There’s a lot of talk these days about how the typical American diet needs updating. As it turns out, eating a lot of red meat, processed food, and sugary snacks isn’t so good for you. People today are being advised to eat fresh vegetables, a small amount of meat, and no white sugar.
Making these changes can be challenging, and too much change at once is a recipe for failure. So, how do you improve your diet, without biting off more than you can chew? The answer is to take small steps. Here are five ways to ease you into healthier eating habits.
- Cook from scratch a couple of times a week
Food that is pre-packaged, or prepared for us in restaurants, has a much higher content of fat, sugar, and salt than anything we would cook at home. Give your body a break a couple of times a week by making a meal with fresh vegetables, whole grains, and fish or beans. Lightly salt your food and add simple seasonings like olive oil, yogurt, and lemon juice.
- Switch out whole grains for pasta or bread
Although they taste delicious, pasta and white bread don’t have much nutritional content. Start experimenting with whole grains and see which you like best. Brown rice, quinoa, millet, and farro all have a high protein content and a distinct flavor. Try tossing tomato sauce with farro instead of pasta, or serving your soup with some fluffy quinoa instead of bread.
- Eat a breakfast that includes protein
While the typical American breakfast of a muffin or a bagel and coffee gives your body a boost of sugar and caffeine, it won’t give you a lot of fuel to hold you over until lunch. Avoid a spike in your blood sugar levels in the morning, and instead try eating a hard-boiled egg with whole grain toast, canned sardines over brown rice, or plain yogurt with nuts, grains, and fruit.
- Eat leafy greens a few times a week
Kale is a “superfood,” with an extraordinary amount of cancer-fighting antioxidants and a high content of beta-carotene and vitamin C. If you think you don’t like kale, try sautéing it with olive oil, garlic, and chili flakes. It’s delicious. Collard greens, Swiss chard, spinach, and beet greens are all pretty healthy, too, and can be cooked the same way. If you still need to eat birthday cake once a week, fine, just eat your greens, too, and you’ll be a lot better off.
- Include healthy fats in your diet
Fat is what gives food flavor, so make sure you incorporate lots of sources of unsaturated fat into your new eating regimen. Spiff up your salads with avocadoes, eggs, olives, and fatty fish like sardines. Make whole grains and veggies more exciting with nuts, seeds, and unprocessed oils like extra virgin olive oil. These foods are not low-fat, but they’re full of protein and nutrients that your body needs.