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Eating healthier is something most of us want to do, but intentions are tough to act on without specific strategies in place.
If you want to begin eating better but don’t know where to start, here are some simple healthy eating strategies dietitians use to both help their clients eat better and lose some extra weight along the way.
1. Think addition, not subtraction.
When trying to eat healthier, focus on adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet, recommends Lindsey Janeiro, RDN, CLC. In addition to the extra vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and hydration, “it’s way easier (and more fun!) to add to your diet, instead of focusing on taking things away.”
2. Keep fresh fruits and veggies in plain sight.
We’re all familiar with the phrase, “Out of sight, out of mind,” but the opposite holds true as well, according to Kara Golis, RD. “If you’re trying to increase your fruit and vegetable intake, I recommend keeping cleaned and cut vegetables in clear containers near the front of the fridge. Storing ready-to-eat fruits and veggies in plain sight makes for easy and convenient snacking.”
3. Make small, sustainable changes.
“Ditch the all-or-nothing approach to better nutrition. Take baby steps to healthier eating, which can start at your very next meal or snack, and may be as simple as slightly reducing portions. Dietary deprivation is the death of any plan to eat better. Make pleasure a part of your everyday eating plan so you won’t need “cheat days,” recommends Elizabeth Ward, MS, RD, author of betteristhenewperfect.com
4. Fill up on fiber.
If you’re confused about which foods you should be eating more of, fiber content is a good way to judge. Studies show that people who eat more fiber weigh less When eaten in place of refined carbohydrates, “veggies, fruits, nuts and whole grains not only help keep you full but they also are great for metabolism,” says Jessica Spiro, RD.
5. Plan your meals.
Like it or not, meal planning does help us eat better. “When you already have a plan in place, you are less likely to eat out or order a takeout,” says Dixya Bhattarai, MS, RD, LD. “In the long run, you will trim your waist and save money.” One thing you should know: Meal planning doesn’t need to be complex. It can be as simple as jotting down a few protein, whole grain and vegetable combinations on a piece of paper and prepping those foods in advance to eat throughout the week. If you’re short on time and are seeking a slightly more prescriptive plan, subscription services like Cook Smarts can deliver a personalized meal plan — complete with a grocery list — to your inbox each week.
6. Don’t eliminate entire food groups.
“Don’t let trendy eating fads control what your diet looks like,” says Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, LDN. “There are valuable nutrients in each food group you might be missing out on and a healthy diet includes a wide variety of foods.” Another thing to keep in mind: Cutting out entire food groups doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll eat any healthier.
7. Keep no-prep and low-prep foods on hand.
Especially produce and protein says Ariella Nelson, MS, RD, CDN. Nelson’s favorites include pre-cooked ingredients like sautéed vegetables, seared fish or grilled chicken for quick meal assembly, and even quicker no-cook options like canned beans, cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, hummus, yogurt, cottage cheese and nuts. “That way, no matter your time frame, you’ll be able to make a healthy food choice,” says Nelson.
8. Eat your veggies first.
When it comes to mealtime, Rebecca Clyde, MS, RDN encourages her clients to adopt this simple but effective strategy. Eating veggies first is “an easy way to make sure you get them in and fill up on fibrous, nutrient-dense foods.”
9. Include veggies at breakfast.
“If you eat veggies first thing in the morning then you’re guaranteed to get at least one serving of veggies every single day, no matter what else comes up,” says Chelsey Amer, MS, RDN. Looking for some veggie breakfast inspiration? Some of Chelsey’s favorite veggie-filled breakfasts include omelets, green smoothies or a big bowl of zoats.
10. Get enough Zzzzzzs.
Research has shown that skimping on sleep – that’s less than seven hours of sleep per night – can negatively impact both diet and weight loss. For this reason, Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RDN, CSSD encourages her clients to prioritize sleep. “Staying up too late may result in late night snacking, which often involves less nutritious foods. Sleep deprivation can also disrupt the balance of hunger and fullness hormones, driving up appetite and cravings for less nourishing foods.” On top of that, Loy notes the fatigue effect. “When we’re overly tired we may be less inclined to plan, prepare, and eat those nutrient-dense foods, like vegetables and fruits.”
Photo credit: Thinkstock, iStock, DenizA.