10 Easy Ways to Begin a Healthy Eating Plan

meal-plannerHealthy eating requires planning and persistence – but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Use these 10 tips to help you establish healthy routines and stick with them.

Don’t skip meals.
Our bodies and brains need calories on a routine basis throughout the day. Eating every 3-4 hours will spread your calories and energy evenly throughout the day, not allowing you to be overly hungry and succumb to that tempting plate of chocolate chip cookies.

Plan ahead.
When we fail to plan, we plan to fail! Fast food and vending machines aren’t nearly as temping when a packed lunch is waiting in the fridge and healthy snacks are an arm’s length away. Pack a bag with weekly daytime snacks to have on hand and use dinner leftovers as part of your lunch the next day.

Eat a Balanced Plate.
Balance is important in all aspects of life but especially helpful when trying to adapt a healthier eating style. Choose a plate that is 9 inches in diameter, dividing the plate into sections: half of the plate non-starchy vegetables; a quarter of the plate lean protein and a quarter of the plate starch or starchy vegetables. Add a side of fruit or serving of low-fat milk to round it out. This provides instant portion control, a variety of vitamins/minerals and a mix of complex carbohydrates, fiber and protein to keep us full for a longer time period.

Eat more fiber.
Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that our bodies literally are unable to digest. The work our bodies do to try to digest it keeps us satisfied for a longer timeframe. Fiber is also helpful for cholesterol reduction and keeping our bowels healthy. Add fruits and veggies at meals and snacks, and look for grain products with 3 grams or higher of dietary fiber per serving for the most bang for your buck.

Watch for refined sugars.
Refined sugars are hidden in many places these days. From beverages, granola bars, cereals and coffee drinks, they can increase a calorie count but provide no nutrition in return. Choose foods with less than 10 grams of added sugar per serving.

Stay hydrated.
Our bodies are made up of 60- to 70-percent water. Drinking plenty of fluids can assist in controlling calories, improving energy levels, keeping kidneys and bowels healthy, as well as maintaining good muscle health. Try a glass of water with lemon or cucumber or decaffeinated tea to add to your goal of 64 ounces per day.

Eat slower.
It takes 20 minutes for your brain to decide if it’s satisfied with the meal you have consumed. Try setting your fork down between bites and chewing foods 20 times before swallowing to assist in portion control and savoring the foods at hand.

Establish a designated eating area.
Eating meals and snacks in a designated area allows us to recognize when we are truly satisfied and gives the brain the opportunity to associate meals in a specific place.

Keep a food diary.
Individuals who keep food diaries lose more weight and are more successful at meeting their health goals. Awareness is the key to change.

Don’t give up!
Healthy habits are not created overnight but rather steps that must be practiced each day. Look at each day as an opportunity to improve the next and celebrate your successes!

Micca Donohoo, MS, RD, LDN Weight Loss and Wellness Center