Eating healthier for dummies

Hey dummies!

Kidding! I'm the dummy. Eating consistently healthy is not my strong suit. I love all kinds of food, at all ends of the spectrum. From fancy, foodie, gourmet foods to the #2 from McD's. I'm all over the place. The other thing I love: carbs! Bread, potatoes, pizza. Oh, and cheese. Not good right? These things make you fat and turns out, aren't healthy for you either.

But I'm turning things around. I'm going to right my ship. And I'm going to share some of my tips so that anyone else out there who finds it hard to stay on the straight and narrow when it comes to healthy eating can turn things around too....or at least have someone to kibitz with (that's me!).

Here goes:

1. Go Mediterranean. I love this. Finally a diet that's not really a "diet." It's just another way of looking at the food pyramid. And you can eat bread!

The Mediterranean diet consists primarily of plant-based foods (fruits and vegetables), whole grains, nuts and legumes and healthy fats from olives and avocados. Reducing things like red meat, sodium, full-fat dairy and processed foods and replacing them with fish and shellfish, poultry, eggs, nuts and yogurt. And it's not like you can't eat cheese, just find the ones that are better for you like ricotta and mozzarella or go for the low-fat/part skim versions. 

Photo from emeals.com

Photo from emeals.com

Not only has the Mediterranean diet been attributed to reducing heart disease and cancer, it's also tied to reducing the incidence of Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. But don't just take my word for it, let the Mayo Clinic do the talking. Click here for more info about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet and how to get started.

2. Eat breakfast! Find something you like, buy enough for the week and make it part of your routine to grab it every morning on your way out the door. I grab a low-fat Greek yogurt and an apple or clementine every morning because they are easy and I can eat them mindlessly at my desk. After awhile, I almost forget I'm doing it. If you get up early and you can fix yourself some eggs, that's great too. Protein early in the day jump starts your metabolism.

Seriously: If I can do it, anyone can do it.

3. Drink a ton of water. If you have lemons, add lemon. If you get sick of water, drink green tea. Or get one of those diffuser water bottles (you can find some here but I found mine at TJ Maxx for $5), fill it with stuff like lemon, mint or berries - whatever you like - and keep refilling it with water so you get the flavor and nutrients from the fruit up in ya all day. Here is mine:

Want another tip? Drinking a mug of hot water with lemon every morning before you eat or drink anything else helps kick start your digestion process and flush out toxins. It can also aid in weight loss. An easy, mindless thing that reaps a lot of rewards. Don't believe me? Check out these articles from FoodMatters.com here and from Balance Me Beautiful here.

4. Figure out what your go-to snacks areSeriously. Snacking is probably the biggest obstacle for me, 1) because I'm always hungry; and 2) because I gravitate toward salty, fatty stuff like chips and crackers and cheese. It's one of those things that can make or break a diet or healthy eating in general. So you have to have a plan and have decent stuff on hand or you'll be eating out of the vending machine at 3 pm like you just escaped from fat camp.

My new favorite snacks? Skinny Pop Popcorn (find it here). Roasted tomato bruschetta with better-for-you part-skim ricotta. Nuts and wasabi peas. Dark chocolate covered espresso beans. Hummus.

Mmmm....snacks.

5. Research the foods you buy. Sounds tedious right? It is...but not if you have this app: Fooducate (find more info here or just look for it in your phone's app store). It has a scanner built into the app so you can scan bar codes at the supermarket and find out how they are graded from A to F in nutritional content. If something you pick up is rated low (really, anything under a B-), the app offers alternative products that might be a better choice. It's awesome!

There's also a food/calorie tracker, daily tips for eating healthy and a community of inspiring stories to keep you motivated. (Thanks Charlotte!)

6. Portion out your foods at the start of the week. If you're in any way as last minute (read: lazy) as I am, it definitely helps if you wash, cut and portion your fruits, veggies and snacks ahead of time. Find that burst of energy on Sunday to pack up all this shit so you can grab and go during the week. If you have kids, this should be a no-brainer. 

7. Even if you can't eliminate your favorite bad foods, just make sure you are adding good foods. I highly recommend watching the documentary, Hungry for Change (from the same folks who made Food Matters. Find out more info about the movie here.) Hungry for Change highlights the deceptive strategies the diet, weight loss and food industry use to keep you craving bad foods: from the additives and preservatives, to the real deal behind "fat-free" and "diet" products.

The biggest thing I took from the movie was that dieting and getting healthier isn't always about depriving yourself of the things you like, but adding in good things to get the health benefits. Their philosophy is that the more routine you get about having balanced diet, the less you'll want/crave the bad stuff. I'm not sure I totally buy in to that, but it's a great concept for those of us who hate depriving ourselves of things.

I did a bunch of research on "superfoods" and I try to get them in my meals as much as possible. For a great list of superfoods and their benefits, click here.  To make my delish Superfood Salad click here.

8. Cook with lots of spices, herbs and aromatics. Want to give your food lots of flavor but want to cut down on salt? (P.S. You should cut down on salt!)  Herbs and spices are your friends, as well as things like hot sauce, flavored vinegars, mustards and aromatics such as onion, ginger and garlic.

I personally hate steamed vegetables. But veggies roasted in the oven with a little olive oil, garlic and crushed red pepper? I could eat that every day. Infused olive oils work great too.

I'll be adding recipes to help you incorporate a lot of these tips. More to come soon!