Simple Eating Strategies for Better Health
March may be National Nutrition Month—but there's no reason you shouldn't make better eating the focus of every month. I know it sounds daunting: healthy eating all the time can be hard. But put these strategies—which I offer to my patients and follow myself—into practice each day and you may find yourself eating healthier without even realizing it.
1. Follow the 80/20 rule. Allow yourself to eat healthy 80 percent of your day and a little unhealthy the other 20 percent. What this means: don't be too hard on yourself if you have a craving for a cookie or a piece of chocolate (I prefer dark chocolate, which is chockfull of good-for-you antioxidants). You can have it. By telling yourself that it's okay to indulge, you may find your craving disappears. So often it's just the idea of not being able to have something that makes you want it more.
2. Don't eat standing up. Nothing ever good comes from nibbling on the fly—or on the go (e.g. while you're waiting in line or driving in your car). You don't get to enjoy the satisfaction of eating something (meaning you'll probably eat more) and you're more likely to snack on stuff that's no good for you. And what's more: don't eat while you're talking on the phone or doing your Smartphone or computer. This is mindless eating: do this and you won't even realize how much you've eaten. Instead, set yourself a place at the table and then sit to eat. Being mindful of what you eat will make you appreciate more what you're eating and will help prevent mindless eating—which can pack on the pounds.
3. Add a least one brightly colored fruit and/or veggie to every meal and snack. Brightly colored produce is chockfull of health-promoting antioxidants like lutein (found in tomatoes and watermelon), beta-carotene (found in sweet potatoes and carrots), vitamin K (found in leafy greens like kale), and vitamin C (found in grapefruit and strawberries). By doing this, you'll be ensuring you get at least five servings of fruits and veggies a day—and that you fill up on foods that are healthy for you.
4. Skip the soda; drink water instead. By replacing soda—diet or regular—with water, you'll be ensuring you skip the unhealthy chemical sweeteners like aspartame—found in diet sodas—and high fructose corn syrup—found in regular soda. (You can also vow to skip any sweetened drink; try something instead like unsweetened green or black tea, which is high in antioxidants.) This simple step will help you slash calories and ensure you get enough water, which is what your body needs to function properly. (Water helps flush out waste from the body and promotes healthy circulation.)
5. Follow the Mediterranean style of eating. As I mention in my new book, Beyond Beauty, this style of eating has been shown in numerous studies to promote better health and a healthier body weight. This means eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids like salmon, fiber-rich whole grains like brown rice, healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, and a glass of antioxidant-rich red wine every once in a while.
Here's to a healthier diet—and to a healthier you!