The older I get, the more quickly the pounds seem to come creeping up on me. Yes, I used to be one of those people who could eat anything with seemingly no effect on my weight. Sometime after I reached the age of 30, that all began to change. These days it’s not as much about losing weight as it is trying to maintain where I am! It’s also no longer just about hitting a weight goal, but about eating a healthier diet and choosing a more active lifestyle.
I am certainly no dietitian, nor are any of these ideas new or groundbreaking, but they are some easy changes that I have been attempting to make in order to lead my family toward better health – and maybe even lose a pound or two in the process!
• Each month try a new fruit or vegetable or at least a new preparation of a familiar one.
• Eat slowly and take the time to really taste and savor your food.
• For at least a week, try writing down everything you eat.
• Avoid purchasing foods that include processed powders and pre-made sauces.
• When sitting down to eat at the table, fill every one’s plate and leave the extra food in the kitchen. You may be deterred from getting seconds if you have to walk a few feet to get more as opposed to having it on the table directly in front of you.
• Drink water with at least one meal a day.
• Try not to use food as a reward for yourself or your children.
• Have healthy snacks easily accessible. Keep grapes rinsed and out in plain view, buy baby carrots, cut cheese into cubes, have small boxes of raisins in the pantry and so on. If it takes too much work to prepare or is not ready to be eaten right away, there’s much less chance that I or my children will grab it for a snack.
• Add small amounts of protein, such as grilled chicken, shrimp or beef, to a large salad and serve it as a main dish.
• Find one processed food to eliminate from your pantry each month.
• Measure portion sizes where appropriate. I started by measuring my cereal the mornings that I have it for breakfast. I like to be able to visualize the actual size of a serving.
• Choose whole grain pasta over white pasta, brown rice over white rice.
• Serve a variety of fiber-rich beans at least once a week.
• Eat a serving of fruit at every meal.
• Buy most of your groceries by shopping the outer aisles of the grocery store. These normally contain your produce, meat and dairy items whereas you find most processed foods on the inner aisles.
• When baking, substitute wheat flour for white flour in small portions. For example, if your recipe calls for two cups of white flour, try using half a cup of wheat and one and a half cups of white flour. You can try gradually increasing the amount of wheat flour.
• Try eating a bit less meat at meals and fill your plate with more fruits and vegetables.
• Serve meals on smaller plates (or treats like ice cream in a smaller bowl). You can still feel as if you’re getting a full dish, but the serving size will be smaller.
• Limit eating out to once or twice a week. Preparing food at home allows you to monitor the ingredients and gives you more control over the portion sizes.
• At least glance at the ingredient list in the foods you buy. Try to avoid those that have sugar in the first few ingredients or those with a large number of unnatural ingredients.
• At each meal, eat your first helping then allow your food to settle before you reach for seconds. You may begin feeling full and skip that extra portion.
• Choose foods as close to their natural state as possible. Freshness makes for the best taste and quality.
• Find ways to get extra sweets out of the house. Wrap some up and deliver them to a neighbor or take some to work and share with your coworkers.
• Add a serving of fish to your current meal plan, striving to eat it at least once a week.
• When making baked goods, experiment with using a bit less sugar than is given in the recipe.
By taking small steps toward creating a healthier lifestyle, we can help ourselves and our children maintain a better quality of life.