15 Easy Ways to Eat Better This Year
Eating well isn’t as hard as you’d think. Try these 15 simple tips for healthier meals and a happier you
Try chia pudding for breakfast
This super-trendy dessert-like confection is a perfect morning meal. “It’s so popular, it has become the new yogurt,” says Vanessa Perrone, a registered dietitian and owner of Motive Nutrition in Montreal. Chia seeds are loaded with omega-3 fats, and a one-ounce serving contains roughly one-third of your daily recommended dose of fibre, which is essential for digestive health and weight management. Here’s how to do it: In a bowl, combine 1/3 cup chia with 1 3/4 cups milk or almond beverage, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 2 tablespoons honey. Divide into individual-size Mason jars, top with frozen berries and cover and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, you’ve got a delicious – and portable – breakfast ready to go.
Use smaller (or vintage) dinnerware
Old-fashioned dinnerware is much smaller than the pieces we’re all using today, and this could be tricking us into eating too much. According to a recent study from the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University, participants who were served cereal in larger bowls consumed 16 percent more food – but didn’t know it. Using smaller bowls, plates and glasses reduces the amount we serve ourselves but not our feelings of satisfaction, or satiety, say researchers. (That’s right, you’ll eat less and still feel full.) We think this is the perfect excuse to use Grandma’s china more often!
Be the first to order your meal
“Research shows that when we sit down to dinner in a restaurant, we tend to mimic what our dining companions are ordering, often resulting in poor food choices,” says Perrone. Take control by scoping out the menu online ahead of time. She advises arriving with an idea of what you’d like to have so you can be the first to speak up when your waiter arrives.
Add turmeric spice
Turmeric, which is often used in Asian and Indian meals, is believed to slow and even prevent the growth of cancer cells. Add a few teaspoons to your favourite weeknight stew, or broaden your repertoire and try a new recipe such as Aloo Phujia, a spicy potato dish.
Make dessert count
“You don’t need to give up your favourite foods, but you should make treats worthwhile,” says Abbey Sharp, a registered dietitian in Toronto. That means skipping the packaged diet cookies, which are as low in flavour as they are in calories, and having a real treat instead. Bake your own banana nut muffins, for example – and have one. Or, if you love chocolate, try this trick: Melt 1 ounce high-quality dark chocolate (70 percent or higher) and drizzle over 3 cups of air-popped popcorn. “Chocolate-covered popcorn is more filling than the few squares of chocolate are, so it feels more satisfying,” she says. Bonus: The popcorn provides an extra three grams of fibre and only adds another 100 calories to your snack.
Drink black tea
We’ve gone green, white and lavender, but now it’s time to go back to the beginning. Black tea can keep us young and healthy, according to mounting research that shows the antioxidants it contains prevent DNA damage, helping to protect against certain forms of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Prepare more meals at home
When you spend a bit of time washing, chopping and sautéing, the result is always worth the effort, says Perrone. “When you prepare dishes yourself, you can see exactly which ingredients are going in and avoid all of the unhealthy fats and added sugars you don’t want,” she says. No time to cook most nights? “People are batch-cooking again – that’s a good option for a lot of families,” she says. Cook a big pot of soup or stew on Sunday night to use a few times during the week and, while it’s simmering, prep the veggies you’ll need for the rest of the week’s meals. If the work is half done when you get home, then you’re much more likely to finish the job instead of ordering in.
Have shish kebabs for dinner
Shish kebabs are a fun way to make familiar meals interesting and an easy way to get kids excited about prepping (and eating!) dinner. Lightly marinate cubed chicken or beef and diced, firm veggies, like peppers, cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and zucchini, then skewer and grill on the barbecue for about 10 to 15 minutes until cooked.
Fill up on avocado
Skip the mayo and smear smashed, ripe avocado on your bread. It’s loaded with heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and fibre. Avocado also makes the perfect pairing for your breakfast toast, since it contains even more potassium than a banana. Try it alone with a dash of salt and a squeeze of fresh lime or, for more protein, layer a poached egg on top.
Always sit down to eat
Fifty-nine percent of young women eat on the run, according to a study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Researchers say on-the-go eaters consume more total fat, as well as more soda and fast food. Sitting down to dinner allows you to make more mindful choices about your meal. You’re also more likely to eat slowly, chewing properly and acknowledging each bite, resulting in improved digestion and more mealtime enjoyment.
Upgrade taco night
Swap typical hard- shell tacos for low-cal Asian rice paper squares. (They’re only 20 calories per square!) Fill with your usual Mexican Monday toppings, or try poached shrimp and chicken, matchstick carrots, cucumber cut into ribbons, bean sprouts and sweet chili sauce for a totally new flavour the whole family will love.
Allow yourself a treat
If you follow the rules most of the time but still crave a cheese pizza or bowl of ice cream, have it! The research and experts agree: Healthy eating isn’t about depravation; it’s about giving your body the best-possible fuel and reaping all of the feel-good and look-good benefits. If a slice or scoop is what you want every now and then, just enjoy it and resume your healthy habits with your next meal.
Try grilling fruit
“Using fruit in different ways can help to train your taste buds to crave natural sweetness,” says Perrone. This is a very good thing, since we all need to cut back on our sugar intake. Place pineapple rings, grapefruit and orange halves face down on the barbecue grill and heat for several minutes until grill marks appear, or broil them in the oven until the surface begins to caramelize. Serve warm with a sprinkle of cinnamon for dessert, or chop, refrigerate and add to a yogurt parfait for breakfast.
Experiment with new grains
Sick of the same old quinoa salad? (Us, too!) Give it a morning makeover by topping it with slivered almonds and a splash of blueberry- or strawberry- flavoured kefir. (This probiotic milk drink is high in bone-building calcium and gut-friendly probiotics.) For supper, add sautéed mushrooms and scallions to oatmeal (yes, oatmeal!) for a risotto-like side dish. There are a multitude of ways you can experiment with grains, including bulgur, barley and wild rice, to revive your favourite dishes and keep grains on the menu. They’re key for digestive function, cardiovascular health and weight management.
Buy an oil atomizer
It allows you to use good-quality olive or canola oil and skip the chemical propellants in commercial sprays when a recipe calls for pans or tins to be sprayed. “I also keep a second atomizer for dressing salads and spritzing on cooked veggies,” says Sharp. Add sprigs of rosemary, thyme or citrus rind for a custom-flavoured oil.