5 Steps to Healthier Eating
Is that bag of potato chips your go-to snack? Or do you constantly surrender to your sweet tooth? If so, it’s time to kick the habit. Here are 5 steps to help you stay satisfied while achieving healthier eating habits.
1. Power Up with Produce
Healthy habits begin at the grocery store. So once you arrive, head straight to the produce section – it can literally save your life. Research published in The Journal of Nutrition reported that a a diet rich in fruit, berries and vegetables reduced risk of dying. And, a recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, found that adults who ate 7 or more servings of produce daily were 42% less likely to die from any cause during the 7 ½ year study. In addition, those eating the most produce (7+ servings per day) reduced risk of dying from heart disease by 31% and from cancer by 25 percent. Remember, all forms of produce count toward your daily quota—including fresh, frozen (no added sugar), dried or 100% juice.
When you bring your produce home from the supermarket, immediately wash, slice, and store them on your refrigerator shelves so that they are the first things you see when you open the door. While it’s true you might lose some nutrients when you cut into your produce, that’s more incentive to eat them quickly once prepped. The bright colors and easy access of these power foods will entice your appetite and decrease your chances of reaching for less healthy options.
2. Pack Your Snack
Snacking can be smart – it boosts energy levels and wards off hunger between meals. And while a whopping 97 percent of Americans snack daily (up from 71 percent thirty years ago), most people’s snacks are less than healthful. Instead of the typical “junk food” snacks, keep healthy snacks on hand (in your purse, car, gym bag, or office) so you have nutritious foods available when hunger hits.
Top snacks to pack include some protein and fiber for staying power. Aim for a portion-controlled bag of trail mix, an apple and string cheese, a lowfat yogurt with berries, or a Suja Classic juice and a few almonds. By having healthful snacks on hand you’ll nourish your body and avoid overeating at your next meal.
3. Eat Aware
“Eat aware” means to make an effort to become more mindful when you eat—at least once a day. It might seem productive to multi-task to get more done, but when you eat and never pay attention to your food, you’re more likely to feel unsatisfied after your meal, and more likely to eat again later searching for that satisfaction.
A study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that the presence of the distracting stimuli of playing solitaire on the computer during lunch caused participants to eat more as compared to nondistracted participants. The distracted participants also reported feeling less full and had a poorer memory as to how much they had eaten as compared to the nondistracted participants.
While aiming to “eat aware” has its benefits, it doesn’t mean you have to assume a lotus position or savor the inner essence of every raisin you consume. All it takes is just a few extra minutes a day focusing on your food – its taste, how it smells, and the texture. You’ll find you eat more slowly, enjoy your food more, and are satisfied with less. That’s a good thing.
4. Out of Sight, Out of Mind
When you have a toddler, you childproof your home. So when you want to eat healthy, why not fat-proof your home? Of course you can’t control every environment, but you can take steps to help yourself. First, if you’re preparing food at home, don’t buy your “trigger” foods. If you want something sweet, go for some frozen grapes. If you love soda, stock your fridge with sparking water and add a splash of 100% juice. The idea is not to create an environment of deprivation, but to replace less healthful foods with better-for-you options you still enjoy.
Another safeguarding strategy is based on the old standby, “out of sight, out of mind.” In other words, don’t keep fattening foods where you can see them. If you tend to inhale the bread basket at a sit-down restaurant, ask your waiter not to bring it—or take it away after you have one piece. Remember that the more food that is put in front of you, the more likely you are to eat it—so make an effort to reduce your “food exposure” when you can. More often than not, if you don’t see it you won’t miss it.
5. Deny Defeat
Healthy eating habits are for the long term and involve a healthy and happy mindset. A single food or meal doesn’t need to turn into an unhealthy day. Don’t allow nonsupportive thoughts to distract you from everything you have accomplished. Go for a brisk 20-minute walk, take a Yoga class, or simply breath deeply for 5 minutes to rewire your thought patterns back to a healthy mindset.
Oyinlola Oyebode, Vanessa Gordon-Dseagu, Alice Walker, Jennifer S Mindell. Fruit and vegetable consumption and all-cause, cancer and CVD mortality: analysis of Health Survey for England data. J Epidemiol Community Health, 31 March 2014 DOI: 10.1136/jech-2013-203500