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Jan 11 2015

Easy Tips to Health-ify Your Diet

Easy Tips to Eat HealthierEasy Tips to Health-ify Your Diet

Matt Schmiedl

We’re fresh off the holiday season and into New Year’s resolution season, and it’s not easy to switch gears from indulging in all those sweets and goodies back into healthier eating habits. But over the years, I’ve learned a few things – and developed some helpful tactics of my own – to help with the battle of the belly bulge.

 

  1. Make meals for the week on the weekend.
    If your workweeks are anything like mine, than you know how busy and hectic they get. You work all day, may have to stay late, and by the time you get home you’re exhausted and don’t the energy or ambition to cook an entire meal. So make it easy on yourself – cook meals ahead of time on the weekend when you have more time to do so. Then all you have to do is pull out what you have a hankering for, heat it up and relax with a healthy, home-cooked meal.
  2. Cooking a healthy meal? Make a little extra!
    So you’re sticking to your healthier eating habits and making some delicious meals when you’re home. But sometimes it gets hard to stay healthy for your lunch break at work – there’re so many temptations for a quick lunch, especially when you’re busy at work. Well when you’re already cooking healthy, make a little extra and take it for lunch the next day – two healthy meals for the time of one.
  3. Eat your veggies first.
    Everyone wants that extra scoop of mac-n-cheese or mashed potatoes, and while they’re delicious and not to be avoided completely, moderation is key. An easy way to help is to eat your veggies first and eat them slowly. It takes approximately 20 minutes for your brain to start triggering feelings of fullness. So if you slow down and eat your veggies first, by the time you finish your meal you’ll be feeling full and find it much easier to say no to that second serving.
  4. Add some Chia Seeds.
    You may or may not have heard about the amazing health benefits of chia seeds – you know, the same seeds from the commercial (ch- ch- ch- chia!). They’re loaded with vitamins and minerals, and packed with protein. They’re also chocked-full of fiber, which helps you feel fuller longer. Add them to yogurt, soups, salads, cereal, or sprinkle them on your veggies for a little crunch. Eat less but feel just as full.
  5. Check the nutrition label.
    You’ve heard a thousand times before, but it really does pay to reach the nutritional label when you’re shopping before you buy food. It gives you a much more comprehensive picture of the nutritional content so you’re more informed about the kinds of food you buy and eat. Watch for foods that have an overabundance of sugar, salt or fat (especially saturated and trans fats). And don’t overlook the ingredient list, either. Ingredients on food packaging are listing in order of quantity from most to least. A good rule of thumb is to consider the first 5 ingredients listed – if they read like a what’s what of scientific, multi-syllabic jargon, you may want to consider a different brand that uses more natural ingredients.
  6. Shop the perimeter.
    An easy way to eat healthier is shop healthier. And most, if not all, grocery stores display all their fresh produce, meats and dairy around the perimeter of the store. If you stick to buying most of your food selections from around the perimeter, you’re immediately eliminating a majority of processed and unnatural foods from your diet.
  7. Make some selections from the frozen food aisle.
    One grocery store aisle that carries some hidden gems in it is the frozen food aisle. I always load up on various frozen veggies, frozen chicken breasts and shrimp. There are also individual-sized frozen veggies with a variety of seasoning and sauces that are great for a quick-and-go lunch with a packet of tuna and a piece of fruit. And they’ve greatly expanded the variety of veggie burgers and food items that are tasty for a quick-and-easy lunch during the week. Remember #5, though, and be careful not to overeat on some of these – many of them have a good amount of sodium.
  8. Non-fat and sugar free aren’t always healthier.
    We’ve all seen those flashy labels that read “low fat,” “fat free,” “low sugar,” etc., but don’t blindly buy into the gimmicks. While those statements may be true, those foods may have other artificial and overly-processed additives to compensate. Low- or non-fat items often have a lot more sugar to make up for the flavor loss the missing fat would have added, and low-sugar items often have artificial sweeteners added to maintain sweetness levels. All of which may actually lead to weight gain rather than weight loss. And it’s worth noting that fat in your diet is not unhealthy, just in excessive amounts – like anything. You’re body requires fat for multiple bodily functions, and it’s also a primary source of energy for anaerobic exercise.
  9. Keep healthy staples handy.
    I find it A LOT easier to eat healthy when I don’t have to look too hard for healthy options. Load up on a variety of healthy meal and snack items so they’re right there whenever you open the fridge or cupboard. Fruits, veggies, lean meats, nuts, seeds, whole grains, dried fruits (no sugar added), and low-fat dairy items all qualify.
  10. Avoid temptation and don’t buy junk food.
    Building off #9, it’s also a lot easier to eat healthy when you remove temptation. So avoid buying unhealthy snacks and processed foods – if they’re around to eat, you’ll be much less likely to eat them (unless you go to all the trouble of making a special trip to the store). This is not to say, however, that you can gorge yourself on healthy snack items, or that you have to completely deprive yourself of the occasional indulgence. Moderation is key.
  11. Feeling hungry? Drink some water.
    Most people don’t drink enough water every day, and often times we mistake a feeling of thirst with a feeling of hunger. Avoid snacking too much by reaching for a glass of water between meals when you’re feeling hungry. I have a 60oz bottle that I carry around with me to work and at home so it’s always handy. Not only will you start getting enough water in your daily diet, but you’ll also start to learn the difference between legitimate hunger pangs and thirst.
  12. Watch out for loaded beverages.
    Lattés, sports drinks, diet shakes, and sodas are all pretty popular items we love to enjoy, often times on a daily basis…but beware! Beverages like these are easy to swallow without realizing how much of a calorie bomb they can be. Swap out some of these beverages for water, or eliminate them altogether, to save yourself a lot of wasted calories each day.

 

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