We know we should eat whole grains, lean protein, and lots of fruits and vegetables. We've also learned that we should cut back on things like sugar and fast food. But these guidelines are easier said than digested. Instead of making huge steps, try making a few small changes to improve your eating step by step.
Step 1: Cook your own food
Restaurant food tastes delicious for a reason—actually for several reasons: sugar, salt and fat. Whether on the low or high end, restaurants put much more butter, salt and sugar in their dishes than you or I would when cooking at home. (Hey, they are not responsible to our mother or our cardiologist. They’d like us to come back, and they know what our taste buds want.) Here are some ways around that tasty predicament:
Make it Fun! Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore. Take a cooking class with a friend to get you motivated and help keep you engaged, or read a few beautiful food magazines. If you are new to cooking, stick with simple fare that won’t leave you discouraged.
Be Adventurous! Whole grains such as rice or bulgur may be off-limits to many people on fad diets right now, but in fact they are not only inexpensive, but also incredibly good for you—they taste great with chicken thighs or pork chops, too. Look for seasonings that aren’t loaded with salt. Mix it up a bit, combining spices and ingredients for a taste profile you enjoy.
Keep it Interesting! Add and prepare fruits and vegetables in new ways. Have you ever made beets? Don’t worry if your kitchen looks like a crime scene afterward; those red and yellow beauties are great for your health. Think you don’t like broccoli? Have you ever roasted it? Take chopped-up broccoli or cauliflower, and instead of boiling or steaming, roast it in a 400-degree oven for about 20 minutes. You’ll never think of cruciferous vegetables in the same way.
Step 2: Eat smart snacks
Congratulations, you’ve started cooking more. You’re making your own dinners and possibly even bringing the leftovers to work. But what happens when you’re at your desk at around 4 p.m. and your blood sugar bottoms out? Do you go scrounging in the snack room for donuts? Do you head to Starbucks for a latte that has the calorie equivalent of a Big Mac?
Our solution: Be prepared. If you can, keep fruit and cut-up veggies like carrots and cucumbers in your fridge at work. If not, a delicious protein bar in your desk may have a lot of calories but is still far healthier than what you were going to eat! A bag of nuts is perfect for those moments when you need a little lift.
Step 3: Drink water
You probably thought we were about to repeat that old saying about drinking eight cups of water a day. We're fine with that, but what we really advocate is drinking water instead of the alternatives. Sugary or diet sodas are a leading cause of obesity—and also one of the easiest things to cut out of your diet. Calories and sugar impact us more when we eat them rather than drink them. So use your calories wisely. Better for you than juice, iced tea and even milk, water is the universal solvent and our favorite drink. (Okay, we make an exception for a large cup of coffee in the morning and a little wine with dinner.) Enjoy!