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10 Nutrition No-Brainers: Tricks That Instantly Upgrade Your Diet

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As a registered dietitian, I have oodles of tricks to help cut empty calories, feel more satisfied and make healthier choices. Changing your eating habits is hard, so that's why I've compiled the absolute easiest ways to improve your diet. These tips are so simple, I call them nutrition no-brainers.

1. Fill your salt shaker with pepper and your pepper shaker with salt. Since salt shakers have more holes this simple switch will naturally reduce the sodium in your diet.

2. Make a shopping list and stick to it. If you shop with a list, you're less likely to buy on impulse and you won't be as influenced by all the marketing. Without a list, shoppers spend 60 to 80 percent of their time pushing cards up and down aisles aimlessly. This means more money spent at the checkout and being more likely to buy less-than-healthy items.

3. Drink half of your body weight in fluid ounces of water every day. Most of us don't drink nearly enough water and drinking more water has been shown to elevate metabolism and may help reduce mindless eating too. If you weigh 150 pounds, you'll want to drink 75 ounces of water per day.

4. If you watch TV, use your recorder to tape no more than two hour's worth of programming per day and view it later so you can fast-forward through all the food or beverage advertising that has been shown to stimulate areas of the brain that make us crave indulgent foods.

5. When making pasta dishes or casseroles, add additional vegetables to the dish. And if a recipe calls for veggies, double the quantity. Pumping up the volume of dishes with veggies is a proven way to boost the fullness factor of your meals. Research shows that this technique helped consumers slash 150 calories from their main meal.

6. Size matters. You know what they say about big plates... big waists! In the past 20 years, dinner plates have grown to around 12 inches in diameter, compared to 10 inches in the past. That's bad news for the 54 percent of Americans who say that they clean their plates when eating. Research from Cornell University has found that portions appear smaller on a larger plate and vice versa. (The same is true for bowls.) Eat from smaller plates and bowls and you'll naturally eat fewer calories -- while feeling equally satisfied.

7. Buy "plain" or "original" flavors of foods and beverages as they're usually lower in added sugars than vanilla, chocolate or any other flavors. Many of my clients mistakenly believe "vanilla" is relatively low in calories and sugar but it's not. For example, a six ounce serving of vanilla Greek yogurt has 16 grams sugar compared to just seven grams in the same serving of plain.

8. When making whole gain side dishes, opt for quinoa as it has the more protein than any other grain (four grams per half-cup serving). Since protein helps temper hunger ore than carbs or fat, it's a great choice to help you curb your calories.

9. Opt for the more vibrant colored fruits and vegetables for antioxidant benefits. For example, choose pink grapefruit instead of white; red grapes in lieu of green grapes; and vibrant green and red salad greens in place of pale iceberg.

10. Out of sight... out of mouth. If you buy foods that are indulgent, keep them out of sight in a spot that's hard to reach. At the same time, keep a fruit bowl in plain sight and keep plenty of veggies on hand front and center of your refrigerator so you're constantly reminded that they're ready and available. Strategically organizing your kitchen can make healthier choices become the automatic choice.

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