A balanced diet is something to strive for, but healthy eating is harder than it sounds. Cravings and temptations can get the better of anyone. A healthy diet doesn’t have to be a crash diet that makes you miserable. Here are 5 easy ways to improve your diet with very little effort.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits. Your body cannot survive without vitamins and minerals. Eating colorful fruits and vegetables is the best way to receive proper nutrition. You can start by adding one vegetable and one fruit to each meal – for example, adding spinach to your eggs in the morning or blueberries to your oatmeal. When you fill your body with more fruits and vegetables, you won’t have room for other unhealthy options.
- Drink more water. Many of the excess calories, sugar and fat you consume in a day may come from sugary beverages. Drinking water is the best way to stay hydrated and cleanse your body. Your body functions better when you are well hydrated. Drinking more water can even help with weight loss. If you don’t like the taste of water, try infusing it with lemon slices, cucumber, mint or your favorite fruit.
- Cut back on sodium. On average, you only need 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day, yet many people consume much more. The easiest way to cut back is to only lightly salt the foods you prepare, and to cut back on prepackaged foods, such as canned soup, frozen entrees and salty snacks. Decreasing your salt intake can improve your health by lowering blood pressure and curbing sugar cravings.
- Choose whole grains. Whole grains are higher in fiber than refined white grains. Dietary fiber helps your digestive system, cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and body weight. Look for breads that list a whole grain as the first ingredient and have at least 2 grams of dietary fiber per serving. Choose brown rice, wild rice, barley and whole-wheat pasta instead of the more refined alternatives. Also, try eating oatmeal instead of cereal.
- Eat until you are 80% full. In the Japanese culture, people practice “Hara Hachi Bu,” which translates to “eat until you are 80% full.” As Americans, most of us have been taught since childhood that we need to eat everything on our plate. However, this is not a healthy practice because eating until we are full is actually eating too much. It takes approximately 20 minutes for your stomach to communicate to your brain that it is full. The best way to eat is to only eat until you are no longer hungry. In 20 minutes, you will likely find that you’re actually full.
While there are many components of a healthy, balanced diet, these 5 tips are a good place to start. Remember, every food decision you make is a new opportunity to make a healthier choice.