With the way we live our busy lives, it feels almost impossible to be able to eat healthy meals because of the time it takes to prepare them. People who try to eat healthy almost feel punished because sometimes healthy food can be more expensive than the easier to make processed food that is so handy for on the go people. Because we work long hours, run our kids around from place to place, and get less sleep than recommended, we often just grab foods that are easy, instead of foods that are healthy.
In all actuality, eating healthy is not that hard. There are some basic techniques and recommendations by professionals to get on the right track to healthier eating. Even if you can’t commit to following all of these recommendations, if you can just try to instill a few of them into your daily activities, you will start to feel better and more energized, and will have better health.
#1 Smaller portions
One major problem specifically seen in the United States, is that our portion sizes are astronomical. When eating out, most people receive portions that are three to four times the size that we actually should be eating. Because it is in front of you, people often feel the need to overeat even if they are full. After living this way for a long period of time, many people start to actually need more food because their stomachs don’t feel full anymore on a regular portion of food. This leads to obesity and major health problems that can plague your life. It is difficult to move backwards to eating smaller portions once you have become dependent on large portions. Smaller portion size is something that all of us should focus on. If you are out to eat and you are served a large portion of food, have the waiter wrap half of it up as soon as it is brought out to you, which will prohibit you from eating more than you intend to. You can also order child size portions. This may sound crazy, but many children’s size meals are actually enough to be a realistic portion size for an adult. Never, ever, SUPERSIZE your meal. Although it may be tempting because it might only be a few cents more, you don’t need the temptation of extra fries staring you in the face, or larger sugary drinks.
#2 Less dressings and sauces
Another great way to be healthier is to use less dressings and sauces. If you order a salad to be healthy, you could be doing just as much damage as if you order a burger at a restaurant! This is because restaurants slather all of their foods with tons of dressings and sauces to make things taste good. This can be the case with wings, pizza, or even Chinese food.
If you go to a restaurant, always ask for your sauce on the side. It doesn’t matter what kind of food you are ordering, you can always get the sauces on the side. Use half of what they give you instead of the entire amount. These sauces can be laden with sugar and calories that you aren’t even aware of. While you think you are making a health conscious decision, you may be making a poor decision in disguise.
#3 Lean protein
While protein has been given a bad reputation over recent years due to heart disease, it is actually a necessary part of your diet and can be consumed in moderation to keep you in great health. When choosing proteins, always choose the leanest you can find. This can be lean chicken at the grocer, lean ground beef or steaks at the butcher shop, and so on. Because of the focus on healthy eating, almost all meat now comes in a ‘lean’ version, so you should always opt for that.
Besides making sure you are choosing the leanest meat, you should make sure you are getting enough protein. A lot of people don’t get enough protein in their diets, and protein is important to create muscle and for proper health. Some people only have protein with dinner, but you should try to incorporate protein into your snacks as well. Protein is found in nuts, legumes, eggs, and other easy snacking foods. Peanut butter is a great source of protein and can be a great snack. If you are eating an apple, have some peanut butter with it to add some protein. This way, you will be getting the health benefits of the apple with the fuel of the protein.
#4 Larger portions of veggies and fruit
Another main problem in America is that people aren’t eating nearly enough fruits and vegetables. People have even begun skipping these healthy foods claiming they are replacing the vitamin benefits with vitamin supplements! This is not a smart decision though because vitamins aren’t able to replace all the health benefits you get from fruits and vegetables, which also can help to make you feel full so you are not snacking on unhealthy things all day long! Instead, switch your snacks to be fruits and vegetables, and at meal time, load your plate with healthy veggies instead of potatoes, rice or other carbohydrates.
Continually eating and fueling your body through the day actually helps you to lose weight, in turn, making you healthier, so snacking on fruits and veggies is the best plan to help you get healthier. If you start having lots of healthy vegetables and fruits throughout the day, you will begin to notice something shocking- you will slowly begin to forget your cravings for excessively salty foods (like chips and pretzels) and sweet foods (like needing dessert after every meal) and your body will instead crave healthier alternatives.
If you have children, start them off with this mindset early. For example, even at chain restaurants, you are usually able to swap out the kid’s side items like French fries or onion rings with fruits or veggies. If they grow up eating these foods and not knowing the alternative, you will have a naturally healthy eater on your hands that will choose the right foods to eat even later in life as an adult.
#5 Cut down on carbs
An easy way to lose some weight and to get in better shape is to cut down on the carbs in your diet. Unfortunately, people have replaced healthy portions of vegetables on their dinner plates with piles of potatoes, rice, noodles, and bread, when really those should be very minor parts of your meal. Bread and carbs are full of calories and fat and can add pounds to your waistline. Often people put butter all over these things as well. If you can skip bread with your meals, do so, because you will get plenty of carbohydrates within your meals without it. Choose small or half portions of potatoes and carb sides, which elevate your blood sugar and cause you to crash later on in the day. Instead fill that empty space on your plate with more vegetables which have more nutritious value.
#6 Count calories, track eating, and slow down
There are many techniques that doctors recommend to get you to pay attention to what you are eating. Some of these are calorie counting, monitoring your eating, or slowing down. Some people have been very successful with weight loss and healthier eating by counting calories. They know how much they are allowed to have per day, and divide that per meal, and then they attempt to stick to that limit at each and every meal. Not only does it make people eat less, they often will eat better knowing what foods will not put them over their limits. Many people begin doing this and their bodies naturally adjust to eating less. You are able to ask for a calorie or nutrition guide at most restaurants to help you make good choices. Another similar way to get to your healthier eating goal is to simply track you’re eating. Write every single thing down that you eat. Some people are shocked at the end of a week when they review it to see all the little snacks that they had out of boredom or because they were in a rush.
Also, if you slow down and take your time while eating, you will make sure not to overeat. It takes about 15- 20 minutes to feel full, when your stomach tells your brain to stop eating. If you can’t get that full feeling for a full twenty minutes but are shoveling food in for the first 19 minutes, you are going to overdo it without knowing it. To slow down, make sure you fully chew each bite of your food, or have conversation with people while eating so that you aren’t eating the entire time. Some people put their fork on their plates between bites to slow down.
Sugar can be one of the things that many feel they are addicted to and that they have no control over. Refined or artificial sugars are very bad for you. Although you are probably aware that too much sugar can be very bad for your health, most people are not aware how much sugar is in some things. Even salad dressings and things that people do not think of have loads of sugar in them. Many people are stuck on the slight buzz they get when they eat sugar, similar to a caffeine high. For people who eat dessert every day, they probably think it is impossible to remove sugar from their lives because they ‘need’ cookies, cakes, and pies. But white sugar can do terrible things to your body besides just add extra pounds.
Sugar can actually build up within your body and steal nutrients away from the organs that so desperately need them. You are able to enjoy natural healthy sugar. Often this sugar is brown in color and will advertise that it is not refined sugar. There is also natural sugar in fruit, like strawberries, apples and peaches. This will give you natural sugar that is good for you instead of bad sugar that is harmful. Also try to avoid high fructose corn syrup because of the sugar content. While at first it may be tough to kick your sugar habit, eventually you will be fine to live without it and feel better without refined sugar.
Water, and keeping hydrated, is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body healthy overall. If you are thirsty, skip the fattening teas, sodas and energy drinks and have some good old fashioned water. It is the best for you and your body needs it. One of the primary reasons that people in America are so severely overweight is due to drinking too many sugary drinks. If you are trying to lose weight, you will make it almost impossible for you to do so if you don’t stop drinking soda. It is so full of sugar (see #7 for the dangers of sugar) that you have no idea how much you are drinking.
Diet soda is no better, and many doctors have said it is even worse than regular soda because there are chemicals in it that may be bad for your health, and also people tend to think they are allowed to drink it, it is good for you, because it has the word ‘diet’ on it. This is far from the truth. Many people who are on the go or very busy from morning until night grab soda for a pick me up and due to the fact that it is so convenient. Instead, you should grab bottled water, or carry a bottle around with you all the time. Water helps people to feel full and also keeps your body hydrated and running efficiently.
We’ve all heard that ‘breakfast is the most important meal of the day’, and it is true, although many people do not know why. Breakfast kick starts your day properly so your blood sugar levels are raised and kept at a normal level all day long. It also helps to make your later meals smaller. While breakfast is important, that doesn’t give you the right to eat sugary foods, which are more harmful than not eating at all. You can eat healthy breakfasts even if you are on the go. Try keeping granola bars, oatmeal, or boiled eggs handy that can make quick meals that are convenient for busy people. By eating some kind of healthy breakfast, you will start your day the right way and have enough energy to make it until lunch time without having to resort to snacks.
#10 Eliminate processed foods
Another controversy in the United States is how many processed and pre-packaged foods we eat. There are two primary reasons that this is a problem, cost and convenience. It is incredible that these processed junk foods are significantly less expensive than healthy fruits, vegetables and proper proteins, but unfortunately they are. We need to understand that the benefits well outweigh the costs in this area though, and saving a few dollars here and there to buy processed foods is not the right choice. Some processed meats are made from unhealthy parts of animals combined with chemicals. This isn’t good for you, and can make you sick. There are many doctors who claim that the obesity problem in this country is due to processed foods, and they are right. Many people feel as though they don’t have the time to cook a proper meal, and resort to processed foods.
If you would like to try to eat healthy and avoid processed foods, you can start by using the rule of 5. If a product has more than 5 ingredients, you should avoid it. This is not true in all cases of course, but this activity is to get you to begin reading food labels and understanding what is in the things you are eating. Most people don’t look at labels or notice the ingredients. Try to avoid refined sugar, trans fat, and refined flour like white flour. Wheat breads, rice’s, pastas and crackers are much better than their white counterparts because the white products have been processed to remove the natural nutrients.
Overall, you can eat healthy and remain a happy and active individual. Use these 10 ways Americans can eat better to help you get started on a path to successful healthy eating and a longer life.