March 2012 has been declared National Nutrition Month® by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). Their theme for this year is "Get Your Plate in Shape." Everyone pretty much knows they need to eat healthier, but find it difficult to incorporate into everyday life. Here are some tips to help you make better eating decisions:
- Make and eat at home. By doing this you will know what is exactly in your food. Eating out usually causes you to consume foods that are high in preservatives and salt. Most of us are spending longer hours at work and don't have time to cook at night. The easiest way to combat this is when you have some free time, like on a Sunday afternoon, cook two or three meals. Place these meals in containers and put them in the refrigerator. These can be easily reheated throughout the week and will make it less likely for you to eat out. Another way is similar, when you do cook a meal during the week, make some extras and use those leftovers for lunch or dinner another day!
- Put down the sugary drinks. Sodas, fruit juices and sports drinks are loaded with sugar and artificial dyes. When buying fruit juice make sure it is 100% juice and you can even fill a glass with half juice and half water to increase your water intake. I usually find that when I have my PBA-free plastic bottle around I drink more water, so purchase one of those and see what happens. Another good alternative, especially following a workout is coconut water. This water is packed with electrolytes and is low in sugar, making it an excellent alternative to sports drinks.
- Get a new healthy eating cookbook from the library. Often times we make the same meals over and over because we are used to them and they are easy. Getting a new healthy eating cookbook will cause you to try new recipes and out of the rut of everyday. Make sure this cookbook incorporates numerous sources of vegetables, whole grains and protein.
- Eat breakfast! Many people skip the most important meal of the day because they are in a rush. If you don't have time to make eggs or a traditional breakfast, try making a smoothie or shake with protein powder. Many people are sensitive to dairy therefore whey protein should not be used. There are now many pea protein powders available. Increase your fruit intake by adding berries, (the easiest way is to buy a berry assortment frozen and defrost them before adding them to the blender. The frozen form is great because you don't have to worry about them going bad over a period of time). I like to add all kinds of things to my shake like coconut water, crushed or ground flax seed and acai berry packets then I put what's leftover in the refrigerator for the next day.
- Read labels. I often tell patients if there is an ingredient that you cannot pronounce, you most likely do not want to eat it. Food should be made from food, not preservatives and fillers. It is best to consume foods in their purest form, so back to the prior tip: make and eat at home!
- Opt for a salad. Let's face it, as much as we would love to have leftovers everyday for lunch or dinner it usually is not possible. So when you do have to head out somewhere, there is nothing like a good salad with lean protein on it (fish, chicken, tofu). Try and get a dressing that is not cream based, these are usually higher in fats than oil based and if you have had enough dairy for the day, leave out the cheese.
Hopefully these tips make it a little easier to incorporate healthy eating into your everyday life!