With all the contradicting information out there, creating and sticking to healthy eating habits can be extremely hard.
To make it easier, BuzzFeed Life spoke with Jessica Jones, M.S., R.D., co-host of Food Heaven Made Easy, and Danielle Omar, M.S., R.D., creator of Food Confidence, and came up with 29 simple ways you can improve your eating habits and be healthier in your everyday life.
1. Add frozen veggies to everything!
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“Frozen is a great choice when it comes to vegetables, as they are frozen at the peak of freshness,” Jones says. “I tell my patients to keep some veggies in the freezer and try to find ways to add them into everyday meals. For example, last night I sautéed broccoli and spinach and added it to my homemade pizza.”
Jones suggests adding in one cup of frozen veggies to your usual pastas, stir-fries, and omelets for a nutritional boost.
2. Order first when eating out with friends and family.
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You may have every intention in the world of ordering the chicken salad. But when you hear your friend order the creamy carbonara pasta, it’s easy to forget about the salad altogether. Try to order first so that you’re not tempted by what everyone else is ordering.
If there’s a high-calorie, low-nutrient dish, dessert, or appetizer that you really want to try, ask a friend to split it with you. You’ll end up eating less of it and saving money while you’re at it.
3. Go grocery shopping on Friday afternoons.
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While it may seem like the last thing you want to do after a long week of work, getting your groceries on Friday afternoons is great because it makes you less likely to eat out during the weekend (saving you from spending money and potentially eating late-night pizza) and it allows you to cook healthy meals throughout the week. Plus, you can avoid the crowds of people you normally run into on Sundays.
4. Try to make your plate one-quarter complex carbs, one-quarter protein, and one-half veggies, if you can.
“You should eat at least three meals every day and each should be balanced with enough complex carbs (quinoa, brown rice, or whole wheat pasta), protein, and veggies,” Omar says. “Veggies and complex carbs are great because they include a lot of fiber, which slows the release of sugar into our bloodstream. Controlling your blood sugar levels helps you decrease your cravings.”
Here are 29 ways to eat more vegetables that are actually delicious.
5. And eat the vegetables on your plate first.
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Omar suggests you eat around your plate in this order: vegetables, protein, and then carbs. She says that way, when you get to the fatty foods, you won’t be as hungry. You may also feel full by the time you get to the starchy carbs.
6. Make smart food swaps to cut calories without even noticing.
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Here are 26 healthier ways you can eat your favorite snacks that will each save you 100 calories.
8. Grill or bake one extra serving of protein at dinner to throw on a salad for lunch the next day.
Here are 27 awesome, easy lunches you can bring to work.
9. Use a mister for your olive oil.
“Every tablespoon of olive oil is about 120 calories,” Jones says. “However, every squirt of EVOO from a mister is only 5 to 10 calories.” Jones also finds that the mister is better for evenly distributing the oil so your dish tastes more flavorful.
You can buy the one pictured above at Crate and Barrel.
10. Sweeten your coffee with unsweetened almond milk and stevia.
“A lot of people start their day off with a sugary morning coffee for breakfast,” Jones says. “But not only are those coffees really high in calories, they also have a ton of sugar, which will lead to an increase in blood sugar levels and an inevitable crash during the day.”
Unsweetened almond milk and stevia packets will sweeten your coffee without adding sugar. For people who need to have their Frappuccinos in the morning, Jones suggests trying this low-calorie Chilling Mocha Freeze, an ice blended drink that has no added sugar.
11. Avoid getting distracted while you’re eating.
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“One study found that people tend to eat more when they are multitasking during meal times,” Jones says. “Put down your iPhone or laptop and make sure to be present.”
She also suggests practicing mindful eating – being fully aware of the colors, flavors, smells, and textures of your food and getting rid of all other distractions (laptops, TV, cell phones, etc.).
12. Eat breakfasts high in protein, fat, and veggies, and low in carbs.
While it may be tempting to eat sugary foods for breakfast, chocolate croissants, cereals, and doughnuts can cause your blood sugar levels to rise significantly, resulting later in a crash that will only make you crave sugar more.
Instead, try to eat breakfasts high in protein and vegetables – not only are they nutritionally better for you, but they’ll also keep you full longer.
13. Choose club soda as your base when making mixed (alcoholic) drinks.
“For alcoholic beverages, always make club soda your base instead of sugary fruit juices and diet/regular soda,” Jones says. “That will save you a lot of calories and keep you hydrated while you’re drinking.”
If you’re worried about your drink not having enough flavor, try adding some fruit like the drink pictured above.
14. Steam instead of fry.
“Don’t overlook the power of the steamer,” Jones says. “Most people don’t realize that you can use them to make things crispy. Invest in a good double-decker so that you don’t have to fry things or use oil.”
Jones recommends this awesome double-decker (pictured above) that you can buy at Target.
15. When you have a choice, choose whole foods over processed every time.
Try to stick with eating whole foods (grains, beans, fruits) or foods you’ve made yourself. Though sometimes they may have more calories, you will definitely be getting more nutritional value than what you’d be getting from processed alternatives, such as loads of extra salt and preservatives.
Here are 14 other things you should really know about processed foods.
16. Invest in good Tupperware.
“Seriously, having cute Tupperware makes you more likely to bring snacks and lunch to work or school,” Jones says. “I’ve been using glass Tupperware recently. It seems to keep things cooler and I can pop it straight in the microwave to reheat my lunch.”
Jones recommends this Pyrex No Leak Glass set that you can buy at Target. If you’re looking to buy plastic Tupperware, just make sure it’s BPA-free.
17. Flavor your food with spices such as garlic and onion powder instead of just relying on salt.
While cooking with some fresh cracked salt isn’t harmful for you — the recommended sodium intake is between 1,500–2,300 mg — consuming too much can lead to hypertension (long-term high blood pressure), which really increases your risk of heart disease.
Instead of loading up on salt, try using other spices, like garlic, basil, onion, or curry powder, all of which provide a surprising amount of nutritional value. Your food will have just as much flavor without the risky health factors.
18. When ordering a salad, always ask for the dressing on the side.
When you’re eating out, ordering a salad always seems to be the healthiest option. But what many people don’t realize is some restaurant salads can be close to 1,000 calories, with 200–300 of the calories and a good portion of the sodium coming from the dressing — for example, these salads have more calories and sodium than a Big Mac.
Always ask for the salad dressing on the side so that you can add it as needed.
19. Switch out one soda, coffee, or juice per day with green tea.
“Green tea has less calories and sugar, and has also been shown to help with boosting your metabolism,” Omar says.
Drinking green tea is also great because it’s loaded with antioxidants and has been positively correlated with reducing the risk of heart disease, improving artery function, and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
20. Make sure the smoothies you’re blending are balanced.
Omar says that every smoothie you make should be a balanced mix of protein, fat, and carbs. Not only does that make it the best for you nutritionally but it will also mimic an actual meal, keeping you fuller throughout the day.She suggests you use no more than one cup of fruit — try to make them berries because they’re high in antioxidants and the lowest in sugar in comparison with bananas or tropical fruit — use unsweetened nut milks such as coconut or almond milk, and add at least a cup of spinach and kale for protein.
Here are 19 healthy smoothie recipes that actually taste amazing.
21. Try swapping out ingredients for healthier options when you can.
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Substitute healthy ingredients into your favorite recipes, so that you get the same delicious taste for fewer calories and more nutritional benefits.
Here are 27 yummy substitutions you can make while preparing everyday favorites such as PB&J, pancakes, soups, and pizzas.
22. Let yourself enjoy your favorite treats.
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“Allow yourself to eat your favorite sweet or treat — just try to keep the amount under 150 calories,” Jones says. “Studies suggest that people get the same satisfaction from their favorite foods regardless of the portion size. Instead of eating a 500-calorie slice of cheesecake and ice cream, have a small slice of cake and a few spoons full of ice cream.”
23. Or find healthier alternatives for them.
“If you can’t limit yourself to a small portion of your favorite dessert, than try to find a healthy alternative that you can either make or buy,” says Jones. “If you love ice cream, try a Greek yogurt ice cream that will include protein and low sugar.”
Jones also recommends eating pieces of fruit before reaching for sweets because sometimes it’s your blood sugar levels triggering your cravings, which eating fruit can help stabilize. If you are in need of a snack, try something like an apple with a tablespoon of almond butter — high in fiber and protein — which should leave you satisfied and help fend off cravings.
The homemade Nutella frozen yogurt pictured above is only 150 calories per serving. Get the recipe here.
24. Always take a water bottle with you.
“This will ensure you stay hydrated on the good stuff and not sugary drinks,” Jones says. “If you need to, invest in a cute water bottle that will make you excited about drinking H20. Make your own ‘spa’ water by adding mint and cucumber or strawberries and lemon wedges.”
You can also download an app like Waterlogged, which will remind you to drink water throughout the day.
25. Take some time to make your own salad dressings.
“A lot of store bought-salad dressings tend to be 4:1 oil to vinegar,” Omar says. “I love to make my own dressings where it’s 2:1 vinegar to oil. It takes a little extra time, but it’s worth it.”
Here are 50 salad dressing recipes you can easily make yourself.
26. Meal prep for 15 minutes on nights before work.
Try to prep your breakfast, lunch, and snacks for the next day before going to bed. It can be as simple as throwing the dry ingredients for your morning smoothie in the blender so that you’ll only have to add frozen foods and the almond milk in the morning. Jones says just 15 minutes of planning can make you feel good about your food intake the next day.
You can also cook starches and proteins in large batches over the weekend to make packing weeknight lunches easy.
27. Write down everything you eat to give yourself a better sense of your habits and how much you’re taking in.
“Research shows that people who journal what they eat tend to lose more weight,” Jones says. “It’s not even that you are counting all of the calories; it’s more that you’re keeping track of your daily intake. For example: if you have a cookie with lunch, and note it, you may want to skip an extra treat for dinner.”
And to be honest, writing down what you eat can be helpful even if you don’t care at all about losing weight. If your goal is to eat healthier, just getting a sense of your food habits can help you spot ways that you can swap in more nutrient-dense foods, or figure out when you’re always hungry and prepare for it by keeping healthy snacks on hand.
28. Wait 20 minutes before deciding to get seconds.
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“It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are full,” Jones says. “If you are still hungry after 20 minutes, get a second helping.”
If you want to be even healthier, make that second helping all veggies, which are low in calories and high in fiber, antioxidants, and a ton of great nutrients.
29. Use whole grain flour when baking.
Whole grain flour includes more protein and fiber than the regular old all-purpose option, and most of the time will taste just as great in baking recipes. However, using whole grain flour can be a little difficult at first because it can change the consistency of what you’re making. Just be sure to experiment when starting out, subbing whole grain in for all-purpose a little at a time.
Here are other healthy baking recipe substitutions. Get the recipe for the cookies pictured above here.