It’s a nagging fact of life that our health, vitality, and lifespan are tethered to what we put into our bodies. Perhaps in some other universe there is a place where Cheetos, chocolate, and bacon are the ideal fuel for healthy living, but alas, we live in a cruel world awash in tasty foods that cause sickness and even early death. We’re here today to fight against the onslaught of toxic foods by offering 10 easy steps toward better eating and a healthier diet.
- Eat Breakfast
We start our list with an exhortation to start your day with a hearty, healthy breakfast. From weight control, metabolism, cognitive function, to blood sugar, the benefits of breakfast are many. (This is not a free pass to eat this stuff every day.)
- Substitute for Creamy Things
Who doesn’t love Ranch? Bleu Cheese? Sriracha mayo and other assorted creamy dipping sauces? Unfortunately, creamy usually means fatty and high in calories, which can lead to obesity, clogged arteries, and heart disease.
Whether you’re having pasta (tomato-based sauce instead of Alfredo), soup (pass on the broccoli cheese), or a sandwich (mustard instead of mayo), try to find a non-creamy alternative. If you crave creaminess, go for avocado, olive oil, or some other kind of healthy fats.
- Eat Fish
Fish are a tremendous source of healthy protein and other good stuff for your heart and brain like omega-3 fatty acids. All fish are not created equal, however. Be sure to do your homework on what’s good for you, and good for the planet.
- Fries with that? Be Strong…
If you find yourself at a fast food establishment – or let’s be honest just about any restaurant in America – French fries can be hard to avoid. Hard, but not impossible. What other sides do they offer? Fruit? Veggies? How about a side salad (sans creamy dressing)?
If you’re craving fries, why not cook up some delicious zucchini or sweet potato fries, or maybe even some roasted parsnips at home?
- Phase out the Sugary Beverages
Everybody loves a Coke now and then. Unfortunately, we also love Dr. Pepper, lemonade, sweet tea, Mountain Dew, all kinds of sugary fruit juices…
Sweet drinks are another tough one to avoid, but if you can kick the soda habit you’ll be well on your way to losing weight, as well as preventing diabetes and a host of other health problems.
Try to drink water as much as possible throughout the day. If you want to mix it up, grab a flavored seltzer or make some unsweetened tea. Don’t let liquids derail your path to a healthier diet!
- Limit Eating Out
We all know fast food is, for the most part, unhealthy. There is a perception that fancier “sit-down” establishments dish out more nutritious fare, but more often than not the food we eat at nicer restaurants is just as unhealthy.
Instead of relying on restaurants to prepare food for us, it’s much easier to follow a healthier diet when we have control over the ingredients. By limiting eating out, you can save a ton of money and extra calories.
- Fruits and Veggies, Knock Yourself Out
Nutritionists disagree on many things. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables is not one of those points of contention.
Unless you’re deep-frying everything or using the aforementioned creamy dipping sauces, feel free to load up on fruits and vegetables every day.
- Plan Your Shopping
Having a list will save you money and provide an extra line of defense against the impulse purchase of chips, candy, and powdered donuts.
- Make Healthier Rice, Pasta, and Bread Choices
Many of us eat rice, pasta, and bread every day. Experts advise that white rice, white bread, and other refined sugar carbs can make blood sugar spike, so portion control is key.
You can opt for brown rice and whole wheat bread, or get creative with your pasta by making spaghetti squash or zucchini noodles instead.
- Get Moving and Get Some Sleep
The bedrock of a healthier diet is ample sleep and exercise. Experts warn that excessive sitting can negate the effects of exercise, and lack of sleep has been linked to weight gain. Staying active throughout the day and getting to bed at a decent hour will do wonders for your health.
Making a Healthier Diet a Way of Life
How you incorporate a healthier diet into your lifestyle is entirely up to you. Some of us do better with making incremental steps, while others prefer wholesale, cold-turkey change.
Do whatever works for you. Make it into a game or contest. And don’t feel like you have to deprive yourself. If you can’t live in a world without donuts, try to make a reasonably healthy facsimile. Whatever you do, remember… We are, ultimately, what we eat.
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