It is all about creating healthy habits, rather than restrictions!
Healthy eating is not a rocket science. Just follow mom’s advice, eating your peas and beets and slugging your milk, right? Unfortunately, though, for many people, eating healthier is as challenging as starting an exercise program.
How could you improve your nutritional habits? Pass along the following eight strategies from leading nutrition experts, and you will find that making over your diet is easier than you thought.
1. Prioritize meals, especially breakfast
People who skip meals do not get all of the nutrients they need. Not only are they missing out on nutrients that will help prevent chronic diseases, but they may also suffer more immediate consequences, like lack of energy (which then threatens their ability to exercise) and a weakened immune system, which will make them more susceptible to colds and the flu.
Studies also show that people who skip meals tend to overeat at later meals, especially if they tend to skip the breakfast. Eating breakfast helps you avoid excessive hunger, and overeating later in the day.
2. Nosh protein with each meal
Protein is not just the building blocks of muscles, it is also helpful for your diet. The main reason? Protein keeps you satisfied. Compared to carbohydrates, which take about two hours to digest, protein takes about four hours, making you feel fuller for longer periods of time.
While protein at every meal is critical, including it at breakfast is especially important. Eating protein at breakfast not only helps you lose weight, but it also prevents mood swings.
Sample equivalents of 1 ounce of protein:
- One tablespoon peanut or almond butter
- Two tablespoons hummus
- ¼ cup cooked beans
- 1 ounce cooked fish or lean beef (about ¼ the size of a deck of cards)
- One egg
- ¼ cup (about 2 ounces) tofu
Good protein sources include fish, turkey, chicken, egg whites, nonfat yogurt and lean beef. If you are a vegetarian, steer toward beans, tofu and meat substitutes.
3. Pump up the produce
Fruits and vegetables are crucial for good health, especially because they may help ward off certain chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, some cancers, stroke, cardiovascular disease and hypertension. They are also low in calories and loaded with fiber, which can help you lose and manage weight.
How many fruits and vegetables you need depends on your gender and age. According to nutrition guidelines, all men, regardless of age, should eat two cups of fruit a day; in the veggie department, men aged 19 to 50 need three cups daily, and people 51 and older need 2.5 cups daily. Women, on the other hand, need 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2.5 cups of fruits daily if they’re 19 to 50 years old; women 51 and older should eat two cups of vegetables and two cups of fresh fruit a day.
Of course, counting cups can get confusing, but there is a simple solution: fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Start meals with soup, salad, or a vegetable or fruit. Bulk up sandwiches with lettuce, tomatoes, and other veggies. Leave fruit on the counter at home, so you are more likely to eat it; sneak vegetables and fruits into recipes whenever possible; and pack readily available produce like apples, oranges or carrot sticks in lunch bags.
4. Limit processed foods
From frozen dinners to potato chips, processed foods have become a mainstay in the diet of many. While they might be convenient, they are frequently far from nutritious. Processed foods are often low in fiber. Without it, it is easy to overeat these processed foods.
Processed foods are also created to appeal to the taste buds, which is why they are loaded with added fats, sugars, and salt. As a result, you will not only tip the scale in the wrong direction with a diet high in processed foods; you also will not be eating as nutritionally as needed.
It is not to say that all processed foods are bad or that there is not a place for them from time to time. For instance, pre-packaged and frozen fruits and vegetables (sans sauces) can be a healthy addition to any kitchen pantry. Even foods like fruit-and-nut bars can play a role in the diet, especially if you have to travel and need to fuel up.you do not need to ban all processed foods, but you should eat less of them, especially those that are calorie-dense, and focus more on whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, healthy fish and low-fat dairy.
5. Choose healthier carbs
With the advent of the atkins diet and other carb-restricting diets, carbohydrates became the evil nutrient. But the truth is that carbohydrates keep you full, stabilize blood sugar levels and provide valuable nutrients. Carbohydrates also fuel the body, which is crucial if you want to exercise regularly.
The trouble is that many people either think all carbs are evil so they cut them from their diet, or they make unhealthy carb choices. Carbohydrates could be separated into two categories.
The “devil” carbs like white bread, white pasta, bagels, muffins, scones, candy, chips, popcorn, bread from the bread basket, pizza, ice cream, brownies, cake, and pastries. On the other side.
The “angel” carbs, which include brown rice, quinoa, baked sweet or white potatoes and whole-wheat breads. Avoid “devil” carbs – they spike your blood sugar, and when you crash, you feel tired and hungry. Choose “angel” carbs as much as possible.
Shifting to healthier carbs is only part of the battle, though. You also need to remind not to go overboard on carbohydrates, which is very easy to do. Take, for instance, a classic steak dinner, which is accompanied by a baked potato and bread, or a picnic where a typical plate might include a hamburger bun, potato salad, corn on the cob and cookies. Eating all of those carbohydrates at one meal is a recipe for weight gain. The simple rule is to eat only one carbohydrate source per meal.
6. Give sugar a boot
Added sugars, which are different from naturally occurring sugars in foods like fruits and milk, are found in regular soft drinks, energy drinks, sports drinks, candy, cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, donuts, fruit drinks and ice cream.
Added sugars not only contain zero nutrients, but the added calories can also pack on the pounds, which could lead to obesity and decreased heart health. They increase blood sugar levels, insulin production, and fat storage, all of which are dangerous to your health.
That is why you need to steer clear of added sugars by choosing foods with no more than 10 grams of sugar per serving. Note, though, that added sugars are different than naturally occurring sugars in fruits and vegetables, which can have the opposite effect on the body, regulating blood sugar and preventing the production of insulin.
Following a diet based on whole foods will also naturally help reduce added sugars. Another crucial key to reducing sugar intake? Eliminate all beverages that are contributing calories to the diet, especially sodas and sugar-laden coffee drinks. Water is still the best beverage choice.
Be aware of reading labels and getting savvy about spotting hidden sugars, which can appear under other names. Some of the most common offenders are corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, sucrose, honey, fruit juice concentrate and maple syrup.
7. Eat more meals at home
Eating out has become a way of life in our fast days. If you want an easy way to improve your health, including keeping your weight in check, eating out less frequently should do the trick.
That people are consuming more calories when eating out is not a surprise. Restaurants are businesses, and their goal is to create repeat business. To do that, they make their foods as delicious as possible by adding high levels of sugar, fat, and salt, all of which might improve taste, but will have consequences on health.
Even more problematic are portion sizes, which have been on the rise over the last few decades. Restaurants use subtle ways to encourage overeating. Variety is one of them. The greater the variety of foods available, the greater the chance of overeating. Lighting, music and the overall ambiance can also influence eating behaviors.
By eating at home more frequently, you will avoid these diet disasters and may save a little money on food.
8. Take natural supplements
Many people wonder if they shall opt for natural supplements over other vitamins and synthetic supplements. One very big plus in favor of natural supplements is that they come from food-based sources, as their name indicates. That is why your body has a very good idea of what to do with them. As a result, you can expect that your body will be able to absorb the nutrients that they contain more easily than it can when you take supplements with artificial ingredients.
Artificial ingredients can be found in many supplements, which have a “natural” label. It is necessary to look out for such labels if you want to get the most out of your supplements. Colouring, preservatives and chemicals are often added. Your body does not need them and they should be avoided.
When you are purchasing natural supplements, it makes sense to choose those having as low quantity of ingredients as possible. A smart approach towards supplements is to look for options that are based on whole food sources. For example, if you are considering a supplement, and you recognise the foods from which it is made, this is an indicator you are dealing with a quality supplement. Whole food based supplements may cost a little more, but the quality of the product is far higher. You will likely receive a better product and a better outcome as well.
Getting healthier, one small change at a time
Of course, it is unrealistic to expect you can make all these changes all at once—breaking bad dietary habits takes time and can be a tough process as it requires you to rethink patterns of behavior that you may have followed since childhood. The good news is that improving your diet is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and one (or more) wrong choice will not negate a dozen good choices. Focus on one area at a time, like cutting out sugary drinks or eating breakfast every day during the week. Once you become used to these new behaviors, you can make other changes that will continue to bolster your sense of accomplishment. You will be eating healthier and, more importantly, feel healthier in no time.
What did we miss? What nutritional strategies do you follow to eat more healthfully? Share your tips in the comments section below.