Eating healthy foods doesn’t have to be hard. You don’t have to overhaul your diet or stop eating foods that you like. But it can sometimes feel overwhelming with getting started. You might be wondering if you have to follow a strict diet, for example, or stop going out to eat, or eat bland, tasteless foods. The answers? A resounding no! Here are easy and painless ways to help you eat better, starting now.
Kick off your day with breakfast.
Give yourself an energy boost, and at the same time, help your heart, your blood sugars, and your brain power by eating breakfast. Aim for a balance of lean protein, whole grains, fruits, and healthy fats. Suggestions are:
- A breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, low-fat cheese, salsa, and a whole-wheat tortilla
- A breakfast parfait with plain Greek yogurt, fresh fruit, and whole-grain cereal
- Avocado toast with an egg, made with whole-grain or lower-carb bread.
Breakfast doesn’t have to consist of traditional breakfast foods, either. A sandwich, a smoothie, or a frittata are other ideas that might appeal to you.
To get cutting-edge diabetes news, strategies for blood glucose management, nutrition tips, healthy recipes, and more delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our free newsletters!
Eat seafood twice a week.
Seafood, including fish and shellfish, contains a range of nutrients, especially heart-healthy fats called omega-3 fats. Good choices are:
If fresh seafood isn’t in your budget, try frozen varieties or canned seafood (rinse it under cold water first to wash off some of the sodium.
Try plant-based meals.
Add more variety, save on your grocery bill, and help the environment by building in a plant-based meal at least once a week (you don’t have to be a vegetarian or vegan, either). Along with fruits and vegetables, plant-based meals are often centered around beans, lentils, tofu, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Minestrone soup, black beans and rice, grain bowls, and vegetarian chili are just a few examples of plant-based meals. For more ideas, visit Meatless Monday.
Reach for water instead of sugary soft drinks or energy drinks. If plain water seems too boring, try flavored seltzer water or infused water (recipes here). Make a point to keep a water bottle with you wherever you go — even if it’s to your home office or the couch.
Add vegetables to everything.
Most of us fall short on getting the recommended amount of vegetables (and fruit) each day. The Dietary Guidelines encourage us to eat at least 2 1/2 cups (that’s five servings) of veggies each day. Vegetables are a powerhouse of nutrition, they’re low in calories, they fill you up, and eating more can help you better manage your blood sugars. Need some ideas?
- Start with breakfast. Whip up some scrambled eggs or an omelet and toss in some greens or your vegetable of choice. Or blend up a smoothie with kale, spinach, carrots, or beets.
- Whip up a batch of vegetable soup and use that as your main course or as a starter to your meal.
- Add chopped vegetables to sauces; ladle it over vegetable “noodles” instead of pasta noodles.
- Keep a batch of cut-up veggies in your fridge for a quick low-cal, low-carb snack. Carrots, celery, cucumber, broccoli, or green or red peppers are a few suggestions.
Snack on a small handful of nuts.
Nuts contain protein, healthy fats, fiber, and antioxidants — plus, they’re low in carbs. Research indicates that nuts can:
- Protect against heart attack and stroke
- Lower blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol
- Help manage blood sugars
- Help with weight loss
The catch? Nuts are high in in calories, thanks to their fat content. Go for a small handful (about 1 1/2 ounces) and nibble slowly.
Eat more slowly.
Wolfing down your meal while you stand over the sink is no way to enjoy your food. Make a point to sit down and focus on your food (push aside the smartphone or laptop). Here’s how giving yourself enough time to thoroughly taste, chew, and swallow your food helps:
- You’ll feel full, faster
- You may lose weight more easily
- You’ll pay more attention and be more thoughtful about your food choices
- You’ll be less likely to feel bloated and uncomfortable
You might even notice that your blood sugars improve, overall, due to eating less and giving the food you eat time to be digested. A good rule of thumb is to pace yourself so that it takes 20 minutes to eat, from start to stop. That may seem like forever, but chewing slowly, putting down your fork or spoon between bites, and sneaking in some sips of water will force you to slow down.