In a world of $5 pizzas and fast food dollar menus, eating healthy is rarely the easiest and cheapest choice. You don’t need to completely overhaul your diet or start eating solely organic food, but there are easy things you can do to make your diet healthier. These are some things you should be mindful of when choosing your food to get yourself on a healthier eating path:
1. Eat More Whole Grains
At least half the grains you consume should be whole grains. This can be as simple as substituting a whole grain bagel for a white bagel. Try brown rice or whole wheat pasta. You can try using quinoa in a salad or adding barley into a soup. If you feel like really experimenting, try substituting half the flour in baked goods such as pancakes or muffins with buckwheat, millet, or oat flour. Whole grains also have a lot more fiber that refined grains making them better for your colon. You don’t have to completely give up the refrained grains you love, just incorporate more whole grains into your diet.
2. Vary Your Veggies
Vegetables have a lot of vitamins and minerals and are low in calories making them essential to any healthy diet. Vegetables can be steamed quickly in the microwave for a fast convenient side dish with very little prep-work involved. You should mix up the vegetables you eat and try to add some that you don’t normally include your diet. The more colorful your vegetables are the better. Different color vegetables have different minerals and vitamins in them so by eating as many differently colored veggies as possible, you increase your chances of getting all those vitamins and minerals.
3. Focus on Fruit
Fruits provide essential nutrients, such as potassium, fiber, vitamin C, and folate. They are also low in fat, sodium, calories, and cholesterol-free. They also come in a variety of forms that all count as fruit servings: fresh, canned, frozen, dried, pureed, and juice (as long as it’s 100%). Try adding fruit to your daily breakfast. You can add bananas, strawberries, or blueberries to your cereal or on top of pancakes. Or mix some fruit in with some yogurt. Find ways to incorporate fruit into your other meals as well. Some fruit goes great with meat and can be a great addition to salads or other dishes.
4. Eat Calcium-Rich Foods
All members of the dairy group are rich in calcium. This includes milk, cheese, and yogurts. It should be noted that cream cheese, butter, and cream are not considered part of the dairy group due to their high saturated fat content and low calcium. Use skim or low-fat dairy products to cut down on the fat and calories consumed. These dairy products are easy to incorporate with your other meals. Milk in your cereal and cheese on a sandwich or in a salad are just two very common options. A lot of people are lactose-intolerant or allergic to milk but there are plenty of substitute options available. Soymilk, lactose-free milk, and almond milk are all good alternatives to milk. Just make sure they have the right amount of calcium (about 300mg). You can also find yogurts made with these alternate milks. They do also have dairy-free cheese, but from someone who is allergic to milk, don’t set your expectations too high.
5. Eat More Protein
Protein comes from both animal and plant sources. Animal sources include: meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. Plant sources consist of: soy products, beans, peas, nuts, and seeds. Everyone needs protein. Protein helps you stay full longer and if you choose a protein source that is also low in fat or calories it can help you lose weight. Try to vary your protein sources. If you’re vegetarian, your options will obviously be somewhat limited, but try to incorporate as many plant protein sources into your diet as you can. Whatever source you use, try to make sure it is lean and as low-fat as possible. Also check the sodium content as a lot of meat products, especially those that are processed, are very high in sodium which is not good for you.
6. Replace Sugary Drinks With Water
Drinking a lot of water not only keeps you feeling full longer, it also helps to flush out your digestive and urinary tracts, eliminating toxins. Water is also great for the skin; if you start drinking more water on a regular basis, you’ll notice a change in the overall quality of your skin in a matter of a few days. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks all have a lot of sugar and calories in them. Even fruit juice has sugar, so if you are drinking it to get your fruit serving, make sure you are also drinking plenty of water. If you need some flavor to your drink, add some fresh fruit or cucumber to your drink.