salmon, rainbow trout and sardines), and small amounts of lean animal proteins. High quality natural cheeses, eggs and dark chocolate can be included in small doses if you like. Dr. Andrew Weil (www.drweil.com) provides an excellent visual of this way of eating.

Including ethnic foods such as Indian, Asian, and Italian can be a delicious way to add variety to your anti-inflammatory meal pattern. Exciting studies have demonstrated the anti-inflammatory properties of specific herbs and spices including:

  • Turmeric: used extensively in Indian cuisine
  • Ginger: a frequent ingredient in Asian dishes
  • Hot peppers: common in Indian, Mexican and many Asian recipes
  • Basil, oregano and rosemary: herbs that enhance Italian dishes
  • Garlic, a flavor component of various cuisines
  • Cinnamon: some studies have shown that just one-quarter teaspoon of ground cinnamon each day may help reduce insulin resistance

Use these seasonings to enhance the flavors of your foods. In addition to reaping the anti-inflammatory benefit, you should be able to reduce the amount of salt you add to recipes or sprinkle on at the table.

People often judge themselves as being “good” or “bad” depending on what they ate at one meal. I maintain that except for food safety and personal preferences, there are no good or bad foods. There is a plethora of foods that you should enjoy frequently, some that you should enjoy less often and a few that can be enjoyed, but not eaten habitually. Americans should shun the good-food-versus-bad-food advice frequently espoused by special interest groups and instead focus on following the guidelines of MyPlate and the anti-inflammatory diet. The benefits of adopting a healthy eating plan are many including reducing the risk of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and dementia. So, choose to Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day.

Nancy Teeter, a SaddleBrooke resident, is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and health coach.