If your idea of healthful eating is saying "No" to dessert or milk and muffin at your mid morning break, your diet may still be in desperate need of a tune-up. The truth is that most of us use to much caffeine, too much fat, and way too much sugar, and not nearly enough fruits, veggies, and complex carbohydrates. Sure, we know we should eat better, but who wants to exist in tofu, and bean sprouts? Fear not! You don’t have to forgo all the food you know and love to improve your diet. A few simple changes can make a world of difference.
Cut the Caffeine
Caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world. It’s a powerful stimulant that can easily leave you jittery and irritable. And the calories in most mochas, lattes’ and caffeinated soft drinks will quickly add up. Fortunately, there are options. There’s a wide variety of healthy beverages available today, including cereal drinks and fruit juices. Just be sure to go easy on the amount of refined sugar you pour into your cereal drink, and remember that the fruit juices also contain a lot of sugar, especially the so called juice drinks.
Tame Your Sweet Tooth
You don’t have to eliminate the sweets altogether in order to eat more healthfully. The key is moderation. “It’s all relevant to how physically active you are,” explains dietician Susan Kleiner, author of “Power Eating”. Number one, Make sure that you eating a good diet and not replacing good wholesome nutrient dense food with empty calories; number two, that you’re physically active enough to handle all the calories; and three, that you are choosing wisely.”
Choosing wisely might mean selecting the candy that’s plain sugar over one containing both sugar and fat. For example, opt for jelly beans instead of high fat, high sugar treats such as chocolates. Better still, consider natural sweets such as grapes, strawberries and cherries, which will give you extra fiber and nutrient to boot.
Break the Fast
Just because we’ve become a nation of breakfast skippers doesn’t mean it’s wise or healthy to go without food in the morning. “Mom was right---- breakfast is the most important meal of the day.” says registered dietician Christine Palumbo. If you’re never hungry in the morning, it’s probably because you’ve “trained” your body to get by without breakfast.
“You can eat light, satisfying breakfast every day,” says Palumbo. “You don’t have to eat breakfast before your workday begins. If you wish, wait until you’re at your desk and munch on a cinnamon raisin bagel and a glass of orange juice.”
Pack Portable Produce
Getting the recommended five serving of fruits and vegetables a day is easier than you might think. A medium sized piece of fruit, three quarters of a cup of fruit, vegetable juice, and half a cup of cooked or canned vegetables or fruits, all comprise one serving. But you do have to plan ahead. Buy fresh produced at the supermarket, and carry it with you.
Toss an apple, banana or orange in your purse or briefcase to eat at your desk or during your trip to work. Though second best, canned fruits like pineapple and pears are over convenient options.
A lot of vegetable are portable. A can of tomato juice packs a load of nutrients, and you can buy bags of packed baby carrots, broccoli or cauliflower to munch on at work. And don’t forget salad, a primary source of vegetable for everyone.
“If you select carefully, you can have a great lunch at a salad bar, but you have to be careful,” says Barbara Gollman. “Start with lettuce and spinach and add bean salad and it becomes a source of protein, fiber and satisfaction. Skip things that are too coated with mayonnaise like potato salad and select toppings like garbanzo beans (chickpeas), sunflower seed, carrots tomatoes and other vegetables.” Include bread of crackers for extra carbs.
Doctors recommended that we drink at least eight 8-oz glasses of water a day, and more if you work out regularly. Yet the average person drinks just half that much. “People need to drink more water,” says Gollman. “You have to make a conscious effort to supply the water that you’re losing when you exercise. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re depleted.” Keep glass or bottle of water on your desk, and drink plenty of water before and after your workouts. Feeling hungry? Down a big glass of water first. Sometimes thirst masquerade as hunger.
Trim the Fat
Much of the fast foods we love ---- pizza, burgers, and fried chicken ----- is dripping with fat, but most restaurants offer a few healthier alternatives. Opt for lower fat choices like minestrone soup or spaghetti with marinara sauce. Better yet, bring lunch from home. You’ll save money too. Another hidden source of fat is cheese. “Sometimes women will cut out milk or drink skim milk to save calories but may be eating a lot cheese, which is much higher in fat and calories,” cautions Kleiner. Cheese should be eaten in moderation.
It’s better, of course, not to eat between meals at all. And sugary snacks will satisfy your hunger temporarily, leaving you feeling more tired in the long run. Instead, choose healthy treats. You’ll not only improve your energy level; your mood will improve as well. Shoot for a satisfying 100-200 calorie snack. It should be more than a handful of carrot stick but less than a full-blown meal.
Ditch the Diet Mentally
If you starve on Mondays and Tuesdays to make up for weekend splurges, break that all-or-nothing thinking. Dieting makes you crabby, it increases your chances of overeating and bingeing, and it makes you more likely to gain weight. If you’re serious about losing weight, limit the loose to a couple of pounds per week, and focus on making healthier, lower calorie choices, talking smaller portions, and boosting you exercises.