It’s never too late to make better food choices. If you’ve been neglecting good nutrition, implementing these 9 healthy eating and drinking habits based on tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics can help turn things around.
If you were gung-ho the first few months of the year with your New Year’s resolution to eat healthier, but find yourself falling behind by March, you’re not alone. We all could use a reminder every once in a while about what healthy eating really means and what true good nutrition looks like. Here are 9 healthy eating and drinking habits based on tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that can help you get back on track!
1. Do Not Skip Breakfast
We’ve all heard of the importance of eating a good breakfast, but how many of us run out the door to work or get so involved in what we’re doing first thing in the morning that we forget the first meal of the day? It’s never too late to start a new healthy habit, so make a commitment to beginning each morning with a healthy breakfast and stick to it! Even if you have to set your alarm clock a half hour earlier to make time for breakfast, or put sticky notes on the bathroom mirror to remind you to eat it, do it for your health!
A healthy breakfast includes lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Try making a breakfast burrito with a whole wheat tortilla wrapped around scrambled eggs, low-fat cheese, and salsa. Or you could make a parfait by layering low-fat plain yogurt, a spoonful of fruit, and a sprinkle of granola or whole grain cereal, then repeat the layers.
Need more inspiration? Try these 39 healthy breakfasts for busy mornings.
2. Fill Half Your Plate With Fruits and Vegetables
Wholesome fruits and veggies add color, texture, and flavor to your meal, plus they add important vitamins, minerals, and fiber to your diet. Follow your doctor’s advice, but in general, you should make 1.5 to 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 to 3.5 cups of vegetables your daily goal.
To help you get enough fruits and vegetables and eat a more balanced diet, fill half your plate with them and the other half with grains and lean protein foods. Then add a serving of fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt to complete the meal.
3. Healthy Eating Means Healthy Portion Sizes
Portion sizes in America are sometimes completely out of control, and we may get used to thinking what we normally scoop out of that homemade casserole is a serving size, when it’s really a serving for three people. Or we might sit down with a nice healthy snack of almonds, only to realize the portion we ate was ten times the recommended amount.
To help keep your portion sizes under control, it’s wise to get out the measuring cups and a food scale to see how close your portions really are to the recommended serving size. Secrets of Healthy Eating and Portion Control, from WebMD, is a slide show that includes a great visual guide to proper portion sizes.
4. Choose Healthy Snacks and Prepare Them Ahead of Time
Healthy eating doesn't mean giving up snacking. Healthy snacks can sustain your energy levels between meals and keep you from overeating. Fix healthy snacks ahead of time so you don’t end up reaching for convenient, but unhealthy options.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests making snacks that combine two or more of the MyPlate food groups: grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy, and protein. For example, pair raw veggies with low-fat cottage cheese, low-fat plain yogurt with blueberries, low-fat cream cheese with celery sticks, or have a tablespoon of peanut butter with an apple or banana.
5. Read and Understand Nutrition Food Labels
Read the Nutrition Facts label on foods before dropping them into your shopping cart, and look up nutrition information on the websites of your favorite restaurants to plan ahead for ordering out. Knowing what to look for can help you make better food and drink choices.
6. Seek the Advice of an RDN
A Registered Dietitian Nutritionist can help you understand portion control, recognize good nutrition, and create a meal plan that works for your body type, age, and health status. Whether you want to change your eating habits to lose weight, lower your risk for a chronic disease, or better manage a chronic disease, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds you that consulting with an expert and getting personalized nutrition advice may be your best bet!
7. Follow Food Safety Guidelines
It’s amazing the difference a few simple steps can make in keeping your food and, therefore, your family safe. Reduce your risk of getting sick by practicing proper food safety, including:
- Washing your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food
- Keeping cooking utensils, kitchen countertops, and other kitchen surfaces clean during food preparation
- Cleaning all fruits and vegetables under running water
- Keeping different food types as separate as possible, even in your shopping cart and grocery bags
- Storing raw meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs away from each other, as well as away from fruits and vegetables
- Keeping prep items like knives and cutting boards separate for different foods
- Cooking food thoroughly and to recommended safe temperatures
- Immediately refrigerating food when you get home from the grocery store and refrigerating leftovers promptly after meals
8. Stay Hydrated
You may be surprised to know that some drinks can make you thirsty, rather than quench your thirst. Alcohol, sugary drinks, and caffeinated teas and coffees can all leave you wanting more.
Instead, stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of water. If you want to know how much water you should be drinking each day, talk to your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, your activity level, climate you live in, and health status can all be factors in how much recommended water you should drink.
9. Avoid Added Sugars
Foods and drinks with added sugars can ruin your best attempts at maintaining a healthy weight. Why add empty calories to your diet with sugary foods and drinks that have little or no nutritional value? Instead, look for foods labeled “no added sugar” and learn how to spot sources of added sugar on nutrition facts labels.
Bonus Healthy Living Tip: Get Enough Exercise
Regular physical activity, coupled with good eating habits, is a recipe for success. If you haven’t exercised in a while, ask your doctor what exercise is best for you and how much exercise you should do as you begin implementing physical activity.
Don’t be discouraged if you have to first start out at only 5 or 10 minutes of exercise at a time. Just be proud you’re doing something. You can gradually, safely increase your activity to reach the exercise goals you and your doctor have set.
Keep in mind that expensive gym memberships or home fitness machines aren’t necessary. A nice, long walk after dinner might be just what the doctor ordered.
Care coordination includes helping you make smarter choices about diet and nutrition. If you’re a member of CareSync, talk to your Health Assistant about providing you with information about good nutrition or helping you locate community-based programs that can support your efforts with weight loss or provide you with nutrition advice. Or, for a referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist and for additional food and nutrition information, visit www.eatright.org.