10 small ways to make a big impact on your eating habits
Adding cucumber and mint to your water is a healthy and delicious way to avoid sugary drinks. Supplied.
It’s January people. Time to shift our thinking, sign up for the guilt trip, instantly and enthusiastically change our eating habits and become a healthy, happier you.
Time to start buying kale, haul out the kitchen scale, start drinking green smoothies, and worry about how long we can keep this up.
Eating healthy isn’t a sudden mind shift that happens Jan.1, but anytime is a good time to re-focus and evaluate what we are doing and what we can change to live better, healthier and happier. If you’re looking for some tangible steps, here are 10 easy ways to tweak what you eat. I’m no health expert, these are just common-sense ideas that I think make a difference, and for me are just a few simple habits to start you out.
1. Eat at home — Save eating out for special occasions. Buy groceries, try new recipes, try old recipes, cook foods that contain one ingredient. Rice is rice, an apple is an apple. If you can’t identify the contents of the ingredient list it’s not on the menu. Meal plan so your meat is thawed in time for supper, and prep your lunch the night before so the takeout line isn’t the only option when the noon hunger kicks in. Prepped snacks like fruit and veggies that area already portioned in the fridge will re-direct you from the instant fix from the pantry. Eat at mealtime, not just anytime. Even just a different cooking method will cut some calories, baked instead of fried, steamed, use olive oil instead of canola.
2. Drink water — Fill a water bottle in the morning and challenge yourself to drink a certain number of them every day. Track your refills using a dry erase marker on the side of your bottle. If you have water on hand, you’ll be less likely to grab soft drinks, fruit juice, or cups and cups of coffee in the staff room at the office. Keep water in the fridge infused with fruits/cucumbers so it's an easy grab to replace the temptation for sugared drinks. My favourite is cucumber with mint.
3. Eat your veggies — Add veggies to every meal. Add them to your breakfast, eat veggies for snacks, find different ways to cook them, even add them to your pizza. At mealtime, always eat your veggies first. If you fill up on veggies you’re less likely to over-indulge on the carbs and fatty foods. Try a new veggie every month and expand your palate.
4. Smart swaps — Consider the foods you love, and think of how you can change those foods up to be a better choice for your health. Swap pasta favourites for spiralized veggies, turkey bacon instead of real bacon, lean ground turkey instead of lean ground beef. Wrap your burger in crunchy romaine lettuce instead of a bun.
5. Shop smarter — Grocery shop on Fridays (with a list, always with a list) so you’re less likely to eat out all weekend. Skip the centre eight rows of the grocery store. The complete Canada food guide is in the perimeter of the store. That’s all we need for a healthy diet. When you have a choice, choose fresh over processed.
6. Reinvent your morning coffee — If your day starts off with a double-double, could you replace cream for unsweetened almond milk, or coconut milk? Replace the sugar with stevia or honey, or eliminate it altogether? How you drink your coffee is something to consider that’s a small change with potential for big results.
7. Discover salad — When ordering salad at a restaurant, order dressing on the side, when eating salad at home, try making your own dressing. There are some delicious combinations of oil and vinegar, or use fresh spices and fresh squeezed fruit or lemon juice to tantalize your taste buds. Salad isn’t just lettuce, add some flavour with veggies and fruit, and add crunch with nuts or sunflower seeds.
8. Snacks from a dish — My biggest weakness is chips. I love potato chips, it's all about the crunch and the salt. This year I’m proposing to never bring the bag to the couch. Put the portion in a bowl and leave the rest out of reach and out of sight in the cupboard. This provides an end to the snack (any snack, whatever your go-to is) instead of allowing yourself a limitless portion.
9. Keep it social — Eat with the family, at the table. The benefits of the family time are priceless as well as the health implications of being aware of what you’re eating, how much you’re eating, and pacing your meal by balancing with conversation.
10. Use fruit as your sweet — Keep it balanced, but indulge your sweet tooth with delicious fruits. If you’re a dessert fan, use fruit. Fruit with yogurt, fruit salad, there are so many sweet fruits with natural sugars that can help fill the sugar cravings without going overboard.
The start of a new year is a great time to be thankful for where we are at in life and practice our ability to make good choices for ourselves, one meal, step, or strategy at a time. Don’t forget the resources available to you. The internet is not always your best source for health facts and information. Talk to your doctor, your local dietician, friends you look up to who’ve already got this health thing figured out.
And as you’re considering what to change in 2017, give some thought to what tangible things you can do to become the person you want to be, and habits that you can start now and continue through the whole year, not just fads you’ll stuff back in the box come February.
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