Today is National Healthy Eating Day! While healthy eating describes a lifestyle, or pattern of dietary habits developed over time, today is a good time to reflect on dietary choices and set goals for making healthy changes. Even if you have a healthy diet overall, no one diet is perfect, and all of us can take steps towards making positive changes to the way we eat.
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Q: How do I make long-lasting healthy eating choices?
A: From Masha Fox-Rabinovich, MA, RD, LDN, CDE, outpatient dietitian at Adventist HealthCare Washington Adventist Hospital: Make choices that are easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. Below are some basic principles of healthy eating, as well as a few goal suggestions.
Choose two or three of the suggestions listed and make an effort to eat healthier starting today!
- Eat 2-4 fruit servings every day. Fruits are high in antioxidants and other nutrients, and those of us who eat them regularly have a lower risk of chronic health conditions such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. One easy way to get fruit in is by incorporating it into your meals:
- Mix a chopped apple or banana slices into hot or cold cereal for breakfast.
- Add a tablespoon or two of raisins or other unsweetened dried fruit to salads, cooked vegetables, and starches such a rice pasta dishes.
- Choose a fruit for dessert instead of cookies or cakes. Fruit is sweet and will often satisfy sugar cravings.
- Eat more veggies – at least twice a day. Non-starchy vegetables (think tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli, peppers, greens, etc.) are high in fiber and micronutrients. Fill half of your plate with non-starchy veggies at lunch and dinner. Some suggestions:
- Add a salad alongside your sandwich at lunch. It’s more filling and much healthier for you than a bag of chips!
- Munch on carrots, celery, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli with hummus as a refreshing and crunchy snack between meals.
- Add cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes alongside dinner. Even if you have steamed veggies on your plate, increasing the variety of veggies will increase the total quantity of veggies consumed.
- 3 meals every day, and snacks in between if you feel hungry. Eating regularly throughout the day helps maintain a healthy metabolism and blood glucose levels. Do you regularly skip breakfast or lunch? Set a goal to prepare it the evening before and have it ready when that meal time rolls around.
- Make sure the grain products you eat are made with whole grains.
- Try quinoa, barley, millet, or another “new to you” grain instead of white rice or regular pasta.
- Go for whole wheat versions of commonly eaten foods like breads and crackers.
- Choose whole grain cereal instead of refined grains. Read the label: the first ingredient should say “whole _______” (wheat, oat, corn, etc.) and there should be 3 grams of dietary fiber or more listed on the Nutrition Facts panel.
- Vary your proteins. Chicken and fish are excellent types of lean meat, but beef and other meats can also be part of a healthy diet if eaten in moderation. For a balanced and healthy diet, be sure to include non-animal sources of protein such as beans and lentils, nuts, fermented soy products such as tofu and tempeh. If you are not a vegetarian, set a goal of having a full vegetarian day at least once a week.
- Replace meat with tofu or tempeh in stir fries, burritos, and other recipes.
- Add lentils or beans to a salad instead of chicken or tuna.
- Make an all veggie sandwich with hummus or black bean spread, and portabella mushrooms for a savory taste.
- Try an all-bean chili instead of one made with meat. There is such a huge variety of beans, adding many different ones will make an interesting chili with a lot of textures and flavors.
- Include a source of healthy fats in every meal. Remember that fats are necessary and should be included in a balanced diet.
- Add a tablespoon of chopped almonds or walnuts to cereals, salads, and even cooked veggie dishes.
- Mix ground flaxseeds or chia seeds into smoothies, cereals, and starch dishes such as rice and potatoes.
- Add avocado slices to sandwiches instead of mayonnaise.
- Make your own salad dressing with olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice instead of using a store-bought dressing.
- Eat fatty fish at least twice a week to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fats have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease, and are found in oily fish including salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, sardines, and trout.
- Enjoy your favorite treat, in moderation. If ice cream or brownies are two of your favorite foods, go ahead and enjoy them! Healthy eating means also making room for your favorite foods. Just keep in mind portion sizes and how often you have them. Sweets and nutrient-poor foods should be considered “sometimes foods”… not “every day foods”.