November is Good Nutrition Month so we’re taking a look at some simple tips to encourage healthy eating. With the holidays quickly approaching it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to making smart nutrition choices.
Fortunately, establishing and practicing healthy eating habits now can pay off big in the long run and make navigating the food offerings at all those holiday parties less stressful.
There’s really no reason to wait until the new year to resolve to make your nutrition a top priority. As they say, the best time to start may have been yesterday, but the second-best time to start is right now.
Here are our five simple tips to help you start eating healthier today:
1. It all starts at home
Create a home environment that makes it easier to make healthy food choices. That’s right, it all starts with cleaning out your pantry. To help you decide which foods can stay and which need to go, read the nutrition labels. Ingredients are listed in order of decreasing volume. So, if you see fat, sugar, or salt listed as one of the first ingredients, that’s not your healthiest option. Don’t get distracted by labels like “low-fat” or “light”. Despite being lower in fat, many times these foods are loaded with excess sugar or sodium. The good news is that anything you decide doesn’t belong in your pantry can easily be donated to a local food bank. Win-win.
Once your pantry (and fridge) are purged of the less than nutritious food choices, make sure you restock with plenty of healthy foods like fruits, nuts, vegetables, and good fats.
2. Meal plan for success
Believe it or not, according to a recent consumer survey, 53% of dinners are planned within an hour of eating them. Without a plan, you’re far more likely to end up in a drive-thru late at night eating foods high in trans fat. Planning ahead makes it easier to be healthy, especially on busy days. Start by planning your shopping list for the week. Pre-considering the health value of each item, you add to your list will help you avoid impulse buys when you’re shopping.
In addition to making healthier food choices, you’ll also save a considerable amount of money. On average, it costs five times more to order a common meal from a restaurant than it does to cook the same meal at home.
3. Practice mindful eating
Mindful eating is a practice that encourages people to develop a deeper connection with food and begin to create lifelong, healthy habits. Connecting with the foods we eat can help us more easily recognize feelings of hunger and fullness and even help us experience better digestion.
To help keep the focus on the food, it is recommended to keep screens off during mealtime. Whether it’s a snack or a meal, it’s so much easier to unintentionally over-eat if you’re distracted by your device. This is because when we’re distracted it becomes harder to listen to our body’s signals about food and other needs.
4. Know the difference between a snack and a treat
It’s common that people who are making an effort to make healthy eating choices often get the hang of eating healthier meals but struggle when it comes to how to handle the time between meals. Experts agree that aiming to eat every three hours or so can help us stay on track with our nutrition goals. But what we eat during those intervals is crucial to our success.
Remember, a snack is a small portion of food you eat between meals to satisfy your hunger and fuel your body. Some great choices are carrots, apple slices, or a handful of almonds. Alternatively, a treat is a less nutritious option that does not fuel your body and brain. So, that trip to the vending machine for a soda and a candy bar…you guessed it…that’s more of a treat and less of a snack after all.
5. Stay hydrated
It’s fairly common for people to confuse thirst for hunger. This is because the same part of your brain is responsible for interpreting hunger and thirst signals. So, how can you tell the difference? According to expert dietitians, signs of hunger can include feeling weak, irritable, or moody, or feeling your stomach rumble. Alternatively, signs of thirst may include dry mouth, a mild headache, or feeling sluggish.
So, next time you think you’re hungry, test it out by drinking a glass of water and waiting 15 minutes. If you feel satisfied, you were probably just thirsty. If your stomach is still grumbling, try eating a nutritious snack.
As with most things in life, accountability is key. Get your family involved or recruit a friend to commit to healthier eating with you. Having a trusted ally can make all the difference when it comes to sticking to your healthy food choices. In no time at all, you’ll be eating better and feeling a whole lot better, too!
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