8 Simple Steps to Healthier Eating
Make these simple, subtle changes to your diet when cooking at home or dining out to help you make healthier, more satisfying food choices.
Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, Photo: Corbis Images
Evolve Your EatingHealthy eating is an evolutionary process; it’s a gradual shift toward elevating your food choices and eating behaviors for a healthy life. The key is to think about making healthy adjustments when you are cooking at home or dining out. Here are eight simple and tasty ways to “evolve your eating” with balance, mindfulness and a focus on quality calories to satisfy your cravings and create harmony with food.
Go for Red BeansUse red beans like kidney, pinto or azuki instead of red meat in your chili today. Not only are you adding a ton of fiber, potassium and low-saturated fat/high-quality protein to this dish, but you are decreasing calories and total fat intake, too – a bona fide bonus for your heart heath and waistline. Plus, it’s an appetite-pleaser that will leave your tummy satisfied for hours. According to the BeanInstitute.com, numerous studies have shown that adding beans to your diet can help manage and prevent chronic disease like diabetes, obesity and cancer.
Rethink Your ButterSwitch traditional dairy butter with artery-friendly nut butters like peanut or almond butter. Not only will the saturated-fat calories be cut, but you’ll add those better-for-you fats that can keep your arteries clear and flexible for life. Also, nuts are a plant-powerhouse filled with vitamin E, magnesium, folate, plant-based protein and fiber. Recent research in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition revealed that people who ate at least ¼-ounce of tree nuts (i.e. pistachios, walnuts and almonds) or peanuts everyday had a lower body mass index, waist circumference, blood pressure and higher levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol than those that didn’t eat nuts. So grab a handful of nuts today – a little goes a long way.
Veg Out Your Snacks and MealsChoose fresh or frozen veggies to curb hunger and nourish your appetite. For snacks, think finger foods like red cherry tomatoes, julienned yellow peppers and chopped crispy baby cucumbers. Not only will your palate be satisfied with crunchy veggies, but you’ll do wonders for your blood pressure. Vegetables offer a heart-healthy package of low sodium and high potassium, a great blood pressure regulating combo. Plus, recent research in Public Health Nutrition revealed that when veggies are included at a family meal, mothers were perceived as better cooks, as well as better, more caring people.
Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD
L.O.V.E Your AppetiteGive up battling with food; building a better relationship with what you eat and how you feel about it is all part of evolving your eating. Develop a new understanding of your appetite by monitoring it daily. In Linda W. Craighead’s book, The Appetite Awareness Workbook, she encourages breaking automatic eating habits by writing down your food and feelings before and after meals and snacks. It might be easier if you remember the acronym L.O.V.E for Label feelings about certain foods; Observe why and when you eat; Verify what your hunger and fullness means to you; Escape habitual or mindless eating. As your feelings about food evolve, so will your eating.
Side-step SodaDitch the sugary beverages and artificially-sweetened diet soft drinks – your body deserves (and needs) better. Our bodies are 60% water and all of our cells, organs, tissues and metabolic processes rely on water to do their jobs properly. Everybody’s water needs are a bit different depending upon water losses from urine and sweat, as well as body size and composition (fat mass versus lean, muscle mass). The best bet: sip water throughout the day – bring a water bottle to the office, in the car and to the gym. It’s zero-calories and hydrating.
Victoria Shanta Retelny, RD, Jamie Grill/Photographer's Choice RF/Getty Images
Quality Trumps CaloriesAlthough calories mean a lot when it comes to your waistline, think about the quality of your calories versus counting every single unit of heat that you consume. If you stick with high quality foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds and lean meats then there will be no room for excess, empty calories from fried foods, cake, candy and sugary beverages. Your total diet, the foods you choose to eat over the course of a few days or a week, is what matters most for health. Make your calories count by upping the food quality on your plate.
Eat Like a BirdYou know how birds peck and eat small amounts throughout the day? That’s a great way to eat; we can learn a lot from our feathered friends. Think of revving up your metabolism by eating frequent, small meals during the day. Actually what birds eat – seeds, are a nourishing food to add to your day. Try flax, chia and hemp seeds tossed into your salads, sprinkled over yogurt or as a coating for baked chicken breast. A small amount will do, just 2 tablespoons a day offers a wealth of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, as well as fiber and protein to your day.
Revive Your Spice RackDon’t let your spices sit unused for another day. Today is the day to use the cinnamon, nutmeg, cayenne and coriander in your pantry (if they are older than 6 months, it’s time for a new batch). Not only will your taste buds scream with thanks, but your blood vessels, heart, metabolism and cells will be happier and healthier for it. Numerous studies have revealed that eating a variety of spices fends off oxidation in your cells, inflammation of your blood vessels, and offers better control of blood pressure and blood sugar. Plus, using less salt in your cooking can balance the fluids in your body better – say goodbye to that bloated feeling. Check out our spice guide for the best tips and tricks when cooking with various spices.
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