March is National Nutrition Month and so in recognition of that GTEC has put together the following list of 10 easy tips for better nutrition. If you’re like many people you may be so overwhelmed at the prospect of a major lifestyle and diet change that you do nothing at all. Alternatively, you may have started off your new healthy diet strong only to get discouraged, feel deprived, and give up. Yet don’t despair, these tips are easy to follow and stick to long-term.
Plan in Advance
As with most things, the key to a successful diet is, in large part, planning. Many people are well aware that they shouldn’t do their grocery shopping while hungry, but that also applies to deciding what you’re going to eat. Good nutrition and a healthy diet can easily go right out the window if you’re already ravenously hungry and forced to make a quick decision about what to eat.
Instead, plan your meals ahead of time and make sure you have all your ingredients on hand and your kitchen ready to go. Being out of something or having a sink full of dirty dishes can make even the most health conscious person tempted to make some quick, unhealthy substitutions, so be ready and plan ahead! If you don’t feel like you have time to cook, you may also consider making your food for the week all at one time and freezing or refrigerating suitable portion sizes separately.
Recreate Favorites at Home
We all have our special favorite dishes at restaurants, but unfortunately those old standbys are often full of empty calories. Do your waistline a favor and consider recreating these favorite meals at home instead. Try Googling your favorite recipes and see if you can make it, don’t be afraid to make healthy substitutions when necessary. You can also turn this into a regular family event or a fun addition to date night!
Skip the Salt
Many people reach for the salt shaker before they even taste their food. Unfortunately too much salt can have negative health consequences and lead to uncomfortable bloating. Instead, commit to trying at least a few bites of your food before you add that salt. If you do find that your meal is lacking something, consider other flavorful additions like herbs and spices. If you’re a diehard salt addict, try gradually decreasing the amount you use until you can get it down to a more moderate level without feeling deprived.
Add Vegetables as Your Side
French fries, mashed potatoes, chips, rice, and pasta are all popular side dishes or bases to meals; however, these tasty favorites can quickly tack on extra calories without offering much nutritional value. Meanwhile, Americans are chronically consuming less vegetables than they should be. Tackle both these problems by simply substituting a vegetable dish in place of the chips or pasta.
Don’t think you’re a vegetable person? Don’t be so sure. The type of vegetables you select and the preparation style can make a big difference. Just because you didn’t like steamed broccoli as a kid doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy a vegetable medley as an adult.
Have Dessert but Make It Fruit
Vegetables aren’t the only healthy foods many people get too few of. just about everyone loves desserts of some kind and many people freely admit to having a big sweet tooth yet, for many people fresh fruit is not part of their diet. Next time instead of reaching for the ice cream or cake, consider having a bowl of fresh fruit. Want a quick, convenient snack on the go that satisfies your craving for sweets? Grab an apple or a banana.
Replace Sugary Drinks with Water
Proper hydration is not only important for good health, it is also important for people who are dieting because it prevents hunger and thirst triggers from getting mixed up and helps you feel fuller, longer. Try taking advantage of these benefits by replacing some of those sugar-laden soft drinks with a fresh glass of H2O. Find regular water too bland and boring? Punch it up with a slice of lemon, orange, cucumber or other preferred fruit.
Slow Down While Eating
The reality is that people’s mouths literally work faster than their stomachs. Research shows that it takes about twenty minutes from the time food is first eaten until the brain registers a satisfied, full feeling. That means that if you’re scarfing down your food too fast it’s easy to overeat because you’re not giving your stomach and brain time to catch up. Instead, make eating a more leisurely activity. Chew your food thoroughly and savor each bite. Stop between each mouthful and chat with your dining companions or take a sip of water. Consciously ask yourself whether or not you’re full before you mindlessly clean your plate.
Limit Portions Not Foods
Unless you have food allergies or have been advised by your doctor to avoid certain foods altogether, consider focusing more on limiting portions sizes than eliminating particular foods from your diet altogether. Sacrificing a favorite treat is tough and it may be especially discouraging if you feel like it’s permanently on the banned list. Instead, let yourself have occasional treats but limit portion sizes and don’t over indulge.
Speaking of portion sizes, consider shrinking them for all the foods you eat, not just the unhealthy ones. Restaurant and fast food portion sizes along with long-held beliefs about how much it takes to fill you up, can skew your perception about what a proper portion size is. Instead, consider taking a small helping than normal and seeing if you’re still hungry when you finish that. You can always go back for seconds if necessary, but for many people, once the food is on their plate they’re going to eat it.
Add Smart Snacks
Going too long without a meal and getting too hungry can also derail your efforts to eat right by making you overcompensate for your hunger with bad choices or excessive portion sizes. Instead add some smart snacks into the rotation between meals and try to shrink your portions to compensate. Try having a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit to tide you over. Just avoid reaching for the candy bars or chips.
Get Enough Rest
The last tip on this list may seem unrelated to nutrition, but in fact studies show that when people are sleep deprived they often overeat and make worse nutritional choices as a means of getting that quick sugar rush or making themselves feel better. Don’t fall into this trap. Instead aim to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
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