Eat Well -- ten tips to get your eating habits on track. Small steps can lead to healthy changes.
By Cheryl Embrett for
Microsoft Home Magazine
Want to look better, feel better and live longer? Make a few healthy changes to your eating habits this year and you'll be well on your way. But you don't have to trade in all your chocolate for tofu. Healthy eating is about enjoying a variety of foods and eating in moderation, says Toronto dietitian and author Leslie Beck. "Nutritious can equal delicious." Here are ten helpful tips from food and nutrition experts to get you started. Santé!
1. Start small
Next time you make a sandwich, substitute two teaspoons of mustard for the same amount of mayonnaise. If you eat two sandwiches a week, you'll save 6,420 calories and 718 grams of fat in a year, say Janet and Greta Podleski, authors of the best-selling cookbooks Looneyspoons and Crazy Plates (Perigee, 2000). Or, leave the pepperoni off your pizza and save about 7.6 grams of fat in two slices. Small changes work better than giant leaps to improve healthy living habits over the long term. For more quick tips on cutting fat and boosting nutrition, visit Global Health & Fitness.
2. Strive for five
Eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day can reduce the risk of cancer, heart disease and other chronic health problems, says Beck. But most of us are lucky to fit in three servings a day. That's where Dole's highly rated Web site can help. Their 5 A Day personal training tool analyzes your family's fruit, vegetable and nutrient intake, compares the results to recommended levels and tells you how you can increase your intake in easy, delicious ways that even your kids will love.
3. Become a health-conscious shopper
Healthy eating begins at the grocery store, says Julia Aitken, food editor at Elm Street magazine in Toronto. Her advice: shop around the edges of the supermarket — where the dairy, produce, fish and meat reside — and avoid the middle aisles with their glut of processed foods. Make time too, she advises, to read food labels. To test your label-reading know-how and pick up grocery-shopping tips, visit the Rainbow Mart Virtual Grocery Store, sponsored by the Dietitians of Canada and the Canadian Diabetes Society.
4. Track your progress
Keep a record of the foods you eat each day in your personalized food diary. Note the times you ate, what you ate and how much, your hunger level prior to eating, and any overriding emotions that were present at the time. A food diary helps you keep focused on and committed to your goals, says Beck. "It highlights in black and white the foods you are eating and the foods you are not eating. It will make you think twice about eating that extra helping at dinner or handful of potato chips." You should keep a diary for at least the first month that you embark on your plan for change. It will help you to recognize the portions you consume, your food choices and your problem areas.
5. Think ahead
"Plan your meals and snacks in advance, even if it's just one day at a time," says Beck. "Thinking ahead makes it far easier to stay on track when life is hectic. And it helps you make sure that you always have healthy foods on hand." Adds Toronto dietitian Rosie Schwartz: "Planning ahead ensures you don't waste healthy cooking opportunities, too. If you're making salmon for dinner, for example, make enough for two meals and have a cold salmon salad the next day." Click on Canadian Living magazine's Make it Tonight to plan five days of fast, nutritious, tasty dinners.
6. Size it up
Get familiar with portion sizes, says Dana McCauley, food editor of Gardening Life and mother of seven-year-old Oliver. "Restaurants train us to think that a serving size of steak is massive, but it’s really just the size of your fist." To check out appropriate Food Guide servings, click on Health Canada’s Web site or view a Sizing up a serving slide show at the Mayo Clinic's site.
7. Find a support network
Encouragement and support are key to staying motivated, says McCauley, who joined Weight Watchers last year. "It's the peer environment that helps me a lot," she enthuses. Online communities such as FoodFit also let you exchange nutritional information and ideas in lively forums, swap recipes and get a pep talk when you need it. Or, start an e-mail support group with friends. Each week e-mail your goals, tips and progress reports to one another to help keep you on track.
8. Try something new
Lower fat doesn't have to mean boring, says Aitken. Be adventurous and experiment with healthy new foods, flavourings and recipes. For example, citrus zest adds a lot of flavour without calories and a sprinkle of real Parmesan cheese on pasta adds zip without too much fat. For oodles of delicious low-fat recipes, visit Cooking Light magazine or for lower-fat versions of your favourite foods, check out the Mayo Clinic's Recipe Makeover feature.
9. Aim for a healthy weight
Nearly half of Canadians are now overweight. The Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the best ways to find out whether those few extra pounds on your waistline spell trouble for your health. This tool takes into account not only what the scale says, but also your height, so it's more accurate than weight alone. To calculate your BMI, visit Health Canada's site.
10. Be nutrition-savvy
The more knowledgeable you are about nutrition, the easier it is to make smart food choices. Surf the Net and you'll find thousands of nutrition sites. Be wary of sites that sell or promote the use of particular supplements, foods or books, says Schwartz. Though scientific studies quoted may sound convincing, check them against well-know reputable sites such as the Nutrition Navigator, one of the best rating guides to nutrition Web sites developed by Tufts University; The Dietitians of Canada Web site; and the National Institute of Nutrition. These sites also provide links to other reputable health sites.