You may have started the New Year by reading tips for how to select a diet that suits your needs and lifestyle. Perhaps you joined the 28-Day Bootcamp Challenge to get your booty moving. Maybe you've read about the 11 healthiest food trends of the 21st Century and want to incorporate some of them into your healthy eating plans for 2011.
The first week of a new commitment to health can be exciting and overwhelming all at the same time. Many people are at a loss for how to begin making healthier eating choices. Following a "diet" plan may seem like an easy option at first. However, by day three a more rigid approach to eating then you are accustom can suddenly become tedious and feel restrictive. Trying to make all these new habits fit into your day-to-day life can become too much to process. Getting started with healthier eating does not have to be as complicated as you might think. Here is a secret tip that can help you begin your journey.
Of course keeping track of what you eat will help you know the nutrient content of what you are consuming. Learning what are correct portion sizes will also be helpful when it comes to controlling calorie consumption. While those skills are important and will lead you to success, they don't help you with the first and most important place to start, selecting what to eat.
When deciding what to eat, use this secret tip. Select items with the shortest ingredient list. While this may seem basic, thinking about it a little further you realize the choices are vast and most all food groups can fit your preferences. Here are examples that are more specific.
Meat - I'll start here because many people new to healthy eating include meat in their meals and snacks. If your choices come in a package with many words on the ingredient list that you don't know what they are, the secret tip may help. Instead of a lunchmeat sandwich or hot dog, select chicken or turkey breast. Go to your local butcher shop or the meat department at your grocery store and request they slice a breast for you. Select your ground meat from the meat department or butcher as well and when possible grind your own from whole meat purchases.
Grains - Bread, rice, and noodles tend to be staples in many diets. When looking to make an easy switch toward healthier eating, select whole grain instead of your typical enriched white standard. Brown rice, whole-wheat couscous or pasta and 100% whole wheat bread are usually next to the current brand you buy. Next time you need a grain, look for a whole grain option to try instead.
Fruits and Vegetables - This is a food group that many of us do not eat enough of and may have a goal to increase. Of course, the choices with the least ingredients in this area are the ones that are fresh such as a banana or apple, raw carrots or pea pods. If fresh is difficult, frozen is your next best choice. Making a simple switch from canned vegetables to frozen is the first step toward healthier eating of fruits and vegetables with the practice of selecting more fresh choices not far behind.
Dairy - Dairy supplies four key nutrients (calcium, potassium, magnesium, and vitamin A) that are low in many American diets. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest three equivalent servings of low-fat dairy are necessary each day. The choice with the shortest ingredient list is simply to drink cow's milk several times a day. If you are eating processed American cheese slices or other processed cheese spreads, look in the dairy case for natural cheese choices instead. Select from choices such as low fat cottage cheese, Colby, Cheddar, Swiss, Mozzarella, or Provolone. Low fat and non-fat yogurt is also a good choice. For those that cannot tolerate dairy or choose not to select it for other reasons, there are non-dairy milk alternatives that you may want to include instead. Since these are processed options, finding those with the least ingredients may be tricky and will require close reading of ingredient labels.
Snacks - This is probably the area that will cause people the most pause. Chips, candy bars, and soda may currently be a snack staple but definitely not staples for a healthy diet. This is also the area where remembering the tip can bring the most realization that other options are available. Even if you are trying to watch portion sizes by using 100-calorie snack packs, most of them are processed choices. So next time you make a trip to the vending machine, select the package of peanuts instead of the bag of chips. Need something sweet in the afternoon? Consider raisins or other dried fruits instead of a candy bar. For a protein pick me up, pick a hardboiled or deviled egg. There are many whole foods that can make a great snack choice so be sure to check out the link for ideas.
The Bottom Line
A new year brings new resolve to better health for many people. Getting started and trying to change too many things to fast can cause people to drop out of the race much sooner than if they take things slow and build healthy habits over time. There is plenty of time this year to learn portion control and healthier cooking but today is the day to begin making healthier choices. Using the secret tip of selecting items with the shortest ingredient list will help you begin taking note of what you are eating and what other options are available. This is a great first step that can lead you to healthy whole food eating of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and limiting processed foods that maximize nutrient intake and help your body run as efficiently as possible.
What are your favorite food choices that have only a few ingredients? Do you think this tip will help you get started with a new way of eating this year?
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