By: Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN
Want the inside scoop on how to eat healthier? Eating better doesn’t have to be hard (and honestly, it shouldn’t be!). You can eat healthier with simple life changes that you can sustain for the rest of your life. Let’s take a look at some of the top dietitian-approved healthy eating tips that can help you reach your health, weight and fitness goals!
Expert Tip #1: Use smaller plates
Let’s start off with a tip that requires little to no effort. Using smaller plates. Take a look at the dishware you are currently using (your plates, bowls, glasses and mugs). Changing your dishware can help you change your calorie intake at a meal.
If you are trying to lose weight, then decrease the size of your plates. We tend to fill up our plate, regardless of the serving size. Also, if you were ever part of the “clean plate club,” you were taught to finish the meal, regardless if the portion size was appropriate for you. A classic dinner plate can be 12 to 14 inches across. Imagine how much food you can put on that! Instead, eat your meals on a 9-inch plate for smaller portions and less calories.
Expert Tip #2: Avoid distractions while eating
When was the last time that you had a meal where there were no distractions? No TV, not eating in the car, not eating while working at your desk… no phone. If you can’t remember the last time you had a distraction-free sit down meal, then it’s time to create a new habit for you and your family.
Being distracted while we eat can make us “forget” that we are eating. Thus, we may not feel completely satisfied by the meal. When we aren’t completely satisfied after a meal, that’s when we start snooping around for an extra snack.
Expert Tip #3: It’s okay to flavor your water
If you have trouble meeting your fluid needs, then spice up your water to make it more appealing. For those trying to lose weight, choose no or low calorie flavorings such as the following:
- Lemon juice, lime juice (from fresh fruit or from plain lemon/lime juice concentrate)
- Sparkling water
- Flavored water (i.e. Propel)
- 1 to 2 ounces of fruit juice or unsweetened tea (add this to 6 to 8 ounces of water)
- Fresh fruit (i.e. strawberries, citrus, dark berries, cucumber)
- Commercial water flavorings (i.e. Crystal Light, Stur)
- Tea bag
If one of these options helps you drink more water during the day, then that’s a good thing! Also, some people may drink more when the water is at an optimal temperature. Some people may drink more when their water is ice cold, whereas others may drink more when their water is warm (especially in the colder months).
Expert Tip #4: Don’t eat from the large bag
Have you ever eaten straight from the chip bag and then realized that the whole bag was finished in one sitting? Whether you are eating chips, crackers, cookies, candy or even healthy snacks like nuts, we tend to have trouble controlling our portion size when we eat from the large container. Next time you reach for a snack, get the bag, take out one portion, put it in a small bowl, put the bag away and enjoy the small portion in front of you. Try to do this as often as possible in order to control how many calories you are eating.
Expert Tip #5: Eat slower
How long does it take you to eat your meals? By taking more time and making the meal an experience, you can enjoy the meal, feel more satisfied with what you ate (and possibly consume less calories). Next time you sit down for a meal (and are limiting all distractions as mentioned in tip #2), keep an eye on the time. Strive to take at least 20 minutes to eat your meal.
Sound easy? From the first bite of the meal to the last bite of the meal, try to make it last at least 20 minutes. See if you can train yourself to do that! You may realize that you don’t need to eat the entire meal to feel full.
Expert Tip #6: Make half of your plate veggies
Vegetables are loaded with nutrition, have less calories than other foods and provide tons of fiber (to keep things moving along). Try to make half of your meal non-starchy vegetables. Non-starchy vegetables are all vegetables except for potatoes, corn and peas (those are starches). Examples of non-starchy vegetables include:
- Brussels sprouts
- Green beans
- Bell pepper
You can incorporate vegetables as a side salad, within a casserole, as a cooked side dish, within a sauce or in many other ways. So, get creative with your veggies. Just remember: Try to make veggies ½ of the meal as often as possible.
Expert Tip #7: Make fresh fruit your dessert
We all may enjoy a sweet dessert, but try to switch out sweets with fresh fruit a few times per week. If you’re feeling ambitious, try to eat fruit for dessert at 1 meal every day. Fresh fruit is great because it provides sweetness, fiber, fluid and tons of nutrition. Strawberries, oranges, bananas and blueberries are great options for dessert. Plus, 1 serving of fresh fruit has way less calories that 1 serving of cake or chocolate.
How do I make these changes?
You may be excited to try all of these proposed tips today, but here’s another expert tip: Don’t bite off more than you can chew! While you may want to make drastic changes to your diet and lifestyle habits right away, try to limit yourself to 1 to 2 changes.
By focusing on 1 to 2 changes at a time, you can try them, master them and then incorporate them into your daily life. Making several changes at once can overwhelm you and make you relapse into old unhealthy habits – and how is that helping you reach your goals? For more information about healthy eating, click here.