Improving your nutrition does not require a nutritionist or personal trainer. You can positively affect your health and well-being with just some simple changes to your daily eating habits. Below are some very easy to follow do-it-yourself nutrition tips to achieve a healthy body weight and help reduce your risk of chronic disease.
Achieve a healthy body weight.
For most people, this means reducing daily energy intake by several hundred calories to sustain weight loss. Although this task sounds daunting, just one or two small changes will do the trick if they are maintained over time. For example, you can:
- Consume water rather than sugary soft drinks and fruit drinks. If it’s the carbonation you crave, choose unsweetened, carbonated water.
- Beware the coffee-based drinks that are made with whole milk, sweetened with syrup and topped with whipped cream. Ask for your latte to be skinny and “no whip cream” to cut calories.
- Reduce the amount of added fat. At 100 kcals per tablespoon, butter, salad cream, cream cheese and peanut butter are energy-dense. You can save a significant number of calories by using these sparingly or preferably selecting low-fat alternatives.
- Alter the foods you snack on. Rather than snacking on chips, crackers, cookies, sweets, or chocolate which are high in fat, trans fat and calories, opt for a piece of fresh fruit, baby carrots, air-popped popcorn or a cup of low-fat yogurt. If you crave a salty snack, like chips or crackers, choose the baked or reduced-fat version.
- Use less fat in cooking and baking. Use fruit purées instead of oil or butter in baked goods. Thicken soups and sauces with vegetable purées. Buttermilk is an excellent substitute for sour cream or whole milk in cream soups, sauces or mashed potatoes. And, for your baking, try a crust of ground almonds with a minimal amount of oil and syrup rather than lard or butter.
Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and sodium.
Added fat and sugar pile on unwanted calories, and consumed in excess, they will contribute to weight gain and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. Too much sodium leads to high blood pressure, so to combat these problems, you can:
- Limit your intake of processed grains and snack foods, such as cookies, crackers, corn and crisps, and cakes. Although these snacks are highly palatable, they are full of trans fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, choose unprocessed foods for snacks, such as dried fruit, pretzels or nuts.
- Limit your intake of processed meats—such as bacon, sausages and burgers—and of cheese and pizza, which are also high in saturated fat and sodium. Instead, prepare lean cuts of fresh meat and choose low-fat cheese. Several times per week, choose beans, legumes or tofu as a source of protein in place of meat.
- Avoid the use of salt during cooking. In place of salt, enhance the flavor of your food with added herbs and spices.
- Sodium, sugar and trans fat often hide in unsuspected foods. Ready made soups can be surprisingly high in sodium, and sugar is often added to pasta sauce. Likewise, trans fats are present in processed foods. It pays to read food labels. Avoid products that have added sugar, aka: sucrose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, or hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil/fats.
Increase your intake of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and dairy products.
These foods contain a multitude of vitamins, minerals and other compounds (i.e., fiber and antioxidants) that promote health. We recommend that you:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables at meals and snacks. Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. They also add color, which not only makes our plate more visually appealing, but adds the antioxidant power of phytonutrients.
- Swap whole grains for processed ones. Choose brown rice and whole wheat pasta. Experiment with quick-cooking grains like quinoa and millet. Read food labels to select baked goods and cereals that are made with whole grains.
- Choose fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt and cottage cheese as a high-protein snack that is also packed with calcium and vitamin D. As an alternative to dairy products, select soy milk or orange juice that has been fortified with calcium and vitamin D.
- At least two times per week, choose seafood rather than meat to increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids.
Be a conscientious consumer when eating out.
- Ask for salad dressing, butter, sour cream and sauces on the side, so you can control how much is added.
- Avoid dishes that are prepared with cream or served with a cream sauce.
- Select foods that have been steamed, broiled or baked, rather than fried or sautéed.
- Restaurants are notorious for serving excessively large portions.
- For dessert, choose fruit sorbet or pie (and leave the crust), or share your dessert with a friend.