If you're flicking through Healthy Living, it's likely that you spend at least some time thinking about what you eat and how you eat it. Staying on top of your nutrition is tough for the average person. Work, travel, time, money and many other factors can get in the way of your "dream" diet.
I want to clarify from the get go that I am NOT a dietitian and I'm guessing that you're probably not either. That doesn't mean that we can't figure out some basics for ourselves -- some rules to fall back in when life gets in the way and let things slip a little.
1. CUT OUT JUNK AND PROCESSED FOODS
"What does he mean by junk food?" Come on now, you know exactly what I'm referring to. The stuff you hide in the kitchen and feel guilty about eating and the food you know you shouldn't be eating but do anyway. If it's lying around the house, throw it out and stop buying it.
I find it helps to think of food as nutrition and not as a reward, entertainment or an emotional buffer.
2. EAT A LITTLE LESS
This one isn't rocket science. Try to keep a handle on portion sizes if you want to tackle your nutrition head on. If you're in charge of the cooking, scale back the amount you're putting on each plate. Even something as simple as switching out your jumbo-sized diner plates for something smaller can help.
If you're dining out, eat half and take the rest home or try skipping appetizers. Alternatively, order two appetizers and skip the main course. And watch out for dessert!
3. EAT AT HOME MORE OFTEN
A lot of restaurant food can be high in sodium and portion sizes can be out of control. Temptation is higher when dining out -- splitting a desert or opting for fries instead of salad can undo a lot of good work.
If you eat at home, you're more likely to plan out your meals and make healthier choices. You also keep control over the quality and quantity of the ingredients.
4. STOCK UP ON THE GOOD STUFF
When you remove all the junk and processed foods from your home, the kitchen might feel a little bare. Replace these foods and snacks with healthy alternatives -- make sure you buy things you'll enjoy eating to avoid waste. Fruit, nuts, seeds and veggies are all great snack to keep around for when hunger strikes.
5. DISCOVER YOUR LOCAL FARMERS MARKET
Farmers markets are a great place to go if you're looking for some healthy inspiration. Most of the produce available will be fresh, local and taste far better than anything from a chain supermarket. Most people selling their produce will let you sample it, too. You may discover some great new treats you hadn't considered and you'll also be helping the local economy -- double points!
6. AVOID WHITE FOODS
If it's white and it's edible, it's probably fairly low in nutritional goodness. White processed breads, bleached pastas, rice and sugar, all of these are on the low end of the nutritional spectrum. Also, avoid high fructose corn syrup -- it's the worst! If you can, switch to a natural sweetener like raw honey or date sugar.
7. DRINK MORE WATER
Switch out sugar-filled juices and sodas for water. You'll save money and avoid the crash that comes along with calorie-heavy drinks. One 12 oz can of soda can have as many as 150 calories. If you ditch one soda a day, that's 1,050 calories per week, or roughly half a day's eating.
So not strictly nutrition, but they go hand in hand. Increasing the amount or the intensity of the exercise you're doing will compound the gains you're making with a revised nutritional regime.
The above list is about as basic as it comes if you're looking to jump start your diet and nutrition. Start with one or two, or go for them all in one sitting. Replace bad habits with good habits and you'll soon see and feel the results.
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