Did you know that certain foods can help you achieve healthier eating habits? The American Dietetic Association suggests that five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables are ideal per day, as well as four to six servings of grains, six to seven servings of dairy, and two to three servings of meat or beans per day.
While this may seem like an impossible task, it’s not that hard to achieve with the right eating habits in place. Here are 10 tips to help you get started on eating healthier with smarter food choices.
1) Try new recipes
Cooking at home can help you develop healthy eating habits, since it allows you to better control exactly what’s going into your food. One simple way to create new recipes is by modifying old ones. Use cookbooks, websites and Pinterest for inspiration. Here are some tasty ways you can modify old favorites: Instead of using sour cream in enchiladas, try ricotta or Greek yogurt.
To give basic roasted chicken more flavor, add an herb like rosemary or thyme along with some lemon juice to make creamy macaroni and cheese healthier, use low-fat milk in place of heavy cream or half-and-half and whole wheat pasta instead of white pasta.
2) Cook at home
Cooking at home may seem like an obvious way to improve your eating habits, but it’s easy to fall back on fast food or instant meals when you’re busy. Packaged foods are also convenient but often loaded with sugar and salt. Cooking at home lets you make healthier choices with fresh ingredients and can help you stay away from some of those bad-for-you packaged foods.
Look for simple recipes that incorporate veggies and lean proteins into every meal. One of our favorites is Shepherd’s Pie, which uses beans in place of ground beef for an added protein boost.
3) Eat slowly
What we eat and how quickly we eat it can have an impact on our overall health. Studies show that eating too fast can increase risk of obesity, heart disease, metabolic syndrome and diabetes. In addition, if you’re used to eating on-the-go (and often stressed), taking time to slow down and enjoy your food is an effective way of creating healthier eating habits for life.
Start by practicing mindful eating—stop what you’re doing, sit down at a table without distractions and take smaller bites than usual. It may feel unnatural at first but with practice it will become second nature.
4) Use smaller plates
We tend to eat everything on our plates, regardless of size. Since smaller plates make portions appear larger, you may end up eating less—or at least feel like you have. The simple act of switching from 12-inch dinner plates (which are considered standard) to 10-inch dinner plates could save you hundreds of calories every day.
Use smaller bowls for cereal and other meals as well; having to reach further will slow down your rate of eating, ensuring that you won’t wolf down that Cheerios before running out for work in the morning.
5) Keep yourself accountable
It’s easy to start and stop healthy habits. To keep yourself accountable, share your journey on social media. You can post daily meals or recipes, snap after pictures of your weight loss progress, or even share your favorite healthy meal recipes with others in our community! Not only will it help you stay motivated as you achieve your goals, but it’ll give others something positive to look forward to on social media every day.
6) Prepare your meals in advance
It can be hard to stick with healthier eating habits if your life is busy and you’re often pressed for time. If that sounds like you, try preparing your meals in advance by cutting up fruits and vegetables, buying lean cuts of meat, or marinating meats. That way, when you don’t have much time to spend on food preparation, or simply aren’t inspired enough—you can easily get a healthy meal on the table without resorting to takeout or processed foods.
There are plenty of great recipes out there for tasty lunches and dinners that are easy to make ahead of time; just google meal prep recipes and you’ll find yourself awash in options!
7) Eat out with friends but skip dessert
Going out for dinner with friends may not seem like a big deal, but those extra calories can add up quickly. If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s worth remembering that skipping dessert doesn’t mean you have to pass on eating out.
The best way to keep your calorie intake under control when eating out is not drinking alcohol, sticking with water or unsweetened iced tea, and opting for smaller portions at restaurants. And yes, it’s okay to ask if they have more lettuce on your burger; many restaurants will be happy to make substitutions.
When possible, opt for foods that are grilled over fried or baked—frying adds unnecessary calories and fat that could be used more effectively elsewhere in your diet.