Written By: Maria Dinh
According to the USDA, a healthy diet consists of a balance of whole foods including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein and dairy. Keeping track of what you eat and making healthy changes to your diet may often feel overwhelming. Here are 5 simple tips to improve your diet without feeling defeated!
Tip #1: The crowd-out technique
Instead of focusing on “bad foods” versus “good foods,” or foods you believe you aren’t “allowed to have,” think of the foods you can have. For example, what are ways you can add more whole foods to your meals? More specifically, what are some fruits you have never tried, but are excited to try? What is a new way to cook a whole grain or vegetable to spruce up dinner time? Think of all of the healthy foods you would like to incorporate and ask questions about these foods that bring you curiosity and excitement!
Tip #2: Keep frozen or canned veggies on hand
Having frozen or canned veggies stocked in the freezer or pantry can be a quick and convenient way to add more vegetables to your meals. When you are reheating leftovers or making a quick snack, add in a handful of your favorite frozen or canned vegetables to boost up the fiber and nutrient profile of your meal! Spinach, cauliflower, zucchini, and green beans are some veggies that have a more neutral taste and will soak up any flavor or spice you add to them.
Tip #3: Add a splash of color to your plate
When in doubt, add color to your meal! Fruits and vegetables come in a wide variety of bright beautiful colors, and such colors will offer different vitamins and minerals. That is why it’s important to eat the rainbow, so you can be sure to incorporate all of the important nutrients needed for the body. Here are some examples of foods that are as colorful as the rainbow:
Red: strawberries, raspberries, tomatoes, red bell peppers, red chili peppers
Orange: oranges, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, mangos, papaya
Yellow: squash, lemons, corn, bananas, pineapple, yellow bell peppers
Green: spinach, broccoli, asparagus, peas, green apples, green grapes, limes, leafy greens
Blue: blueberries, blackberries, plums, grapes
Purple: purple cabbage, beets, radicchio, eggplants, purple sweet potatoes, figs
Tip #4: Swap out refined grains for a whole grain
The next time you are at the grocery store, swap out your usual white bread or white rice for a whole grain option. Be aware that products sold as “multi-grain,” “brown,” or “all-natural” does not always mean they are whole grain. Look at the ingredients list on the back of the packaging to make sure its first ingredient says “whole.”
Tip #5: Avoid sugar sweetened beverages
Sodas, energy drinks, juices and teas can be filled with processed sugar and very little nutrients. Sugar sweetened beverages can add a lot of calories to our diet without making us feel full or satisfied. Try to incorporate more water or home brewed teas into your diet. You can add fresh fruit, vegetables, or herbs such as berries, cucumbers, lemons, or mint into your water to make them tastier!
Remember that building a healthy lifestyle is a journey. Don’t overwhelm yourself and try to change everything overnight; start with 1 small goal. Once that goal feels easy enough to be part of your lifestyle, make a new, small and exciting goal! Long-term healthy eating comes from the day-to-day practices and decisions we make, and these are the small wins that add up over time.