I may be a Registered Dietitian, but I'm a foodie first. While it may seem that those identities are at odds, my expertise is in enjoying both healthy and not-so-healthy foods.
They can both happen- not just "in moderation" as the old adage says- but by incorporating a few tricks into our daily lives that require little thinking, effort, or will-power.
Below are 5 effortless steps you can take to eat healthier without compromising your time or the foods you enjoy.
1. Make a Grocery List.
Before you grocery shop, plan your meals for the week and list the ingredients you need. Once you get to the store, stick to your list and don't buy anything that's not written down. Research demonstrates people who stick to lists spend less money and eat healthier.
2. Food Shui.
Research studies have shown that humans tend to eat food that is the most visible and accessible. We can use this information to eat healthier through what I call "food shui."
Thoughtfully set-up your kitchen by leaving fruit in a bowl on the counter so it's the first thing you see when you're hungry.
You can also pre-cut carrot and celery sticks (or any veggies) and keep them on the top shelf of the fridge so you see and can grab them quickly for a snack.
Finally, while it's best not to bring the sweets and chips into the house to begin with, if you do, keep them hidden away so you have to work to eat them.
3. Eat Mindfully.
Eating mindfully begins with setting up your plate with health in mind. Your meal should be:
1/2 fruits or vegetables
1/4 whole grains
When you sit down to eat, be grateful for the food, observe it, and smell it before you take a bite. Eat slowly and put your fork down between bites. Wait 20 minutes before getting seconds; it takes this long for our bodies to recognize if they're full.
4. Start with Protein.
When you sit down to your meal, eat your protein first, followed by veggies, and end with the starch. This will prime your liver for insulin secretion and help you fill up on nutrition-packed foods before indulging in higher calorie, higher sugar foods like bread or pasta.
5. Nutrition First, Treats Second.
Similar to the tip above where you consciously order the foods you eat so you ensure you get the most needed nutrition first, you can set-up your day that way as well.
Pick one nutrition goal to shoot for everyday, and if you hit that goal and are still craving a treat, eat it knowing you've nourished your body first.
For instance, probably the best goal I recommend for clients is to eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. (For a breakdown on what counts as a serving, click here).
If you've gotten in your 5 servings of fruits & vegetables, you know you've gotten your carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants and should feel free to enjoy the treat of your choice.
Maybe it's cheesy garlic bread, a snack-sized bag of chips, or 2 scoops of Ben & Jerry's. Of course, you cannot live on fruits, vegetables, and treats alone, so keep in mind this is a goal and not a menu.
Another popular goal is eating sufficient protein throughout the day.
This varies from person to person (to find out how much you need, make a quick virtual appointment here), but once you know your target, this is a great goal if you're vegetarian, vegan, recovering from injury or illness, are an athlete, a growing teen, or over 55 years old.
Once you've eaten your protein goal, you should feel comfortable indulging in a sweet or salty snack.
My virtual door is always open and I'm happy to coach you on eating healthier, setting nutrition goals, or managing a condition with nutrition.
Remember, food is the zest of life and is meant to be enjoyed!