Improving eating habits is a worthy health and wellness goal. But how to begin? Start with one small step. Eating healthfully doesn’t have to be difficult. The key to success is to choose just one goal that’s fairly easy to incorporate into your life and make that goal a top priority. Keep at it until the new behavior is a habit—about 30 days.
Here are some suggested steps to help improve your eating habits.
Sit down and focus during meals and snacks
Distracted dining can lead to eating more than you’re hungry for. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adults who ate lunch while playing a computer game felt less full after eating and ate more cookies 30 minutes later than those who dined without distractions. Turn off the TV, computer and cell phone. Sit down, relax, and eat the foods you really love with total concentration. Be mindful of every bite and how your body, especially your stomach, feels. Stop eating when you’re about three-quarters full.
Enjoy breakfast’s benefits
Eating breakfast improves concentration, problem-solving skills, strength and endurance. Also, people who regularly eat breakfast are more likely to get the nutrients they need and to have healthier weights. Not hungry in the morning? Start small with a piece of fruit or a container of yogurt, or try a drinkable breakfast such as a fruit smoothie.
Resource: FoodInsight.org (click on “For Consumers” and then “Breakfast Resources”).
A flexitarian eating style is a semi-vegetarian diet that focuses on plant foods and occasionally includes meat. Going flexitarian is a great way to ease into eating a plant-based diet which may lower risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, cancer and overweight. Start with two meatless meals a week and head toward three or more.
Enjoy more whole foods
Choose whole foods whenever possible and choose processed foods wisely. When selecting processed foods, choose (most often) those that are closest to the whole foods they came from—those that are minimally processed. Start by choosing products with 100% whole grains whenever possible or eating more vegetables and fruits by including at least one vegetable or fruit at every meal and snack.
Did you know that there are more than 50 nutrients in foods? If you enjoy a wide variety of foods, you’re more likely to get the wide variety of nutrients that your body needs for health. Make a list of foods you’ve never tried before but would like to. Decide which you’d like to taste-test at home or the next time you eat out. Remember to be patient with kids and new foods. A child may need to see a particular food on his plate 15 times before he’s willing to taste it.
Rethink your drink
Americans get about one-fifth of their total calories from beverages. Choose wisely: water, 100% juice and nutrient-rich beverages such as fat-free or low-fat milk are good choices. Some beverages such as regular soft drinks, juice drinks and bottled or canned teas are high in calories but low in nutrients. These “empty” calories can add up quickly. Use the Nutrition Facts panel on the label to help you select what to sip. The calories are listed per serving, so be sure to note the number of servings in the container since the container may hold more than one serving. For example, if the container holds two servings, double the number of calories listed on the label to get the total number of calories in the container.
Resource: cdc.gov (on the home page, search for “Rethink Your Drink”)
Written by Gina Keilen. Keilen is a registered dietitian formerly of the Greater Lansing area, now living in Howell. She works at University of Michigan Hospital as a Food Service Manager.