- Start with a healthy plate
Downsize and Upsize
Pick one day to prep
Have a healthy backup
Take the time to adjust
1. Start with a healthy plate
Make your plate 1/2 non-starchy vegetables, 1/4 starch (grains or fruit) and 1/4 protein. If you fill your plate right, the fiber in all the veggies will keep you from eating too much of the heavy stuff.
2. Downsize and Upsize
Size Matters! When you’re trying to get healthy, it's important to focus on portion sizes. Most people need to upsize their portions of healthy and nutrition-rich things like vegetables, and downsize their portions of starches or sweets.
Using the right dishes makes this easier- Brian Wansink discusses this phenomenon in a book called “Mindless Eating; Why We Eat More Than We Think” which I highly recommend for all eaters. So put your broccoli in a big bowl, because it will help you eat more, and put your ice cream or chips in a small bowl, because it will help you eat less.
3. Pick one day to prep
Everybody should have a total of about 5 cups of veggies and fruits a day- 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit. Eating veggies on the go can be a challenge. The easiest way to deal with this is to buy cherry tomatoes, baby carrots, snap-peas or pre-cut veggies because they don't need any prep. If you don’t like them plain, try bringing a small amount of dressing for dipping. If you only like creamy dressing- I like Bolthouse farms yogurt dressings- they’re creamy but lighter. If you have a little time for prep you can cut up veggies like cucumbers, bell peppers, and celery.
Pick your lightest day of the week work-wise and designate it as the food prep day. That day put 1 cup portions veggies in the fridge so they're ready to grab and go. If you want to be environmentally friendly, but don’t have room for all that Tupperware in your fridge- you can buy reusable bags- there are tons on reuseit.com. You can also do this with grains, meat or a frittata- make a large amount one day and reheat during the week.
4. Have healthy back-ups
We all have some periods when work or life is keeping us extra busy. Plan for a few favorite quick, easy and healthy lunches/dinners and keep those ingredients handy. Some stuff I stock is
good quality, lower sodium canned soups
canned fish like tuna and salmon for salads or sandwiches
eggs and frozen veggies for omelettes
natural peanut butter and whole grain bread (store this in the freezer)
It's also good to have a back up for your backup. Look through your closest grocery store for health(ier) pre-made food options so you don’t have to spend as much time comparing when you need something in a rush. The key is to put together items to make up a healthy plate- so you can always buy pre-cooked turkey/chicken/tofu, cooked grains/grain salads and a bunch of cooked veggies, and put them on your plate in the right proportions and microwave.
5. Go slow
When you change your diet, it can take time to adjust. When people start a low-sodium diets for medical reasons, they typically dislike the taste of the food initially, but after 2-3 months they acclimate to the diet, and find their old foods too salty.
You can retrain your palate, but it takes patience. Since no one likes to hate their food, it’s best to make changes slowly and give them time to feel normal. While 2-3 months to get used to something isn’t a short time, it does help to know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
It's a great idea to set one nutrition goal for the new year. When it comes to goal setting, it’s easy to say- I want to eat healthy this year- but hard to do. SMART goals are specific, measureable, action-based, realistic, and time-defined.
Not SMART goal: I want to eat healthy this year. .
SMART goal: I want to slowly increase the amount of fruits and vegetables I eat over the next few months and by May I want to eat 5 cups of fruits and vegetables 4 days per week.
I challenge you to write or type your goal out on a nice piece of paper and post it somewhere visible, like the fridge, so you're reminded every day.