Healthier Eating: 10 Small Steps That Make a Big Difference

Most of us want to make healthier food choices, but the question of “where to start” or the power of old habits may seem overwhelming.

However, the fact is that small steps taken over time can put you on the road to smarter nutrition habits – whether you’re trying to lose weight or are simply looking to adopt a healthier lifestyle for you or for your family. Here are 10 actions you can implement* this month that can make a big difference over time.

Tip One: Plan ahead. Allow time in your schedule for regular trips to the grocery store to stock up on nutritious meal items and snacks. That eliminates the temptation to swing by the fast food drive-through or visit the vending machine when we’re hungry but don’t have healthier choices available.

Tip Two: Be thoughtful when you fill your plate. It should contain a healthy balance of fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins (or an appropriate modification as reccommended by your physician). Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to learn more.

Tip Three: Make good beverage choices. Instead of sodas, choose plenty of fresh water. Drink tea, milk, and fruit juices in moderation.

Tip Four: Pay attention to your “triggers“. If you notice that you tend to make unhealthy choices when you are watching TV late at night, or when you are tired or stressed, develop an alternate defense plan – like prepping nutritious snacks in advance, or going for a walk instead of munching.

Tip Five: Eat your colors. While grocery shopping, choose as many different-colored fruits and vegetables as possible. The variety will keep you from getting bored with certain foods, and you’ll also get the benefit of a wider range of nutrients.

Tip Six: Skip the salt – or use a salt substitute. To add flavor, try peppers, spices, or lemon juice instead. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Tip Seven: Watch your portions. It’s okay to enjoy a few treats here and there, but try to cut your usual serving size down by half.

Tip Eight: Read nutrition labels carefully. You may be surprised to find that food items that are marketed as “healthy” are high in calories or sodium, or have few nutrients or fiber. Learn more about food labels.

Tip Nine: Eat smaller portions – but eat frequently. While skipping meals may seem like a great way to cut down on calories, our bodies work better when they receive regular “fuel”. Also, skipping meals can cause your hunger to build to the point that you’ll be overly tempted to make poor choices or overeat later in the day.

Tip Ten: Don’t give up. Even people with excellent nutrition habits have times when they overindulge or make some poor choices. If you get off track, resolve to make better choices tomorrow.

Make fruit and vegetables more appealing

Whether picky eaters or not, kids don’t always want what’s healthy for them—especially fruit and vegetables. But there are ways to make them more enticing.

The first step is to limit access to unhealthy sweets and salty snacks. It’s much easier to convince your child that an apple with peanut butter is a treat if there are no cookies available. Here are some more tips for adding more fruits and veggies to your child’s diet:

Let your kids pick the produce. It can be fun for kids to see all the different kinds of fruits and veggies available, and to pick our new ones or old favorites to try.

Sneak vegetables into other foods. Add grated or shredded veggies to stews and sauces to make them blend in. Make cauliflower “mac” and cheese. Or bake some zucchini bread or carrot muffins.

Keep lots of fresh fruit and veggie snacks on hand. Make sure they’re already washed, cut up, and ready to go. Add yogurt, nut butter, or hummus for extra protein.

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