New Year’s Resolutions may be out the window at this point in the year, but it’s never too late to incorporate healthy habits! The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics lists these tips for a lucky (and healthy) 2013:
- Eat breakfast! Try to use the MyPlate method to create as balanced a meal as possible. Many of our breakfast foods come from the grain group (cereal, pancakes, etc.), so try pairing it with some protein (an egg), fruit or dairy (milk or yogurt). This will give your breakfast more staying power and a higher nutritional punch!
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Also consistent with MyPlate, aim to make half of your plate fruits and veggies. Foods in these groups give you vitamins, minerals, fiber, color and flavor. Aim for a rainbow of colors every day to make sure you get a wide variety of nutrients and antioxidants. Don’t forget that frozen and canned (without salt or sugar) can be just as nutritious as fresh.
- Watch portion sizes. Using measuring cups and spoons can help to ensure that your portions are consistent with the recommended serving sizes. Reading food labels can also help with this. Many packages contain more than one serving, so you might be getting two or three times the amount of calories and fat you’re expecting. Using smaller dishes can also help with portion control. MyPlate is another tool to assist with portion control. After you make half of your plate fruits and veggies, fill ¼ with whole grains or starchy vegetables, like potatoes, and the other ¼ with lean meat or meat substitute. Add a cup of low-fat or skim milk or 6 ounces of fat-free yogurt, and you’ve built the perfect plate!
- Be active! Physical activity can help with everything from weight management to blood pressure control to regulation of blood sugar levels. Aim for 150 minutes a week (equivalent to 30 minutes, 5 days a week), but it’s okay to split that up into 10 minute increments. Find activities you enjoy, such as a walk with co-workers over lunch or a game of basketball in the evening with your family.
- Fix healthy snacks! Let’s go back to MyPlate again – combine two or more food groups for a well-balanced and long-lasting snack.
- Get to know food labels! We already talked about portion size, but there is so much more to gain from looking at food labels. If you are watching your weight, calories and fat are good to watch. Remember that foods with less than 30% of calories from fat are considered “low-fat”. Foods with less than 5% of a certain nutrient of the daily value (DV) are poor sources of that nutrient and those that are 20% or more of the DV are a good source. Aim for low amounts of total and saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium and high amounts of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Head here to see what label claims, like low fat, really mean.
- Consult an RD! RDs are your best source of nutrition information when you’re trying to eat healthfully, but just in case you’re in need of a refresher: RDs personalize eating plans for your health and wellness goals, provide motivation and support, and help you to live a healthier lifestyle.
- Follow food safety guidelines. One in six Americans is afflicted with a foodborne illness each year! Prevent that from happening to you and your family by: washing your hands, separating raw meats from ready-to-eat foods, using a food thermometer to ensure thorough cooking, and refrigerating food to slow bacteria growth.
- Get cooking! Now that we have our food safety up to snuff, let’s get cooking! By cooking at home, you can save money (and calories) and sleep well by knowing every ingredient you put into your body. Play around with herbs and spices to increase your intake of antioxidants and to (literally) spice up every day staples. See MyPlate recipes for some ideas to get you started!
- Dine out without ditching your goals. Plan ahead when you know you’ll be eating out. Many restaurants provide online or on site nutritional information. This makes it easy to choose a dish that fits with your goals. Also try to apply MyPlate to your menu selections. This will aid in portion control.
- Enact family meal time. Family meals encourage healthy eating habits. Make a goal of having a family meal at least a few times weekly. Remember that family meal time means no electronics – use some old-fashioned conversation. Also, get your kids involved with meal planning and cooking. Children are more likely to eat foods that they helped pick out or prepare, so this is a prime time to introduce new fruits and vegetables and share healthy eating habits.
- Banish brown bag boredom. Is that sandwich becoming monotonous day after day? Get creative with your lunch! Try incorporating as many food groups as possible. For example, whole-wheat couscous with chickpeas or black beans, a yogurt, an apple, and some veggie sticks make a nice balanced (and filling) meal. Packing your lunch the night before ensures that eating healthy won’t cause you to run late and won’t have you resorting to less healthy options in a pinch.
- Drink more water. Water does so much for our bodies – from transporting oxygen to ridding our body of waste. The Institute of Medicine recommends 13 cups a day for men and 9 cups a day for women.
Adapted from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tip sheet, which you can download here.