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My family has taken the plunge to start eating healthier and after putting it off for so long, I 
realized it really is pretty easy after all! Here are some ways to start eating healthier–start with some, or go all out and do it all cold turkey! Whatever way you do it, your body and your health will thank you!

1. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

It seems like a no-brainer but most of us could eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Leafy greens like collards and kale also have calcium to help bone health. Melons are great for hydration because of their high water content and berries are super foods loaded with antioxidants that reduce your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer!

Don’t be afraid to buy frozen veggies either! Many fruits and vegetables in the supermarkets are picked before reaching peak ripeness which means they haven’t fully developed all their nutrients. Frozen produce is picked at peak ripeness, blanched to remove bacteria and flash frozen. This locks in key nutrients and vitamins that their fresh counterparts may not have! As for canned veggies, they typically lose some nutrients from the heat during the canning process but still have more than fresh produce. And of course, organic is better.

2. Eat More Whole Grains

 

Whole grains this, whole grains that. We know we should be eating them but there’s something comforting about those soft slices of white bread, pasta and rice. Refined grains are whole grains that go through the process of removing the outer layer (bran) and inner layer (germ) leaving behind the nutrient lacking middle part called the endosperm. During this process, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals are all lost resulting in just a starchy carbohydrate.

Fiber is key to keeping you full and even helping you lose weight! Some refined grains with the term “enriched” on the packaging have some of the nutrients added back in but it is only a fraction of what whole grain has (JoyBauer.com). Healthier choices include choosing whole grain breads, brown rice, oatmeal, whole wheat or whole grain pasta and substituting whole wheat flour for all-purpose flour.

3. Choose Lean Proteins

Lean proteins have all the health benefits with less amounts of saturated fat. Benefits include weight management, lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. It is rich in fiber and because high protein food slows digestion, it keeps you fuller longer. Some great lean protein choices include fish, skinless, white meat poultry (chicken and turkey) and pork tenderloin–just make sure to trim the fat, and eggs. Particularly when you're pregnant, this helps!

If you purchase ground beef, choose one that is 90% lean. Beans are also another great source of protein and they are rich in fiber. Unsuspectingly, milk, cheeses, and yogurt have protein as well, with Greek yogurt being the better choice. Avoid processed meats like bacon, hot dogs, salami, sausage and lunch meat (cold cuts). As for preparation, skip the frying. It’ll only add more fat to an otherwise nutritious meal. My suggestion, grilling!

4. Drink More Water

We’ve all heard how important water is for our bodies’ functions and that we should drink 8 8-oz glasses of water per day (at a minimum) but water helps do more than just hydrate. If you find you get little bouts of hunger throughout the day and already had your snack between meals, try drinking a glass of water instead of reaching for that candy bar. A glass of water will curb the hunger without adding empty calories to your daily intake. Try swapping out soda and sugary drinks for water as well. It’s more nutritious, won’t add calories and if you need something sweet, try adding some flavor drops or opt for something like flavored seltzer or tea.

5. Make Better Snack Choices

Skip the candy or oily chips and go for something more filling and nutritious. If an apple is too plain, try eating it with some peanut butter. Try something full of grain like granola (homemade is best) or satisfy a sweet tooth with a handful of berries. Add some Greek yogurt for a high calcium, low fat, protein rich snack full of nutrients. Nuts are good but be sure to check the label for serving size. For an after dinner movie or just a light snack try some low fat, no salt popcorn. If you need some flavor try adding some garlic powder or parmesan cheese. For a sweet topping try drizzled dark chocolate or a sprinkle of cinnamon and stevia! And don't forget to work out as much as you can!

6. Ditch the Sugary Stuff
Sugar is everywhere. It’s in our breakfast cereals, cookies, candy, ice cream, soda, fruit juices, salad dressings, the list goes on and on. If you like oatmeal packets, look at a label. You might want to start mixing your own in the morning (plus it’s cheaper)! It’s pretty hard to avoid sugars because they’re in everything but moderation is key to a healthy diet so just be mindful of the amount of sugar you are taking in with every meal.

Refined sugars like granulated, brown or powdered sugars are the worst for you with zero nutrients and high calories. If you need to use a sweetener, honey is slightly better than using sugar and molasses has the least sugar content of all the refined sugars. Opt for a sugar substitute altogether like agave nectar or stevia. If you absolutely want candy, dark chocolate is the healthy choice with it’s antioxidants.

I hope these healthy eating tips help you towards a healthier lifestyle! My family has begun to do most if not all of these (at least me and the kids have, can’t speak for the husband!) and I feel so much better about what I’m putting into mine and my kids’ mouths. Do you have any unhealthy food habits you need to kick?