6 Easy Steps for Healthful Eating

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In the KitchenPeople are always looking for the next quick fix for better health, but, unfortunately, changing your eating habits does take some work.

That said, the work doesn't need to be hard. In fact, making one small change at a time can help you reach your goal and develop a healthy lifestyle faster than the latest fad diet or nutritional cleanse could.

What you need is a plan — not a-one-size-fits-all program, but a one-plan-fits-me program. Start by determining what your goal is and what steps you will need to take in order to get there.

Not sure where to start?

Here are some ideas to help you begin moving toward a lifetime of healthful eating habits.

Step #1: Write It Down

A food journal is an important tool for managing your eating, especially if large portion sizes and emotional eating are obstacles to your goal. As soon as you begin to write down what you eat, you will become aware of everything that you put in your mouth. Once you are aware, you tend to make better choices. When keeping a food journal, write down what you eat, how much you eat, and how you were feeling at the time. For those of us who are emotional eaters, knowing when your trigger times are may help you stop the pattern. Plan to keep the journal daily for at least a month. If you find yourself slipping away from your goal, start journaling again.

Step #2: Take the Word “Cheat” Out of Your Vocabulary

No food needs to be completely off-limits when eating healthfully. All foods can be included in moderation. It is true that some foods will need to be eaten in smaller amounts or less frequently, but they can still be a part of your plan. Make sure to schedule your treats and keep track of them so that a "treat" food doesn't become a daily choice. This way, there will be no "cheating," and no "falling off the wagon.” After all, this is your lifestyle, not a diet.

Step # 3: Be Your Own Personal Chef

When you do the cooking, you control how much fat, salt, and sugar you include. You also control how much food winds up on your plate. Smaller portions equal fewer calories, which result in effective weight control over time. If you are not always in the mood to cook, then double or triple a healthful recipe on the days that you do cook and freeze it in batches. That way, you will have a freezer full of choices for future healthful meals and can continue toward your goal.

Apple vs ApplePastriesStep #4: Choose Foods with the Fewest Ingredients

Fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains all have one thing in common: they only have one ingredient. Apples contain apples, and chicken is made from chicken.

Choose foods that are ingredients instead of boxed ingredients that are called food. Processed foods tend to be higher in calories, sugar, and fat than their unprocessed counterparts.

Keep fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, fish, herbs, whole grains, an assortment of vinegars, and healthful fats on hand. That way, you will have all the supplies you need in order to create healthful meals with little effort.

Step #5: Cut Yourself Some Slack

Don't let a binge or one bad meal completely derail you from your goal. Add that "digression" to your food journal, forgive yourself, and move on to planning your next meal. You can even adjust your intake for the day.

You may also want to set one day per week for when you have one treat meal or snack. That way, you will still be on the road to your goal… without the guilt.

Step #6: Make It a Team Effort

Making health changes can be hard work, but no one said that you had to do it alone. Enlist friends and family to support you. You can also join an online support group. If you want extra help, try seeking out a Registered Dietitian. Once you connect with other people who have the same goal, you can start building a community with which you can share tips and recipes. They’ll also be there to help when a rough patch hits.

Taking these steps will help you to eat better and reach your goal for optimal health. Start today. In time, these changes will become a part of your lifestyle and you can say goodbye to dieting forever.

By Beth Rosen, MS, RD

For more weight control inspiration, motivation, and resources, visit www.foodandhealth.comYou can also access a free recipe database at www.foodandhealth.com/recipes.php.

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