Simple Tips and Tricks for Healthier Eating
Are you looking to improve your diet to get to or maintain a healthy weight? Whether you are an athlete who wants to make better food choices to enhance your performance or you are trying to lower your BMI to improve your overall health, these tips and tricks can help you make smart choices each day that over time can add up to measurable results!
First, it is important to note that you can lower your body mass index (BMI) without adhering to strict rules and food measurements. A few adjustments to your meals and snacks can lower your calorie intake while still leaving you feeling satisfied and allowing you to enjoy what you eat!
Proper Plate Composition
Pay attention to the makeup of your plate. As you plan each meal, aim to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables, one-quarter of your plate protein, and the final quarter grains and starches (commonly referred to as carbohydrates).
Fruits and vegetables are low-energy and nutrient-dense foods, meaning they are higher in nutrients and lower in calories than proteins and grains/starches of the same volume. This is due to their high fiber and water content, which helps you feel satisfied with what you ate and keeps you feeling full longer.
- When preparing vegetables, try baking, grilling, steaming, sautéing them in a small amount of oil, or eating them raw. When choosing fruits, aim for whole fruits (fresh or frozen) when possible.
- Canned fruits are a good choice as well if they are canned in their own juices. Dried fruits and fruit juices often contain added sugars, so enjoy these in moderation.
A portion size of 3-4 oz of protein, such as meat, poultry, or fish is all you need to consume during each meal. The average person can only use a maximum of about 40 grams of protein per meal, with the rest being stored for energy (and not a very efficient energy source at that).
- When choosing protein, reach for leaner cuts of meat, seafood, low-fat dairy, and vegetarian protein sources. Also, lower-fat cooking methods, such as grilling, baking, boiling, and steaming help limit saturated fat intake compared to high-fat methods like frying in large amounts of oil.
The last portion of your plate should contain grains and starchy vegetables, like pasta, rice, quinoa, potatoes, peas, beans, and cereal. While grains and starches are an important part of your diet, they can be higher in calories.
- You can increase the nutritional content of your grains by choosing whole grains when possible. You can identify whole-grain foods by checking the ingredients list on the nutrition facts label. The first ingredient should be “whole grain flour”. Like fruits and vegetables, whole grains contain fiber and nutrients to help you feel fuller longer and provide essential nutrients.
Some popular foods like sandwiches or tacos may make proper plate composition harder, as they often contain higher grains and starch portions than vegetable portions. To balance out your plate, add a side salad or a piece of fruit.
It is also important to make sure you are eating enough at each meal to stay satisfied until your next meal or snack. If you are hungry only an hour or two after your last meal, you may need to increase your portion sizes to include more fiber-rich foods. Meals should keep you full for 3-4 hours, and you should incorporate 1-2 snacks into your day to prevent overeating during meals.
Simple Food Substitutions
Swapping out high-calorie foods for their healthier counterparts can also help lower your overall calorie intake.
Consuming beverages like soda, sports drinks, juice, alcohol, and flavored coffee drinks can add a lot of extra calories and sugar, and often little if any nutritional value. Instead, reach for lower calorie or calorie-free substitutions. Examples include subbing flavored waters, drink mixes, and water enhancers for soda, sports drinks and juice, and black coffee with skim milk and a sugar-free flavoring for blended coffee drinks. Choosing the lower-calorie alternative to your favorite beverages just a few times each week can help with weight loss.
While it may seem like an afterthought, dressings and sauces can have a significant impact on the overall calories and saturated fat levels of the meals they top! Want to keep your foods flavorful, while keeping excess calories at bay? Aim for oil or vegetable-based dressings like vinaigrettes over dairy-based dressings like aioli or ranch. Top your pasta with and tomato or pesto sauce instead of cream or cheese-based sauces like alfredo.
Finally, it is important to remember that all foods can fit into a healthy diet. Oftentimes, when you avoid certain foods or cut entire food groups out of our diet because they are labeled as “bad”, you eventually end up eating them later, often in larger quantities. Allowing all foods, in the correct portion sizes, will allow you to reach your weight loss or maintenance goals while still making meals and snacks enjoyable!
If you have questions or are interested in learning more about nutrition topics, email your inquiries and suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.