When we decide it's time to make a change to our bodies, we often take different routes. Some of us want to lose weight, some want to increase/or start exercising, and some just want to just get back on track with eating healthy. No matter the overall goal, just make sure you build in measurable objectives. For example, it is better to try to "eat fruit for dessert every day" instead of "eat more fruit", and "go for a 30 minute walk after work three times/week" instead of "exercise more." Goals also need to be realistic. A realistic and often recommended weight loss goal, for example, would be one pound per week. This reflects more of a lifestyle change with eating habits rather than dieting, and has been shown to be more successful for keeping the weight off.
- Plan ahead. Before grocery shopping, make a list of breakfast, lunch and dinner meals for that week and shop accordingly. Also keep some healthy snacks handy, like fruit, yogurt, or veggies, etc. so that you are prepared when those munchies strike.
- Choose more whole grains like whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta. Experiment with whole wheat couscous and quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), which cook very quickly and can be used instead of rice or pasta. Whole grains not only keep your gastrointestinal tract moving smoothly, but are also more filling and nutritious than white starches.
- Increase your intake of vegetables, whether fresh or frozen. Raw vegetables are best, but steamed or sautéed, they are great, too. They cook quickly, and can be added to a variety of dishes, from soups to casseroles to stir-fries.
- Have some fruit at every meal. Not a big fan? Get creative! Microwave an apple sprinkled with brown sugar and cinnamon to create a warm apple pie-like dessert. Add fruit to salads. Make your own sundae by chopping up some fresh fruit and topping it with vanilla yogurt and granola. Packing some fruit to snack on at work will easily help you consume your daily requirement.
- Take time for a healthy breakfast rather than grabbing ready made donuts or muffins. If you have to run, just spread some natural peanut butter on whole wheat toast for breakfast instead. The protein and healthy fat from the peanut butter and the fiber from the whole wheat bread will keep you satisfied for hours, instead of the sugar and white flour in donuts/muffins which will spike and crash your blood sugar levels, making you hungrier.
- Don't ignore hunger, especially between lunch and dinner. Most people tend to overeat at dinner because they let themselves get hungry during the afternoon. Snack on something healthy at work before heading home; this will help prevent extra snacking when you get home and control the size of dinner portions.
- Healthy snack? Isn't that an oxymoron? Not if they contain some protein and fiber to keep you satisfied. Some good examples include:
Pre-portion the snacks before eating so you don't overdo it.
- Fruit and low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese
- Homemade trail mix made with whole grain cereal, nuts and dried fruit; skip the M & M's and chocolate chips!
- Whole grain crackers like Ak-Mak , Wasa, Kavli, and Reduced Fat Triscuits with hummus or natural peanut butter
- Baby carrots and hummus.
- Drink plenty of water. Thirst is often mistaken for hunger. Drink a glass of water first when you feel like snacking and see it is stops the urge to eat, or keep a bottle of water handy and sip from it frequently.
- Watch out for the cream you add to your morning "cuppa joe"; it contains a lot of calories and artery-clogging fat. Consider switching to fat-free half-and-half or Garelick Farms Fit Milk and Hood Simply Smart which are lower fat milks (1% or fat free) that taste more like whole milk or 2% milk respectively.
- If your weakness is chocolate/candy/cookies, set aside one or two day a week to indulge yourself (don't forget portion control!!). It's a self-imposed form of discipline and it gives you something to look forward to for the rest of the week! After all, it is important to enjoy the food you eat; small indulgences may help you stay committed to an overall healthy eating plan.