Sometimes, there are just too many rules when it comes to eating healthy: counting calories, measuring, or weighing food. What’s the difference between a good carb and a bad carb anyway? All of these approaches to healthy eating are meant to monitor food and nutrition. But with my busy life, I don’t have a lot of time for that. I’m usually on the go, and I need to keep it really simple. I eat out a couple of times a week. When I do cook at home, I am managing a tight budget. So fancy, high-end shopping is not always an option. To simplify my life, I have narrowed it down to just two little rules that help me maintain healthy eating habits no matter where I am or what I eat.
Eat Less: Good nutrition is about how much you eat. Food should be enjoyed! Eat because the food taste good, but not to feel full. Smaller portions help me remember to be a little more selective about what I eat and to savor my delicious meal. Sometimes, as a force of habit, we eat whatever is on the plate in front of us and don’t consider the amount our bodies really need. Here is the “fancy” technique I use that ensures I pay attention to my body and eat just what I need:
- Fix your plate how you normally would for lunch or dinner. Go ahead. I’ll wait. Now, take some (up to half) of that and put it into a container for later. Viola! You have successfully cut your calories without measuring a thing. It’s up to you to decide how much less; but cutting your portion by any amount will help you listen to your body more and learn portion control.
- Then, eat what remains on your plate. Allow yourself 30 minutes to digest after you eat before you even think about getting more. If you’re still hungry, pull out that container and give yourself permission to have seconds!
- Eating out? This also works in restaurants. Ask your server to bring out a to-go container at the same time that you are served your meal. You can also curb your appetite and reduce your portions by eating a snack before dinner. Think of it as a healthy appetizer. A slice of whole wheat toast, some peanuts, or carrots are great options.
Eat Fresh: Good nutrition is also about what you eat. If most everything you taste in a day has a shelf life of, like a hundred years, then some changes need to be made. Fresh fruits and vegetables have vitamins and nutrients in them that help feed the body. Plus fresh food taste really good! If trying to eat healthy by cutting back on your usual snacks and plate fillers leave you hungry, use these tips.
- Add more veggies and fruits to the meals you are already eating. Slice a whole mango and a peach, or your favorite fruit. Mix them together for a tasty yogurt or cottage cheese topping. Add veggies to your spaghetti or lasagna. When you are cooking, feel free to be creative and try making the veggies the center of attention. Let the mushrooms, eggplant, asparagus, or squash be the star (and main ingredient) of your dish.
- Cut back on processed foods. This may seem easier said than done but there are many ways to minimize the amount of processed food you eat. For those who are advanced on their food journey, maybe it’s time to start your very own garden where you can grow fresh herbs and veggies to add to your meal. Still on the fence about this whole “eat fresh” thing but you want to make some sort of change? Great! Find a farmer’s market in your area where a good selection of fruits and veggies are available for you to choose from. Another option is a co-op where food will be seasonally grown for you to pick up and take home. Wash it, chop it, and add it to your existing menu. For the on-the-go beginner like me, just skip the drive through a little more. Slow down with the vending machine 2 or 3 times a day. Grab an apple, a banana, or a spinach salad with cherry tomatoes. Yum!
Whether your journey to healthy living and nutrition began 10 months ago, 10 days ago, or 10 minutes ago, don’t worry about all “the rules.” Be determined to do what you can each day.
So what is your easy breezy healthy eating technique or rule, whether you are going out or staying in?