While many people might come to terms with official New Years Resolutions this year, others might mark a fresh start this month by resolving to make up for bad eating habits of the past. But this motivation is often centered on eating too ambitious, or too restrictive. Without a solid plan, you can fail quickly. So think about a compromise: Start with these three easy ways to eat healthier.
Aim only for real food
Look at your plate and note what is processed and what is not. Maybe that’s it (like an iced dinner), or maybe it’s just a part of your meal (like bottled dressing on your salad). Think about places where you can swap processed foods for healthier versions. Ideas include
- eating whole grain pasta instead of fortified white flour spaghetti
- have quinoa instead of white rice
- make your own snacks like baked chickpeas, instead of opening a bag of chips.
Processed foods are linked to chronic inflammation and other health problems such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer. One of the healthiest diets you can eat is a Mediterranean style diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds, fish, poultry and low-fat dairy products (milk, yogurt, small amounts of cheese).
Plan your meals and snacks
Set timers on your phone for three different meals and two snacks (if you need them), and don’t eat between those scheduled times. It could curb your hunger pangs, reduce stress over the next meal, and cut the extra calories from unnecessary snacks – a real challenge if you’re around a refrigerator all day at home or at work.
Avoid planning meals or snacks late at night when your body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm) senses that you are supposed to be sleeping. “During circadian sleep, our metabolism slows down, our digestive system slows down and the brain temperature drops, which is part of the process of eliminating toxins during sleep. Eating at different times than our typical circadian wakefulness phase causes weight gain, ”says Dr. Lawrence Epstein, associate physician in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, affiliated with Harvard.
Reduce your portion size
If you’re like most Americans, you eat too much food. An easy way to implement portion control: load your plate as you normally would, then put back a third or half of the food. Other ideas:
- Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, to trick yourself into taking less food.
- Keep serving bowls off the table so you won’t be tempted to eat extra portions.
- Do not linger at the table and continue to eat when you are already full.
It will also help you know how many calories you should be consuming per day. For example, if you’re supposed to be consuming 2000 calories a day but cutting back 3000, it’s probably time to cut all your usual servings by a third. How can you determine your calorie needs? For healthy people who exercise 30 minutes a day, multiply your weight (in pounds) by 15 for an estimate.
One final thought: take just one step per week
You don’t need to incorporate all of these steps at the same time; try one step per week. Write down what you eat and any thoughts or questions you have about the process. After a week, assess what worked and what didn’t. Before long, you will have the confidence to take new steps.
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