Health & Wellness

7 Small Diet Changes for a Healthier Lifestyle

diet food healthyMany Americans struggle with trying to establish and maintain a healthy diet. Sure, you’ve probably heard basic tips like counting your calories or replacing unhealthy foods with more nutritious choices, maybe you’ve even tried a series of fad diets or “cleanses”, only to fall off the wagon and revert back to your old habits again. But, improving your diet doesn’t have to be difficult! By making simple changes to your everyday food choices, you can keep your body in great shape without having to resort to any restrictive meal plans or crash diets.

Prepare Meals at Home

Eating at a restaurant is often a quicker and more convenient option than cooking a meal yourself. However, between common restaurant staples like huge portion sizes, free bread, and unlimited refills, eating out can easily lead to excess calories and added pounds.

According to research from the National Center for Biotechnology Information, calories from restaurant meals make up over half of the average American’s daily calorie intake requirement. Just one meal from a restaurant can contain 1,200 calories—and that’s excluding calories from drinks, bread, appetizers, or desserts. Restaurant meals also often contain high levels of saturated fat, sugar and salt, which can increase the risk of obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

By eating at home, you can save not only your money, but approximately 450 calories per meal. You can make eating home-cooked meals more convenient by planning dinners ahead of time, stocking up on pantry items that are healthy and quick to prepare, and using your free time to prepare and freeze nutritious meals in advance that can be easily reheated in the future.

Ditch the Distractions, Eat Mindfully

Paying attention to your body’s cues for hunger and fullness can help you eat 30% less food during the day. Harvard nutrition professor Teresa Fung explains that our constant exposure to devices like smartphones and tablets can cause distracted eating, leading to the mindless consumption of excess calories. When distracted, our brains cannot recognize when we are full, making us prone to overeating. Next time you sit down to dinner, put your phone away and eat slowly and mindfully–  your waistline will thank you.

Similarly, Fung recommends pausing for a moment next time you are experiencing a craving. Sometimes, a food craving can actually indicate that the body is lacking certain nutrients. Craving chocolate, for example, could be a sign that your body is low in magnesium. Fung also says that many people tend to mistake thirst for hunger, and end up eating when they are actually dehydrated. Next time you feel like you’re starving, try drinking a large glass of water before eating, and then reevaluate your hunger level. Small tricks like this can be a huge help in adopting not only a healthier diet, but a healthier mindset towards the way you eat.

Cut Down on Red Meat

The American Institute of Cancer Research has found that diets high in red meat are linked to an increased risk of colon cancer. Researchers at the institute recommend eating no more than eighteen ounces of red meat per week to minimize this risk. Cutting down on red meat consumption can also be beneficial to your health as red meats tend to be high in saturated fat, a known factor in causing heart disease as well as related conditions such as obesity and high cholesterol.

To lower your risk for these diseases, swap out red meat for heart-healthy alternatives. Fatty fish such as salmon can boost brain function and heart health, and plant proteins from beans and legumes can aid in lowering heart disease risk as well as mortality risk.

Trade Sugary, High-Fat Dairy Products for Plain Yogurt

With more protein and less carbohydrates than traditional yogurt, plain Greek yogurt is a nutritious alternative to the sugar-filled dairy mainstay. Plain Greek yogurt without any added sugar or flavor is best, and the high protein content promotes satiety, keeping you fuller and less prone to mindless snacking.

Greek yogurt is also a suitable choice for those with type 2 diabetes, due to its low sugar content. Starting your day with Greek yogurt can help manage blood sugar throughout the day, since eating foods with a low glycemic index for breakfast helps prevent blood sugar spikes later on.

Say No To Sugary Drinks

The average American diet contains more “hidden” sugars than most people realize. Recently, the American Heart Association Nutritional Committee has found that just one sugary drink a day can lead to visceral fat buildup. Visceral fat is the deep abdominal fat that surrounds organs, and in excess can lead to higher risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes. High sugar content is not found only in sodas—sweetened teas, coffees, juices, and energy drinks all have excess sugar as well.

“Diet” Drinks? Think Again

Nutrition experts refer to foods that are not included in the five food groups as discretionary foods, as they are unnecessary for a healthy diet. Examples include fries, doughnuts, candy– essentially any calorie-dense, nutrient-absent food choices. Nutritionists have found that diet beverages make people feel less guilty about eating discretionary foods, believing that they can splurge on extra calories if consuming a diet drink. Despite their name, “diet” drinks do not help with weight control, and should be avoided if you intend on pursuing a healthier lifestyle.

Increase Your Water Intake

Drinking an extra cup of water each day can lead to consuming fewer calories throughout the day, as well as consuming lower amounts of saturated fat, sugar, sodium, and cholesterol. According to a study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, subjects who increased their water intake by one to two glasses per day (eight to sixteen ounces of water) consumed 70 to 200 fewer calories.

Not to mention, staying well-hydrated aids in digestion and helps all of the body’s functions run more smoothly. Keep a refillable water bottle with you at all times to make sure you stay hydrated all day.

These simple changes are relatively easy to incorporate into your everyday life, and can make a huge difference. By making small yet significant alterations to your diet, you begin your journey to being a healthier you!


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Kim
5 years ago

Is it okay to mention a really good website for sound, studied nutritional advice? I refer to it frequently in providing information to customers. Check out nutritionfacts.org. Another, based on USDA research, is whfoods.org, or worldshealthiestfoods.org (or .com–?). Like ONTIME, I hope to live a long, long life.
Time to gather greens from the garden for dinner…

EAA
5 years ago
Reply to  Kim

And eggs from my chickens!

ONTIME
5 years ago

Take your meds in a timely manner, use supplements that aid your medical and physical well being, all things in moderation and water to flush your body, a good routine and a decent amount of sleep…..I have found at the age of 75 that half a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water is a great help to balance your metabolism..you can take it every morn but I prefer about a half hour before bedtime…..at 75 I figure my life is half over………LOL

RogerW
5 years ago

I am tired of all these so-called “experts” dissing diet sodas. I lost 78 lbs. while drinking diet sodas the entire time, and have maintained a healthy weight for over 4 years since losing the weight. I still drink diet sodas every day. Anyone who tries to follow the nonsense of drinking large amounts of water every day will discover very quickly that he or she will be going to the bathroom constantly. I have learned that, over time, a lot of nonsense espoused by these “experts” is proven to be fallacy.

Donna
5 years ago
Reply to  RogerW

Actually it’s better to get most of your hydration from eating raw fruits and vegetables; then you won’t have to drink large amounts of liquid. Diet soda is loaded with chemicals that are going to have a negative effect on the inside of your body even if the outside of your body looks thin.

EAA
5 years ago
Reply to  RogerW

You work for coke or pepsi?

Charles
5 years ago

Medical agencies are still hanging on to the fallacies that red meat is bad for you. If you switch to grass fed meats you have the proper balance of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. For the most part red meat we buy in the chain grocery stores is junk. Include more organ meat in your diet is another excellent way to get the micro nutrients we need. Most nutritionists and the medical community have no idea what they are talking about when it comes to diet. Also switch your fat sources to things like unrefined cold pressed coconut oil, extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, Ghee (clarified butter) and grass fed butter. These will actually help give you the proper balance of HDL, LDL and triglycerides. Cholesterol over 200 is not necessarily bad as long as your ratios are in sync.

Judy Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Charles

A good example here would be eggs as well as many red meats. They were no-no a few years ago. Now they are a yes if you don’t overdo.

Charles
5 years ago
Reply to  Judy Smith

Choose omega 3 eggs songs don’t worry how many.

O. Ryan Faust
5 years ago

Conventional “wisdom” (this article) WILL NOT WORK. If you want to lose weight in America, your battle is against the three enemies of weight loss: stop consuming all dairy, all grains and all sweeteners (including “zero-calorie” sweeteners). Yes, giving up all bread (grain) is a big sacrifice. This is the Sharon Stone “eat what you want diet”. If you want to wear a bikini more than you want that Red Lobster cheese biscuit; you’ve got to leave the biscuit in the basket and eat to fit into the bikini. You are “eating what you want”. (I’m not a woman, this is the way Sharon Stone described it)

Only when you’ve conquered the axis of evil (dairy, grans, sweeteners) can you advance into enemy territory. When you’re shopping, If there’s more than 3 ingredients in a processed food product, leave it on the grocery store shelf. I guarantee you it will make you gain weight if you eat it. Then get to work avoiding carbs like potatoes and other starchy foods. That’s when the pounds begin to melt off. I just lost 30 pounds in 2 months and I’m not done. My goal weight is 190. I’ve got 70 lbs. to go.

Just a side note: theoretically meat doesn’t make you gain weight, but in America, ranchers are allowed to inject livestock with bulking agents that make the animal put on massive amounts of weight fast which increases the price when they sell it by the pound. These bulking chemicals and hormones remain in the meat and when YOU eat the meat, YOU put on massive amounts of weight! Just fyi.

Charles
5 years ago
Reply to  O. Ryan Faust

Sounds like you read eat fat and greet thin or the wheat belly diet

Itasara
5 years ago
Reply to  O. Ryan Faust

I lost weight quickly keeping my carb count down to about 60-100 net carbs/ day. I had to get my clothes tailored! Reading labels and watching amounts and some discipline is paramount;much easier than counting calories. I eat some dairy that is low in carbs. I don’t drink or use milk. Half and half works and almond milk is good substitute. I don’t eat some veggies fruits but not most. I do take suppliments because I don’t eat a lot of foods like OJ and others. Berries are good but easy to eat too many.

EAA
5 years ago
Reply to  O. Ryan Faust

Ahhh, so that’s why I see so many two legged cows these days! I thought it was the corn syrup and television.

Judy Smith
5 years ago

Warning: Although these are great ideas. For diabetics (whether Type 1 or Type 2) watch about your foods and the timing of your meals. A craving may mean a sudden drop in your blood glucose level. Don’t ignore that “distraction.” Check and eat something sweet and/or something high in protein. Also, watch if you have food allergies. If you have allergies, be sure to let your allergist know if there seems to be a change in your reactions to certain foods (those you’ve never been allergic to before). I’m a Type 1 brittle diabetic with mega food allergies to things I never thought anyone was allergic to.

Charles
5 years ago
Reply to  Judy Smith

Eating some fat would be better as it curbs the cravings and keep blood sugars more consistent.

Judy Smith
5 years ago
Reply to  Judy Smith

Oh, yes, one of the worst things anyone can do is to go on a no fat or anything else diet. There are many “good” fats out there that are essential to our health. What I meant in what I wrote is to be careful of those super crazy fad diets where someone advertises how many pounds or how many inches he lost in x number of days. All fats are not bad. My thinking here is that you need to learn to read all labels and let your medical doctor or counselor for a disease you may have guide you in not exactly what to eat but in what to look for in the labels of on different food choices and any that you should totally avoid. Never try to make your own judgments without the guidance of a nutritional counselor. I’ve heard that is one reason why people about forty or fifty years ago began having some of their dry hair and dry skin problems too. I guess that is good for the people in the lotion and moisturized shampoo business though.

Lee McQuillen
5 years ago
Reply to  Judy Smith

Thanks to both Judy and Charles for the input. I’m an uncontrolled Type II diabetic and have had not enough help from my doctor re nutrition. You both have given me important information. Some things you’ve said I’ve been wondering about myself since keeping a time list per day of what I eat and when as well as sugar readings. I’ve seen some trends which you have confirmed for me.

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