By Kate Rockwood
If you want to eat healthier, you’re not alone. Forty-three percent of Americans say they’re always on the lookout for healthy food when they go shopping. But time, money, and mixed messages about what’s healthy and what’s not can sometimes get in the way. Eating healthy, though, doesn’t have to be tough, it just takes a little bit of planning.
A basic healthy diet is one that is filled with fruits, veggies, fish, beans, nuts, whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal), and low-fat dairy. When eating meat, look for leaner meats like skinless chicken or turkey, pork chops, or low fat beef. And try to limit foods high in sugar and salt. Those are usually packaged foods, meaning ones that come out of boxes.
These other tips will help as well:
Meal planning doesn’t have to be time-consuming or elaborate. Spend 20 minutes or so a week coming up with meal ideas for the week. Also keep a running grocery list to write down ingredients and track what you’re running low on. If you don’t have a lot of time each week, look for recipes that are quick to make. (For inspiration, search online for articles like this one listing healthy dishes you can get on the table in under 30 minutes.) Also think about making bigger batches of things like stews and soups so you have leftovers.
When in doubt, a simple salad with leafy greens, a few veggies, and a sprinkle of something high in protein like walnuts, crumbled feta cheese, or sesame seeds is all it takes to qualify for a healthy lunch or dinner. And while fresh fruits and veggies are great, canned and frozen varieties are just as nutritious and often less expensive. Try and choose kinds that don’t have added salt or sugar.
When you’re hungry, it’s harder to make healthy food choices, studies show. That’s why it’s helpful to have healthy snacks ready to go. You can spend a little time cutting up fruits or veggies to dip in hummus or guacamole or yogurt. Or buy single-serving versions of popcorn, nuts, or dried fruit. You can also buy in bulk and portion out your own versions in baggies to eat at home or take on the go.
It’s hard to resist the siren song of chocolate chip cookies when they’re calling right from your pantry. It’s a lot easier when you’d have to leave your house to get them. It’s fine to eat treats some of the time, but the less junk food you keep in your house, the easier it will be to choose healthier options instead.
Not a fan of broccoli or tuna? Good news—you don’t have to force yourself to like foods you loathe. There are plenty more fish (and veggies) in the sea. Focus on the foods you really enjoy. You can also add a little more flavor and interest to healthy foods you like. For example, you can top steamed asparagus with a sprinkle of Parmesan or stir in a little brown sugar into your bowl of oatmeal.
Grilling, steaming, baking, and roasting are usually healthier ways to cook food than frying. You can also use spices, herbs, or a squeeze of lemon or lime to boost the flavor of a dish rather than adding more salt. There are also other ingredient swaps you can make that are just as tasty as the alternative like topping a baked potato with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream.
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