How to Makeover Your Diet—in 3 Simple Steps
Summer is here! One reason I love summer: I feel energized about so many things (maybe it’s because the days are longer—and there’s plenty of mood-boosting sunshine!). Two of the things that always get a jump-start when summer rolls around: my eating and exercise habits. I have to be honest: winter takes a bit of a toll on my good intentions (I’d rather stay bundled up then head out to the park for a run—and I always seem to bake more comfort foods during the cold-weather months).
So with the arrival of the summer, I wanted to share three healthy-eating tips that I’ve learned from my past experience as Editor in Chief of Shape. Take these tips and shape them to your life, your cravings, and your body: that’s what will result in a healthier you—no matter what time of the year it is. And at the end of the day, that’s the goal we’re all after!
Follow your gut, literally.
Our bodies are pretty darn smart; I know that when I’m telling myself that I should eat a salad for lunch on a rainy day, my body is shouting, “HAMBURGER! PLEASE!” There used to be times that I ignored this inner voice and had the salad. But I quickly learned that in so doing, I ended up binging on something unhealthy (e.g. cookies or chocolate) later in the afternoon. Why? I was trying to feed—and satisfy—a body that wasn’t fulfilled at lunch. So whatever you eat, follow your gut…and make your choice the healthiest possible. If it’s a burger, have it sans the bun (my favorite way to eat a burger!), with a side salad (to up your daily produce intake), which brings me to my next point…
Get enough fruits and veggies.
There are days where I could go without eating enough produce (the recommendation is 5 to 9 one-half cup servings per day); this was typical during the winter and spring. On these days, I have to really make it a point to add more fruits and veggies to my diet because they’re such an important source of critical nutrients like vitamin C, B6, magnesium, calcium, and fiber (to name just a few). But when summer rolls around, though, I get re-motivated to get back on track—thanks to all the seasonal fresh fruits and veggies making their way into the produce aisle. I make sure that I’m getting one or two servings of fruit at breakfast (I love red grapefruit, so I eat a whole one—which is two servings right there), at least two servings at lunch (why adding a small salad to any meal is an easy way to do this), and at least two servings at dinner (a good rule of thumb: make half your dinner plate veggies).
Eat at home.
There’s no question about it: when you eat at home, your food is fresher and healthier than if you eat at a restaurant. I know what you’re probably thinking: cooking at home—with everything else we have to do—is often impossible (not to mention exhausting). But a friend of mine (with four kids, no less!) opened my eyes to simple healthy cooking—and my mealtimes have been transformed. She made me realize that keeping on hand certain essentials all the time can make cooking at home easy—and fast.
The essentials (highlighted in bold):
- pre-cooked chicken strips (available at any grocery store). I cut these up and add to lettuce for salads; heat up and serve over rice (look for frozen rice, an invention that’s brilliant: just pop it in the microwave for 5-10 minutes and voila! it’s done); or serve with reheated frozen veggies (these are frozen at the peak of their freshness, so they’re almost as healthy as any fresh produce; just steam—and season—for a nutritious side dish).
- pasta, which is perfect for a quick meal any night of the week
- vacuum-packed bags of salmon (you can toss with pasta or make a quick salmon salad with it)
- sweet potatoes, which I cut up and steam—an easy side dish!
- olive oil (perfect for sautéing veggies or drizzling over salad)
- fresh garlic, which adds flavor to just about anything (and is healthy for you, too!)
- cans of black, white, garbanzo, and kidney beans. You can literally just pour these beans into a pan and sauté with some spices—and you have a great main course.
These are just some things that work for me. The key is to find techniques that work for you—not for your neighbor, your sister, or your co-worker. Bon appétit!