4 tips to make healthy eating easier in Colorado
Having a busy lifestyle can make it challenging to build good habits, but there are ways to get around this — all most people need is a little helpful guidance.
In fact, a few simple tricks can make healthy eating easier than you might think possible. Julie Bouwman, registered dietitian at Kaiser Permanente Colorado, has 4 tips to help you develop healthier eating habits — and maintain them for the long run.
1. Make a plan.
Set aside 30 minutes at the beginning of each week to plan meals and snacks, plus make your grocery list. Once you have your supplies for the week:
- Prepare meals in advance. This will save you time later in the week. And when you have more time, you’ll be less likely to opt for junk food out of convenience.
- Have healthy snacks available. You can make healthy food the quick and easy choice just by keeping plenty of it on hand. Whether at work or at home, keep fruits and vegetables, hard-boiled eggs, and single-serving yogurts ready to grab from the fridge. Stow non-refrigerated foods like protein bars, dried fruit, and nuts in the car, at your desk, or in your bag.
2. Find a good balance.
Building your meals from foods that provide protein, fiber, and healthy fats will give you a variety of nutrients and leave you feeling satisfied. One easy approach is to use the USDA’s recommended My Plate method:*
- Fill half your plate with colorful, seasonal vegetables. There are all types of delicious veggies out there to enjoy, but common examples are broccoli, asparagus, carrots, string beans, cauliflower, and leafy greens.
- Fill one-quarter of your plate with a whole grain or starchy vegetable. Whole grains include brown rice, quinoa, bulgur, and more. If you prefer starchy vegetables, you can opt for sweet potatoes, corn, or even peas.
- The last quarter of your plate should be filled with a lean protein. Aim for about 3 ounces of fish, chicken, turkey, or lean meats. Meat-free options often allow for more generous portions, and include tofu, tempeh, beans, or eggs.
- Eating on a smaller plate may also help you keep portions in control. If you tend to feel too full after meals, try swapping your dinner plate with a salad plate.
3. Keep track of what you eat.
Recording your snacks and meals throughout the day can help you stay on track with your nutritional goals.
- Stay mindful of the types of foods you eat throughout the day. And you’ll learn more about your habits and hunger cues. Do you tend to skip meals and then overeat because you’ve become too hungry? Are you prone to eating more or less when you’re under stress? You may be surprised by what you discover just by writing things down.
- Discover that not all calories are created equally. Some foods are rich in nutrients and keep you satisfied, while others are just “empty calories.” The American Heart Association recommends limiting empty calories to 100 per day for women and 150 per day for men. So look for food entries that include processed foods, baked goods, and soft drinks — and limit them as much as possible going forward.
- Space your calories evenly throughout the day. Most of us need 3 meals and 1 to 2 snacks per day. In general, each meal should provide around 300 to 500 calories and each snack 100 to 200 calories. Use a calorie-tracking app when reviewing your food journal to see how your calorie intake evens out.
4. Let go of perfectionism.
Some people believe that healthy eating means following a strict diet and giving up their favorite foods. This can lead to boredom, feelings of deprivation, and unrealistic self-expectations. After all, enjoying delicious food is one of life’s pleasures. If you can focus on eating nutritious foods most of the time and allow for an indulgence once in a while, your good habits will be easier to stick to.
- Enjoy some of your favorite foods once or twice a week. Embrace and enjoy your favorite foods, but do so in moderation. Some people even allow themselves a “cheat day” once a week — just try not to overdo it.
For more information on healthy eating and additional nutrition resources, visit Kaiser Permanente’s Nutrition Services website, kphealthyme.com.