FORT LEE, Va. (June 1, 2017) -- Summer is a great time of year for foodies. Backyard barbecues please the palate with tangy goodness, and few vacationers can resist the waft of roadside cookeries or the tantalizing treats found at small community farmer's markets and fairs.

How does one enjoy this exploration of epicurean delights while maintaining a healthy lifestyle? Just remember the 80-20 split. Ensure at least 80 percent of the items consumed daily are healthy, nutrient-rich foods that promote energy and well-being. Allot the other 20 percent to "fun food" choices that may not fall into the healthy category but are good for one's mood and satisfaction.

To "eat clean," it's important to choose edibles closer to the farm than factory. Fresh and/or frozen fruits and vegetables are a great start. Avoiding boxed or frozen "convenience meals" is another good move toward healthier eating. Most of those foods are high in salt, unhealthy saturated and Trans-fats, cholesterol and added sugars.

Remember also, many food distributors use words like "natural" or "whole grain" as marketing gimmicks. The best way to know what's in the product is to read the ingredients list. Labels with contents impossible to pronounce are typically not a healthy choice. When ordering a restaurant meal, ask the server if it's fresh or pre-packaged. Pay attention to the calorie listings on most menus, and ask them to "hold the salt" so you can add it yourself and control the amount.

Other suggestions for "cleaner" eating include the following:

• Choose fresh chicken instead of processed nuggets, wings or patties.

• Buy bacon and beef patties from the butcher case. When buying processed meats (which should be very limited in everyone's diet) it is best to look for brands with "no nitrates or nitrites added."

• Opt for homemade nut and raisin snacks instead of packaged trail mixes.

• For a side dish, eat wild rice, Quinoa or barley instead of prepackaged rice and pastas that are high in salt and Trans-fats.

• Sweet potatoes and whole potatoes are a very nutritious side dish.

• Limit intake of cheese to one ounce per day -- roughly the amount of a single cheese stick or a thumb-sized serving.

• Eat fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids (i.e. salmon or tuna) at least 2-3 times per week.

• Limit meat portions to 3-4 ounces (size of a deck of cards) and only eat red meat (pork included) 2-3 times per week.

• Be wary of the label when looking for Trans-fat, frequently disguised as "partially hydrogenated oils." Trans-fat is linked to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, a contributor to heart disease.

• When building a plate, fill three quarters of it with plant-based foods: vegetables, fruits, starches and true whole grains.

• Salads containing fresh vegetables and fruit are a good option. Choose beans as a protein instead of high-fat cheese and processed meats. Use a light amount of dressing with an olive oil base.

• Air-popped popcorn is a healthier choice than pretzels or chips. Try cold yogurt instead of ice cream. Be wary of the sugar in fruit juices (even with labels that read "100-percent juice") and sodas.

Clean eating is a matter of careful meal planning, smart shopping, thinking about ingredients and being choosey as to what lands on your plate. Just remember, those not taking steps to control their diet are feeding the factors of illness and disease.

Want to learn more? Talk to your health care provider about nutritional counseling. It is available to Kenner Army Health Clinic beneficiaries.

To schedule an appointment, call (804) 734-9993 or book it through the TRICARE online website.