6 Simple Strategies to Eat Your Way to Better Health
March is recognized as National Nutrition Month— so that means nutrition is top of mind for many of us, especially those of us lucky enough to have studied and practice nutrition on a daily basis. I’m often asked by family and friends the best way to eat healthy; of course, with simple tips and strategies that don’t break the bank or take a lot of time. The truth is healthy eating AND living looks different for everyone. But there are a few steps you can take to eat your way to better health.
- Start with a plan. The easiest (and healthiest) meals to prepare are those that you take a little time on the front end to plan. Basic meal planning starts with a MENU. I usually make weekly menus, taking into account 1-2 nights each week we’ll eat out (either at a restaurant or family/friend’s house). The assembly of my menu includes themed nights [aka Breakfast Monday, Taco Tuesday, Pizza Friday]. When you have your menu in place, then it’s time to make that grocery list and get shopping! I also try to incorporate each food group at every meal. For instance, when it comes to choosing dairy foods, we’ll usually have milk with every meal [that could include milk + cereal at breakfast], yogurt, cottage cheese and cheese sticks for snacks, and then some type of sliced or shredded cheese with dinner.
- Try 1-2 new recipes AT MAX each week. As much as I like trying new recipes, it can be time consuming looking for new ones each week. There’s only so much time to spend each day or week on Pinterest for inspiration! So I give myself a goal of one new recipe each week, which I find either online or in one of my cookbooks. This helps expand my family’s palate and also helps me, the busy cook, get a new meal into our meal rotation. Another rule to consider here: Always make sure your new recipe has 1-2 ingredients each member of your family likes. This way you know you’re not making something that only you will enjoy and eat!
- EAT BREAKFAST. I can’t emphasize this one enough. Eating small frequent meals throughout the day, especially breakfast, may help reduce overeating at meals. In fact, research shows that those who eat this important morning meal tend to consume fewer calories throughout the day.
- Make smarter calorie choices. Get the most nutrition for the fewest calories from each food group. For example, from the dairy foods group, choose from a variety of fat-free or low fat milk, yogurt and cheese. You can also experiment in cooking and use evaporated fat-free milk in coffee or replace heavy cream in recipes.
- Make small changes every day. Look for healthier food swaps in the foods that you typically enjoy on a weekly or daily basis. For example, serve milk at meals and with snacks instead of water or sugary beverages. If you are a coffee lover like me, order a latte made with fat-free or low-fat milk. Or simply use plain yogurt as a base for dips for fruits or vegetables or to dollop on baked potatoes.
- Savor each bite. Just because we live in a fast-paced world doesn’t mean that you always need to rush through each snack or meal. When you eat more slowly, you may feel fuller faster, which means you may save on extra calories. Take the time to enjoy each bite of food and if you can, put your fork or plate down between bites. If overeating is a struggle for you, consider using smaller plates and bowls at mealtime. The smaller plate not only means less room, but it makes me really think about what I actually want to choose.
Most importantly, it’s important to eat right for YOUR lifestyle. Better health means something different to everyone. Remember there’s no one diet or lifestyle that is right for everyone. So it’s important to follow a healthful eating plan that’s packed with delicious foods and that keeps YOUR lifestyle in mind.