A better approach is to make a few small changes at a time. Keeping your goals modest can help you achieve more in the long term without feeling deprived or overwhelmed by a major diet overhaul. Think of planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps—like adding a salad to your diet once a day. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.
Even more important than shopping for healthy foods: actually eating them. When you get home from the store or farmer's market, bounty of fruits and veggies in tow, wash and chop them right away and store in a pretty glass container in your fridge. "Studies show that spending more time on food prep is linked to better eating habits," says Dr. Lipman. It's all about convenience—if they're ready for you, you'll grab them in a pinch. If not? It's chips and dip time. You can also do this with other foods, like making a batch of quinoa for the week or roasting a bunch of veggies to throw together for quick lunches.
Sure, you don't know what you'll be in the mood for later, and will you even be hungry? Yes, probably. After all, increased snacking is one reason behind the rise in calorie intake over the past few decades, according to a 2011 study in PLOS ONE. "When you leave your office to go find something, that's when bad choices are made," says Schapiro. "That's when a hot pretzel, bag of candy, or donut can look very appealing." Make sure your desk (or fridge) is stocked with an emergency stash of snacks, like Greek yogurt, individual packs of nuts, dried fruit, and nitrate-free jerky.
Make the right changes. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Replacing dangerous trans fats with healthy fats (such as switching fried chicken for grilled salmon) will make a positive difference to your health. Switching animal fats for refined carbohydrates, though (such as switching your breakfast bacon for a donut), won’t lower your risk for heart disease or improve your mood.
Carbohydrates are one of your body’s main sources of energy. But most should come from complex, unrefined carbs (vegetables, whole grains, fruit) rather than sugars and refined carbs. Cutting back on white bread, pastries, starches, and sugar can prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, fluctuations in mood and energy, and a build-up of fat, especially around your waistline. Learn more »
One of the best ways to have a healthy diet is to prepare your own food and eat in regularly. Pick a few healthy recipes that you and your family like and build a meal schedule around them. If you have three or four meals planned per week and eat leftovers on the other nights, you will be much farther ahead than if you are eating out or having frozen dinners most nights.
Fat. Not all fat is the same. While bad fats can wreck your diet and increase your risk of certain diseases, good fats protect your brain and heart. In fact, healthy fats—such as omega-3s—are vital to your physical and emotional health. Including more healthy fat in your diet can help improve your mood, boost your well-being, and even trim your waistline. Learn more »
You've heard to make breakfast the biggest meal of your day, but you may not be that hungry when you wake up. In fact, "your biggest meal should be around noon when your digestion is at its peak and you can feed your body when it actually needs fuel," says Dr. Lipman. That means you don't need a huge meal at dinner only to sit and catch up on True Detective and then go to bed. But "big" doesn't mean burger and fry big. At lunch, emphasize protein and greens, like a hearty bowl of lentil soup and kale salad. Another bonus: after dinner you won't have the feeling you need to unbutton your pants.
The thought of going on a seven-day detox diet can be incredibly daunting. With so many different diets touted online and in books, it’s tough to tell which approach is right for you. And as do-it-yourself detox becomes more and more trendy, it’s all too easy to lose sight of the purpose of cleansing: focusing on whole, unprocessed foods that nurture your body and lighten your toxic load. A seven-day detox diet can be helpful if you use it as a way to begin a healthy way forward when it comes to your eating. But embarking on one every now and again to "right" eating and drinking "wrongs" is not a healthy approach.
There are two ways you can think about 80/20 eating. One: eat healthy 80% of the time and save 20% for splurges. That's great because it stresses how eating is not about perfection, and as we mentioned earlier, how it can be pleasurable, too. However, what does that really look like? That might mean having a 150-calorie treat daily, like Schapiro does, or saving it all up for a big meal out on the weekend. Make it work for you rather than stressing out about percentages.
Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Focus on eating the recommended daily amount of at least five servings of fruit and vegetables and it will naturally fill you up and help you cut back on unhealthy foods. A serving is half a cup of raw fruit or veg or a small apple or banana, for example. Most of us need to double the amount we currently eat.
It's easy to get sucked into the lure of the restaurant menu when you're hungry and everything looks good. You don't have to order the plain grilled chicken breast with steamed veggies—that would be boring. Order what you'd like, but balance the meal out with the rest of the day, says Zied. If you know you're going out for a steak and potatoes dinner, go easy on the meat and starch at lunch. Make sure you're also fitting in healthy fare like whole grains, fruit, veggies, and nuts and seeds in the other meals and snacks that day. That way a hunk of steak won't derail your diet and you'll leave happy.
Pesticides are toxins, "and I think there's good cause for worry about them," says Purdy. A new study in Food and Chemical Toxicology links pesticide-laced feed to tumors and early death in rats. Organic is ideal, but if that's not possible, pick produce with thick skins that peel off, because they're less likely to be contaminated. (Here's how to save money on organics.)