A friend of mine surprised me recently with a request to help her with her diet plan. While I’m obsessed with nutrition and wipe my brow after every article I read about exercise, I don’t consider myself to be a health expert. I have a killer sweet tooth and once consumed an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s in one sitting. (Okay, maybe I’ve done that more than once, but definitely less than five times.)
That being said, her query got me thinking about how my food consumption has evolved since my binge-ice-cream-eating days. It’s true that I’m much more conscious about what I put into my body than I was a few years ago. Marrying an amazing chef probably has something to do with it, but I’d also like to think much of it comes from a personal desire to be a happy, healthy person.
Here are a few hassle-free ways to save on calories (see what I did there?) so you, too, can making healthy eating a part of your lifestyle.
Eat at Home — Dining out frequently is the biggest contributor to weight gain (in my opinion). I eat from home the majority of the time and bring my lunch to work everyday. When I do eat out, I review the menu and nutrition facts before I head to the restaurant. That way, I know exactly what I’m ordering and feel confident my selection is one of the more healthful options.
Be Thoughtful About Breakfast — Protein is a key ingredient for your morning meal because it helps you feel fuller longer. In addition to my daily juicing habit, I nibble on protein-rich granola bars or the occasional hard-boiled egg. Before juicing took over my life, I made smoothies with frozen strawberries, half a banana, protein-rich yogurt, spinach, almond milk and ground flaxseed. Eight ounces of that goodness kept me satisfied for several hours.
Think Moderation — You’re probably sick of hearing about moderation, but ultimately it’s the best way to avoid binging on your guilty pleasure. If you’re a huge fan of DQ blizzards, for example, treat yourself to a mini version once in awhile. I’m a chocolate fiend and keep a stash of 1-oz portions of the dark stuff in my desk drawer for midday nibbling.
Substitute Sugar — When I start craving Reese’s Peanut Butter cups or something similarly unhealthy, I force myself to reach for an apple or other fruit. While it may be the last thing I want, I find myself not as ravenous for Reese’s after my healthy snack. The natural sugar in the fruit helps satisfy my craving in a shameless way.
Drink Lots of Water — One of the recommendations from The Biggest Loser series is to drink a glass of water before every meal or snack. In addition to staying hydrated, this strategy helps you feel more full and ultimately makes portioning much easier. I have a water bottle at my desk which I refill and stick in the freezer for about 30 minutes so I can sip on cold water all day.
Spruce Up Salads — Mixing up salad ingredients is key to sticking with them in the long run. I used to hate salads until I started adding radishes, avocados, mushrooms and other tasty additions. My husband also makes a killer salad dressing that includes feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes. Here’s a great reference I stumbled upon for mixing up salad recipes from the chicly-named Cupcakes and Cashmere.
Schedule Snacks — If someone observed my eating habits everyday, they’d notice that I’m fairly OCD about snack time. I have a single-serving of all-natural, no-sugar-added applesauce with string cheese and raw almonds around 10:00 a.m. Between noon and 1:00 p.m., I bust out my salad-in-a-jar or dinner leftovers. When 3:00 p.m. hits, I’m jonesing for something sweet and grab half an apple with peanut butter. Ultimately, this regimen keeps me from running out for a sugary latte or bag of M&Ms.
What are some of your hacks for eating healthy?