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5 Tips to Kick Bad Eating Habits to the Curb
Are you guilty of skipping breakfast, ordering takeout, getting jitters from coffee overload and counting potato chips as part of a viable diet plan? It's time to kick those habits to the curb and start eating right. Here's a guide to help you get started.
There's no better way to start your morning — and the year — than with a healthy breakfast. "It provides your body with the fuel it needs to make energy to keep you focused and active throughout the day," says Jessica Crandall, RDN, CDE, AFAA, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Spokesperson. Not only that, but if you are trying to lose weight, fueling your body regularly "will help you from possibly making unhealthy decisions later in the day based on hunger," adds Crandall.
The key to a good breakfast is balance. Include lean protein, whole grains and fresh, frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Tweet this For example, oatmeal cooked with low-fat milk and sliced almonds and berries or crust-less quiche with mixed veggies, low-fat cheese and a slice of whole-wheat toast.
Cut Back on Caffeine
Too much caffeine can interfere with sleep, can make you jittery and can cause you to lose energy later in the day, says Jim White, RDN, ACSM-HFS, Academy Spokesperson. Keep your caffeine intake in check by limiting regular coffee to 3 cups or less a day, and watch what you put into it. Skip unwanted calories and sugar by drinking it as plain as possible.
Need to wean off? White says to try three things: switch to half decaf or tea, drink plenty of water and eat small, frequent meals to keep up energy.
Bring Lunch to Work
How do you make bringing lunch to work easy? "Have your arsenal of food for the week. Have the right foods to put together," says White. "By stocking up the fridge, you're setting yourself up for success."
White suggests preparing the week's lunches over the weekend — bake chicken, chop veggies, steam rice. Make sure your options include a combination of lean protein and carbohydrates. For example, whole-grain bread with turkey, 1 cup of veggies and a piece of fruit. Or, try a salad with veggies and chicken, a piece of fruit and a 100-calorie cup of low-sodium soup. It doesn't have to be a full meal. "If you're crunched, get a snack," says White. Go for fat-free or low-fat yogurt and fruit, whole-wheat crackers and low-fat cheese or hummus and baby carrots.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and veggies add color, flavor and texture, plus vitamins, minerals and fibers to your plate. Crandall recommends picking one fruit or veggie you've never tried each time you go to the grocery store. "It's a great way to discover new options," she says.
Don't let winter stop you from enjoying produce either. It might be harder to find fresh options, but frozen and canned are great alternatives.
Cook Dinner at Home
Making meals at home doesn't have to zap the last bit of your time and energy. The trick is to plan ahead. "If the week is cramped for you, then prepping on the weekend is a great time saver," says Crandall. Choose options you can make in advance. For example, cook a batch of soup you can portion out for lunches or dinner during the week, or bake a whole chicken to slice for sandwiches, wraps and casseroles, suggests Crandall.
Use shortcuts such as pre-cut or frozen veggies and keep staples on hand such as low-sodium broth, herbs and lemons for flavoring. A quick and easy idea is to turn leftover beef into stew with beans, no-salt-added diced tomatoes and pre-cut veggies.
For breakfast eat …
Berries with low-fat cottage cheese and high fiber cereal
Whole-wheat English muffin with peanut butter
Whole grain cereal with low-fat or fat-free milk
Oatmeal with a side of hard-boiled or scrambled egg
For lunch try …
Oil-based salad dressing instead of a cream-based dressing
Salad with as many veggies as possible
Ordering an appetizer as a meal
Splitting an entrée or save half for later
For dinner use …
A slow cooker
Extra veggies in stir-fry, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce and soup
Frozen fruit for desserts
7 Tips for Healthy Dining Out
Eating at a restaurant doesn't have to sabotage a healthy diet. Use smart-eating strategies: Plan ahead, consider the menu and choose foods carefully to keep you on your plan.
Have a plan. Eat a light dinner if you ate a big lunch that day. Or, if you know ahead of time that you're going to a restaurant, cut back on calories during other meals during the day. Knowing menu terms and cooking basics makes ordering easier, especially if you need to control calories. So, look for foods that are steamed, broiled, baked or grilled, and limit fried and sautéed items or foods described as "crispy," "rich" or "au gratin."
Choosing a Restaurant
Think ahead. Consider meal options at different restaurants and look for places with a wide range of menu items. Check online menus, if available, for nutrition information ahead of time.
Be deliberate when ordering. Balance your meal by including healthier selections from all the different food groups such as lean meats, low- or non-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Look for freshly made entrée salads that give you "balance in a bowl." For example, entrée salads with baked or grilled chicken, low-fat cheese or seafood provide protein along with fiber and other nutrients. If you are counting calories, use a low-fat dressing or ask for it on the side or skip some of the extras, such as croutons.
For sandwich toppings, go with low-fat options including lettuce, tomato and onion; use condiments such as ketchup, mustard or relish and low-fat dressings.
Round out your meal by ordering healthy side dishes, such as a side salad with low-fat dressing, baked potato or fruit. Boost the nutritional value of your baked potato by topping it with vegetables, salsa or chili.
Substitute. Ask for a side salad with low-fat dressing to replace fries in a combination meal. Many restaurants honor requests, so don't be afraid to be assertive, ask menu questions and make special requests to meet your nutritional needs.
Control portions. Many restaurants serve huge portions, sometimes enough for two or three people. Order menu items that contain fewer calories and eat a smaller portion. Bring leftovers home for another meal. Or, order an appetizer in place of an entrée and add a small salad.
Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. Fast eaters often are overeaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied.
Eating Out with Kids
Choose a restaurant that caters to children. This will increase the likelihood that a restaurant has a healthy children's menu that includes smaller portion sizes and meals designed to provide ample nourishment for smaller bodies.
For new foods, offer a bite or two from your order. Otherwise, let kids order their familiar favorites when they eat out. Pick two or three suitable menu items and then let your child pick one. Substitute healthier sides in place of fries, such as carrots or apple slices, and order plain foods with sauce on the side.
Calcium is important at all ages, but especially for growing bones. To get more calcium, opt for low-fat or fat-free white or chocolate milk for a beverage, or add a slice of cheese to their sandwich. Choose dairy-based desserts such as yogurt or a smoothie.
Restaurants may be intimidating to people trying to stick to a healthy diet, but with preparation and confidence, you can enjoy your restaurant meal without abandoning healthy eating.