Many of us take the challenge to clean up our act after the holidays. After indulging in one too many sweets or far too many glasses of champagne on New Year’s Eve, we simply just want to feel better. If you’re looking for a reason to change your habits or you want someone to hold you accountable, welcome! There are many ways to eat clean or to add more water to your daily diet. Change can be challenging. The key to success? Start small. Try one of these fifteen tips to help you and your family head in the right direction. Before you know it, you will be feeling healthier, happier, and more energetic. Here’s to a new year with new possibilities!
1. Start the morning right. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Research shows that beginning your day with a nutritious breakfast rich in fiber and protein not only boosts your brain with the energy you need to face the day, but also helps you maintain a healthy weight. You can also streamline your morning be doing these five things before breakfast every day.
2. Drink more water. However you can get in those recommended eight glasses of water a day is important. Try infusing water with mint or strawberries to make it flavorful, keep a checklist in your planner of how many glasses you have drank, set a timer on your computer.
Once you get going, this is an easy habit to stick with! Over time you will start craving water and feel so much better.
3. Stock your pantry. A well-stocked refrigerator and pantry are critical to maintaining a healthy diet. Get rid of anything that’s expired or unhealthy, and then restock with more healthful staples like tuna, vegetables, chicken broth for cooking, and prepared pasta sauce for quick and nutritious meals. Keep containers of chopped fresh vegetables and fruit, and good-for-you, homemade snacks in the refrigerator. When it’s easy to find healthy snacks, it will be easy to make healthy choices.
4. Get to know budget-friendly superfoods. Superfoods contain higher concentrations of nutrients and relatively fewer calories per serving than other foods. Gogi berries and spirulina algae are superfood superstars, but a one-pound package of powdered algae can cost $30 to $40. You’ll pay about $35 for a one-liter bottle of goji juice, but superfoods don’t have to be exotic or expensive. Stay healthy without blowing your budget with these easy-to-find superfoods:
- Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables: Kale, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens and mustard greens are excellent sources of fiber, folate, Vitamins A and K and antioxidants that contribute to heart and bone health and may help to prevent some forms of cancer.
- Berries: Prized for their naturally sweet flavor, berries are also bursting with a host of healthy nutrients, including fiber; Vitamins A, C and E; calcium and potassium. The antioxidants in berries may help to reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes and some kinds of cancer.
- Broccoli and Cauliflower: Cruciferous vegetables, including Brussels sprouts and cabbage, contain powerful antioxidants that have been linked to reduced risk of several cancers. This group of vegetables is also low in calories and high in fiber and Vitamin C.
- Cinnamon: Polyphenols in cinnamon help to reduce inflammation in the body that can lead to heart disease and cancer. Sprinkle on oatmeal, coffee or toast for an added antioxidant boost.
5. Plan ahead. MEAL PLAN! If you take the time to meal plan, the weeks will be a lot less stressful. It’s also VERY easy to stay on track when you know what is for dinner. I use Emeals and subscribe to the Paleo plan. It’s easy to use, and they have other options for other eating habits too. From budget-friendly to low-carb, there is something for everyone.
You’ll save time and money—and eat healthier—when the week’s meals are planned ahead and all ingredients are combined into one, easy-to-use shopping list.
6. Rethink your favorite foods. Cut fat and calories, boost nutrients, and keep all the comfort with these simple tips:
- Skip the heavy cream and “cream of” soups when making casseroles. Instead, whip up your own white sauce for a lighter, yet still creamy, base with far less fat and sodium.
- Oven-frying allows you to enjoy the crispy, crunchy texture of fried foods without the added fat. Experiment with different breadings, like panko breadcrumbs, finely chopped nuts or flaked unsweetened coconut for a tropical touch.
- Use mashed cauliflower, parsnips or turnips in place of carb-heavy potatoes as an alternate for this classic side dish. This easy strategy cuts calories while amping up the fiber and nutrients.
One of my favorite foods is a BLT sandwich. When I am in the zone and eating clean, I skip the carbs by serving my favorite lunch on leafy romaine lettuce leaves.
7. Pile on the Veggies—The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we all need to eat more vegetables, which are naturally low in calories and high in hunger-curbing fiber. The best strategy: Fill half your plate with vegetables rather than calorie-rich carbs and meat. Add fresh or dried herbs and citrus zest or juice to veggies for extra flavor without adding extra calories. Be sure to visit local farmers’ markets when possible for the best selection of seasonal, just-picked produce.
8. Go for Good Fats. While all fats (oils and butter included) contain comparable amounts of calories and total fat, the distribution of fats varies significantly. Banish butter and bacon grease and replace them with healthy fats like canola and olive oil—a key ingredient in the Mediterranean Diet, which may reduce your LDL (aka “bad”) cholesterol and lower your risk of developing heart disease. I also love coconut oil.
9. Pack a Lunch. This is especially true for kids, whose lunch can comprise up to one-third of their nutrition for the day. Whether making lunch for work or school, pick nutrient-rich foods that fuel both brain and body for the afternoon.
- Use leftovers to stretch your food budget and add variety to the lunchbox menu. Be creative with leftovers, and turn them into something new. Take leftover cooked pasta from last night and add some salad dressing and a few chopped veggies to make a quick pasta salad. Combine leftover cooked meat with fresh vegetables in a colorful spinach wrap.
- For kids, use cookie cutters to make sandwiches into fun shapes like dinosaurs and hearts. Make miniature sandwiches using slider buns or mini bagels or prepare mini muffins. Kids love eating with their hands; smaller foods are much more fun to eat. Choose colorful fruits and veggies, and include dips like low-fat Ranch, salsa, peanut butter or hummus. Make your own protein- and calcium-packed dip with low-fat Greek yogurt. Try adding herbs for a veggie dip or cinnamon and honey for a quick and easy fruit dip.
- Make lunch interactive. Pack an English muffin, marinara pizza sauce, cheese and different veggies for pizza, or pack corn tortillas, beans, cheese and salsa for tacos.
10. Downsize Your Plate. If there’s one thing you can do to push your weight and health in the right direction, it’s controlling the amount of food you eat. We all tend to eat everything we put on our plates—and usually that’s way too much, especially when dining out. Remember, a standard serving of cooked meat is just 3 ounces—about the size of a deck of cards. If you’re worried that smaller portions will leave you unsatisfied, have no fear: A well-portioned diet should actually leave you feeling more energetic and truly satisfy your hunger.
11. Cook with The Kids—Allow your kids to help prepare dinner by getting them involved with age-appropriate kitchen duties. The benefits are innumerable. Not only will they learn about the ingredients, healthy food and measurements, but they’ll also feel a sense of pride when happy eaters compliment them on a job well done.
12. Make Food Fun—Experiment with new cooking methods and flavors to keep healthy food doldrums at bay. Serve vegetables raw, cooked and puréed for a variety of textures. Cut vegetables and fruits into sticks or other handy shapes for kids. Thread florets or chunks onto skewers and serve with healthy dippers like salsa, hummus, yogurt or low-fat Ranch dressing (this works for grown-ups too). Don’t be afraid to try a weekly theme dinner—whether Taco Tuesday, ItalianWednesday or Asian Friday. This is a fun way to introduce new foods and flavors and create an enjoyable dinnertime environment.
13. Try Paleo. Give up dairy and grains and switch to a Paleo lifestyle. Eat foods rich in protein and leafy, green vegetables. Avoid processed foods and cut the carbs.
Need help starting? Read this article about how to start eating Paleo.
14. Swap Out Soda. All of the calories in soda and sugary drinks are empty calories, meaning they contribute no healthy nutrients. Switch soda for calorie-free beverages like water or sparkling water (add a splash of lemon or lime for flavor).
15. Write it down. You will be more successful if you log your meals and when you eat. This goes along with meal planning, but if you take the time to write it down it becomes meaningful. If you’re trying to change your habits, writing it down is a good first step. Revisiting your goals from time to time and reflecting on them can change your life.
Try a fitness journal like this one from Planning Inspired. She can help you journal your weight loss journey, and this printable journal can hang out in your kitchen. Track your triggers, your measurements, and your meals. It’s something that has to be worked on every day for it to happen!
What healthy eating tip do you have?
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