10 Small Steps to Improve Your Eating Habits in 2011

Melanie Thomassian Health Pro

    The New Year is almost here, and with it comes a chance to makes some positive changes in your lifestyle.


    One of the best things you can do to give yourself more energy, better health and improved vitality, is to improve your diet.


    So, here are 10 simple steps to help improve your diet and health in 2011: 


    1) Add more variety

    Your body requires over 40 nutrients for optimum health. Incorporating a wide range of colorful fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, and low fat dairy products will help ensure that you get the vitamins and minerals you need. 


    2) Reduce your portion sizes

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    Keeping your portion sizes reasonable is an effective way to reduce your caloric intake, and helps you lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight. What I love most about this, is that you can still have a little of your favorite foods, just in a smaller amount, so you don't feel deprived.


    3) Eat meals at regular times

    Eating several small meals per day helps keep the unhealthy binge eating cycle at bay, and helps you maintain a more stable blood sugar level, which is very important to help you avoid low energy.


    4) Add more whole grain foods

    Whole grains satisfy your body's need for carbohydrates, while keeping your blood sugar swings to a minimum. This is important for satiety, and in keeping overeating to a minimum.


    5) Drink 8 glasses of water per day

    Our bodies need water to function optimally in every process. In addition, although water has no calories, it can help you to feel full, so drinking water before meals can also prevent overeating.  


    6) Don't skip breakfast

    Eating a hearty breakfast gives you energy and nutrients which you need to get through the day. Studies show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to overeat later in the day. The best breakfast is one that combines lean protein, with a little whole grain carbs, and some fruit and/or vegetables. For example, an omelette filled with two types of vegetables, and one slice of wholegrain toast. Or, a small bowl of oatmeal, topped with berries, natural yogurt, and crushed nuts.


    7) Choose broiled or grilled food rather than fried foods

    Broiling or grilling your food gives a very similar taste to fried foods, but it significantly reduces the fat content of your meal. 


    8) Be disciplined at the grocery store

    It's much easier to stick to a healthy diet if you buy only (or mostly) healthy foods when you purchase your groceries. It's very difficult to avoid the temptation of cookies or chips when they are sitting in your pantry at home. If you don't buy them in the first place, you won't be tempted to stray from your diet. Simple as that!


    9) Reduce your salt intake 

    Eating foods that are high in sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, as well as water retention, and the resulting weight gain. Choose low sodium versions of your favourite foods if possible, and don't add salt to your food if you can help it. Try herbs, spices and citrus fruits as flavoring instead.  


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    10) Reduce the unhealthy fats in your diet

    Overly processed meats, or store-bought cakes and cookies, for example, tend to be high in trans or saturated fats, and these foods should be avoided mostly. However, you do need some fat in your diet. So, try using olive oil as a basis for salad dressings, cook with rice bran oil, use mashed avocado as an alternative to margarine spreads, and eat oily fish 1 or 2 times per week. Also, avoid anything that contains trans fats as much as you possibly can.


    And finally, one bonus tip

    Remember to reward yourself once in a while. If your eating habits are generally good, there's no harm in having an occasional dessert, or your favorite treat food. Constantly depriving yourself usually leads to unhealthy food binges later on.


    There's no need to be obsessive about your diet. Allowing yourself the occasional treat now and then makes it easier to maintain healthy habits, and be consistent in your nutrition plan over time. Just make sure that you eat healthily most of the time.


    Here's to a healthy 2011! 



    Melanie Thomassian is a registered dietitian, and author of Dietriffic.com. If you need help implementing a healthier lifestyle, check out her new guide, The Healthy Eating Handbook.



Published On: December 15, 2010