March is National Nutrition Month and that means there’s no better time to kick those bad eating habits to the curb. But while healthy eating may not be the most appealing prospect, it’s important to focus on the new foods you can eat instead of the ones you can’t.
And fortunately, there are plenty of ways to eat healthy and enjoy it too.
Following are some tips to develop a balanced and healthy eating plan that will have you smiling both inside and out.
1. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables
Piling on all kinds of fruits and vegetables — fresh, frozen, canned or juiced — will do wonders for your health. They are rich in nutrients and minerals and you should incorporate as many different colored fruits and veggies as you can on your plate. Opting for a salad can be a great way to get that nutrition while maintaining a good calorie count as well.
2. Eat a good breakfast
There’s a common misconception that skipping breakfast can help you lose weight but that’s not true. In fact, people who regularly eat breakfast are less likely to be overweight, according to WebMD. Eating breakfast also improves mental performance and concentration throughout the morning. A whole-grain, low-sugar breakfast is key to get your morning off to a good and healthy start.
3. Cut down on the salt
Too much salt can cause a variety of health concerns, including high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke. About three-quarters of the salt we eat is already in the food we purchase, so using food labels can be an excellent way to cut down on your salt intake. In addition, cooking with less salt and choosing healthier snacks are just some of the ways you can lower how much salt is in your diet. Adults and children older than 11 should eat no more than 6 grams of salt (about a teaspoonful) a day.
4. Drink plenty of water throughout the day
The government recommends six to eight glasses of water per day and many of us fall well-short of that standard. Part of the problem is sugary soft drinks and fizzy drinks that are high in added sugars and calories. These beverages account for very little water intake — so go for water or low-fat milk instead. And be sure to account for the weather as well. On warm, sunny days you might need slightly more water to replace the fluids lost from expending more energy.
5. Lay off the saturated fat and sugar
Fat is essential for your diet, but you need to pay attention to the type and amount that you’re eating. Too much saturated fat can lead to cholesterol problems, which increases your risk for developing heart disease. Saturated fat can be found in cheese, cakes, biscuits, butter and pies, to name a few. Choosing foods such as avocados, vegetable oil-based products and oily fish can help you cut down on your saturated fat intake.
6. Incorporate fish into your diet
Fish is an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals as well as omega-3 fats, which can help prevent heart disease. Oily fish is the best way to go, such as salmon, trout, tuna and sardines. Having two portions of fish a week, either fresh, frozen or canned, is key to maintaining a balance in your diet.
7. Starchy carbohydrates are the way to go
About one-third of the food you eat should be starchy carbohydrates. From potatoes to bread to pasta, choose whole grain varieties of these foods can help you feel full longer. Eating one starchy food per meal is a good start and you’ll get the fiber you need. And don’t worry: Starchy foods are not fatting — they provide fewer than half the calories of fat per gram. Just make sure you keep an eye on the fats you add when you’re cooking because that can increase the calorie content.
8. Less alcohol and more exercise
Alcohol is high in calories and can make you hungry, so cutting down on alcohol can help you lose weight. In addition, physical activity can help you maintain weight loss or at least remain at a healthy weight. This doesn’t mean hours and hours at the gym — it can be as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Being physically active may help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and type II diabetes as well, according to the CDC.