Is eating healthier one of your New Year’s resolutions? Following a fad diet, or being overly restrictive, will not help you or your family achieve your health goals. Try these simple yet sensible steps that will help you adopt a healthier diet, without feeling deprived.
- Eat Breakfast Every Day
Surely you’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It is! Eat a big healthy breakfast as early as possible. It will give you more energy, lead you to make healthier choices during the day, and keep you feeling full so you eat less later on.
- Fill Up on Vegetables
Vegetables are filled with nutrients, water, fiber, and very few calories. If you fill half of your plate with vegetables, you’ll get fuller faster and cut down your calories without feeling deprived. Use herbs and spices to jazz up vegetables instead of using butter and/or salt to flavor them.
- Snack on fruits – fresh or dried
When feel like snacking, grap a fruit instead of chips or cookies. Like vegetables, fruits are high in antioxidants and fiber and low in calories. To make it fun, use yogurt or hummus as a dip. This way your’ll get some calcium as well as protein – which helps feel full longer. And don’t forget about dried fruits. Mixing them with whole-wheat breakfast cereal and nuts makes a nutritious school snack.
- Cook with olive oil
Olive oil contains monounsaturated fat, which helps lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease. Instead of using vegetable oil, lard, butter or shortening, which contain mostly saturated fat, use olive oil for both cooking and baking.
- Control your portion size
How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Overloading your plate, taking seconds and eating until you feel stuffed can lead to eating more calories, fat and cholesterol than you should. Portions served in restaurants are often more than anyone needs. Keep track of the number of servings you eat — and use proper serving sizes — to help control your portions. Eating more of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and less of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, such as refined, processed or fast foods, can shape up your diet as well as your heart and waistline.
- Select whole grains
Whole grains are good sources of fiber and other nutrients that play a role in regulating blood pressure and heart health. You can increase the amount of whole grains in a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products. Or be adventuresome and try a new whole grain, such as whole-grain couscous, quinoa or barley.
- Choose low-fat protein sources
Lean meat, poultry and fish, low-fat dairy products, and egg whites or egg substitutes are some of your best sources of protein. But be careful to choose lower fat options, such as skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken breasts rather than fried chicken patties. Fish is another good alternative to high-fat meats. And certain types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. You’ll find the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Other sources are flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans and canola oil.
In order to burn calories at a faster rate and build a healthy body, you’ll need to incorporate exercise into your life. Take it slow at first, and then increase your time and/or intensity once you feel comfortable. If you haven’t exercised in a while, talk to your doctor to make sure that you are healthy enough to begin an exercise plan.
- Allow yourself an occasional treat
Allow yourself an indulgence every now and then. A candy bar or handful of potato chips won’t derail your heart-healthy diet. But don’t let it turn into an excuse for giving up on your healthy-eating plan. If overindulgence is the exception, rather than the rule, you’ll balance things out over the long term. What’s important is that you eat healthy foods most of the time.