Food is any nutrient-rich material consumed by plants and animals for energy, sustenance and growth. Food is also used as medicine, and is often an important part of a religion’s rituals or culture. In modern times, science has greatly improved the production and processing of foods. The knowledge gained in this area is called Food Science. Writers who write about food can focus on food reviews, short and long journalism (from profiles to investigative pieces), cookbooks, fiction focused on food, memoirs, the culinary mystery, non-fiction books on cooking and nutrition, and research-based academic papers.
A good diet consists of a variety of nutritious foods, including vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy products. Avoid processed foods, such as chips, fried foods and baked goods, which are high in fat, sodium and sugar.
Many foods contain additives that are not necessary for health, but are added to enhance flavor or appearance. Additives can help keep meats moist, prevent spoilage and give foods a desired texture. Some may even provide essential vitamins and minerals. Additives are regulated by the FDA.
Use spices, natural and artificial flavors and sweeteners to add flavor to meals without adding calories. Spices are cheaper than salt and have been shown to reduce the amount of oil needed in frying. When preparing meals, try to use oils, butter and margarine sparingly, and choose low-fat milk and yogurt.
Foods that are low in fat and sodium help to control cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Choose lean cuts of meat, skinless poultry and fish, or beans and legumes for a filling and nutritious meal. Use low-fat or skim milk for salad dressings and hot beverages, and look for frozen or canned vegetables with no added salt or sugar.
Fruits are a tasty and healthy snack, but beware of dried or canned fruits, which can be high in sugar and calories. Choose fresh berries, or opt for a frozen variety, such as sliced mango or kiwi fruit. Avoid reconstituted fruit juices, which are high in sodium.
Fats are an important source of energy, but should be limited to less than 6% of your total calories. Opt for unsaturated fats, such as vegetable oils and olive oil, and limit saturated fats to no more than 10% of your daily calories. To help cut down on fat in your diet, bake or broil instead of frying, and choose non-fat or low-fat milk or yogurt for hot beverages and desserts. Choose a wide variety of foods, and be sure to read labels. A food label will tell you how much of each ingredient is in the product, as well as provide nutritional information. Beware of false claims on a food label, such as “low-fat,” which could mean that the food has more sodium or sugar than a full-fat version. The FDA is working to improve food labels. The newest labels will include “Smart Choices” and “Healthy Eating Tips.” These will help consumers make wise choices.