The benefits of a healthy diet can bring much satisfaction. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables has been scientifically proven to provide numerous health benefits, such as reducing your risk of several chronic diseases and keeping your body healthy.
However, making major changes to your diet can sometimes seem very overwhelming. Instead of making big changes, it may be better to start with a few smaller ones. And it’s likely more manageable to start with just one thing, rather than all of them at once.
This article discusses 15 small changes that can make a regular diet a little bit healthier. Just remember you don’t need to try to do them all at once. Instead, you may want to add these changes into your life over time.
1. Slow down
The pace at which you eat influences how much you eat, as well as how likely you are to gain weight.
Your appetite, how much you eat, and how full you get are all controlled by hormones. Hormones signal to your brain whether you’re hungry or full.
However, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive these messages. That’s why eating more slowly may give your brain the time it needs to perceive that you’re full.
So, simply eating slower and chewing more often may help you eat less.
2. Reward yourself with your favorite food
One approach to not giving up your favorite food while dieting is to reward yourself for discipline. For example, let’s suppose your diet involves limiting carbs, but pizza is your favorite food. You can plan to reward yourself with a feast day every two weeks, but only if you completely avoided the limited foods. This gives you a goal to work towards.
3. Eat disciplined now to have more choices later
Sticking to a diet exposes the dichotomy between disciplined eating and having free choice over what to eat. During a diet, it often feels like you are restricted concerning what you can and can’t eat. This can feel rather deflating.
A better mindset to take is to think about the free choices you are earning by your diet. By eating disciplined now, you are setting yourself up to have maximum freedom later.
4. Choose whole-grain bread instead of refined
You can easily make your diet a bit healthier by choosing whole-grain bread in place of traditional refined grain bread.
Refined grains have been associated with many health issues. Whole grains are a good source of fiber, B vitamins, and minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
Just make sure to read the label to ensure that your bread is made with whole grains only, not a mixture of whole and refined grains. It’s also preferable that the bread contains whole seeds or grains.
5. Add Greek yogurt to your diet
Greek yogurt (or Greek-style yogurt) is thicker and creamier than regular yogurt.
It has been strained to remove its excess whey, which is the watery part of milk. This results in a final product that’s higher in fat and protein than regular yogurt.
Eating a good source of protein can help you feel fuller for longer, which can help manage your appetite and reduce your food intake if that’s your goal.
Simply replace some snacks or regular yogurt varieties with Greek yogurt for a hearty dose of protein and nutrients.
Just make sure to pick the plain, unflavored varieties. Flavored yogurts may be packed with added sugar and other less nutritious ingredients.
6. Don’t shop without a list
There are two important strategies to employ when you go grocery shopping: Make your shopping list ahead of time and don’t go to the store hungry.
Not knowing exactly what you need makes room for impulse buying, while hunger can cause you to toss even more low nutrient foods into your shopping cart.
By doing this and sticking to your list, you’ll not only buy healthier items to keep around the house, but you’ll also save money.
7. Eat eggs, preferably for breakfast
Eggs are incredibly healthy, especially if you eat them in the morning.
They are rich in high-quality protein and many essential nutrients that people often don’t get enough of, such as choline.
Eating eggs in the morning increases feelings of fullness. This has been shown to cause people to consume fewer calories at later meals. It can be quite helpful for weight loss if that’s your goal.
So, simply replacing your current breakfast with eggs may result in major benefits for your health.
8. Increase your protein intake
Protein is often referred to as the king of nutrients, and it does seem to have some superpowers.
Due to its ability to affect your hunger and satiety hormones, it’s often considered the most filling of the macronutrients.
One study showed that eating a high-protein meal decreased levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, more than a high-carb meal in people with obesity.
Good sources of protein include dairy products, nuts, peanut butter, eggs, beans, and lean meat.
9. Bake or roast instead of grilling or frying
The way you prepare your food can drastically change its effects on your health. Grilling, broiling, frying, and deep-frying are all popular methods of preparing meat and fish.
However, during these types of cooking methods, several potentially toxic compounds are formed.
Healthier cooking methods include baking, broiling, poaching, pressure cooking, simmering, slow cooking, stewing, and sous-vide.
10. Take omega-3 and vitamin D supplements
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s very important for bone health and the proper functioning of your immune system. In fact, every cell in your body has a receptor for vitamin D, indicating its importance. Vitamin D is found in very few foods, but fatty seafood generally contains the highest amounts.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another commonly lacking nutrient that’s found in fatty seafood. These have many important roles in the body, including reducing inflammation, maintaining heart health, and promoting proper brain function.
11. Choose baked potatoes over French fries
Potatoes are very filling and a common side to many dishes. That said, the method in which they’re prepared largely determines their impact on health.
For starters, 3.5 ounces (100 grams) of baked potatoes contain 93 calories, while the same number of French fries contains over 3 times as many (333 calories).
So, replacing your French fries with baked or boiled potatoes is a great way to shave off calories and avoid these unhealthy compounds.
12. Eat your greens first
A good way to ensure that you eat your greens is to enjoy them as a starter. By doing so, you’ll most likely finish all of your greens while you’re at your hungriest. This may cause you to eat less of other, perhaps less healthy, components of the meal later.
Plus, eating vegetables before a carb-rich meal has been shown to have beneficial effects on blood sugar levels.
It slows down the speed at which carbs are absorbed into the bloodstream and may benefit both short- and long-term blood sugar control in people with diabetes.
13. Eat your fruits instead of drinking them
Fruits are loaded with water, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Because fruits contain fiber and various plant compounds, their natural sugars are generally digested very slowly and don’t cause major spikes in blood sugar levels.
However, the same doesn’t apply to fruit juices. Many fruit juices aren’t even made from real fruit, but rather concentrate and sugar. Some varieties may even contain as much sugar as a sugary soft drink.
14. Use mustard on sandwiches instead of mayo.
Mayonnaise or mayo-based spreads are one of the worst condiment choices because they’re usually high in calories, fat grams, and omega-6 fatty acids.
Every sandwich is made with a teaspoon of mustard instead of a tablespoon of mayonnaise, for example, trims 100 calories, 11 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat, and 7.2 grams of omega-6 fatty acids from your daily total.
15. Have pasta with tomato-based sauce instead of white sauce.
Butter or cream-based white pasta sauce (like Alfredo) is loaded with saturated fat and calories. Tomato-based sauce (like marinara) is generally lower-fat and also adds antioxidants and healthy phytochemicals.
To conclude, completely overhauling your diet all at once can be a recipe for disaster. Instead, try to incorporate some of the small changes listed above to make your diet healthier.
Some of these tips will help you keep your portion sizes reasonable, while others will help you add nutrients or adapt to something new. Together, they’ll have a big impact on making your overall diet healthier and more sustainable, without a huge change in your habits.