March 10, 2020

Eat right, bite by bite

Making small, consistent changes in your diet can lead to big results.

If you’re thinking about healthy eating, it’s a great time to step back and look at what is going well in your meal plan — and what you might tweak to do even better.

Because diet is influenced by so many factors, including culture, family, environment, convenience, habit, and health, it is hard to make big diet changes that stick.

Rather than aiming for perfection, work toward progress. You can upgrade your nutrition with small changes. Research shows that small, consistent changes add up to big results.

Here are a few ideas to improve each bite in your day. Pick 1 or 2 to start with and add more as they become habits.

1. Up your veggie game: Add grated, shredded, or chopped vegetables such as zucchini, spinach, and carrots to lasagna, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, pasta sauce, and rice dishes. Keep cut vegetables handy for mid-afternoon snacks, side dishes, lunch box additions, or a quick nibble while waiting for dinner. Ready-to-eat favorites: bell peppers, broccoli or cauliflower florets, carrots, celery sticks, cucumbers, snap peas, or whole radishes.

2. Pump up your water intake: Make spa water by infusing it with fresh orange slices, strawberries, or cucumbers. Try dropping an herbal tea bag into your water bottle to give it a lift of flavor (like berry, peppermint, or peach). Have you tried seltzer water lately? There are so many flavors to pick from, plus zero calories because there is no sweetener!

3. Work in some whole grains with these easy swaps:

  • Instead of packaged cereal, have oats — cooked or overnight oats, made into homemade granola, or as a base for homemade protein balls.
  • Instead of white rice, try brown rice — top with your favorite stir-fry or stew, or combine with some lean ground meat or beans and herbs to stuff a pepper.
  • Instead of white bread or rolls, try a whole-wheat tortilla — build a wrap sandwich, breakfast burrito, or individual pizza with your favorite healthy toppings.

4. Pack easy, healthy snacks to avoid the vending machine conundrum: Choose fresh fruit, small baggies of natural nuts, string cheese, raw veggies with hummus or other light dip, roasted chickpeas, or individual tuna packets with whole grain crackers. 

5. Save yourself time and prevent last-minute fast-food dinners with some meal planning: Try a free meal planning app for recipes and grocery lists; plan 1 or 2 slow cooker or pressure cooker meals each week for those nights that you will be busiest; cheat time by using a rotisserie chicken, canned (no-salt-added) beans, and frozen veggies when you need to. 

Bite by bite, you can work toward a healthier you. Happy, healthy eating!

Contributor: Jennifer Yañez, RD