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 useful 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.
In fact, studies comparing different eating speeds show that fast eaters are much more likely to eat more and have a higher body mass index (BMI) than slow eaters.
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.
Studies have confirmed this, showing that eating slowly may reduce the number of calories you consume at meals and help you lose weight.
Eating slowly is also linked to more thorough chewing, which has also been linked to improved weight control.
So, simply eating slower and chewing more often may help you eat less.
2. 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.
That’s why the best strategy is to plan ahead and write down what you need beforehand. 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.
3. Eat eggs, preferable 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. When looking at studies comparing various types of calorie-matched breakfasts, eggs come out on top.
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. For example, one study in 50 people found that eating an egg-based breakfast reduced feelings of hunger and decreased the amount of calories consumed later in the day than a breakfast of cereal.
So, simply replacing your current breakfast with eggs may result in major benefits for your health.
4. 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. What’s more, protein helps you retain muscle mass and may also slightly increase the number of calories you burn per day. It’s also important for preventing the loss of muscle mass that can occur with weight loss and as you age.
If you’re trying to lose weight, aim to add a source of protein to each meal and snack. It will help you feel fuller for longer, curb cravings, and make you less likely to overeat.
Good sources of protein include:
5. Drink enough water
Drinking enough water is important for your health.
Many studies have shown that drinking water can increase weight loss and promote weight maintenance, and it may even slightly increase the number of calories you burn each day.
Studies also show that drinking water before meals can reduce your appetite and food intake during the following meal.
That said, the most important thing is to drink water instead of other beverages. This may drastically reduce your intake of sugar and calories. Drinking water regularly may also be linked to improved diet quality and could decrease your calorie intake from beverages.
6. 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. These include:
polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons
advanced glycation end products
All of these compounds have been linked to several health conditions, including cancer and heart disease.
Healthier cooking methods include:
These methods don’t promote the formation of these harmful compounds and may make your food healthier.
Although you can still enjoy the occasional grilled or deep-fried dish, it’s best to use those methods sparingly.
7. Take omega-3 and vitamin D supplements
Studies have shown that approximately 1 billion people around the globe are deficient in vitamin D. 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.
The Western diet is generally very high in omega-6 fatty acids, which increase inflammation and have been linked to many chronic diseases. Omega-3s help fight this inflammation and keep your body in a more balanced state.
If you don’t eat fatty seafood regularly, you should consider taking a supplement. Omega-3s and vitamin D can often be found together in many supplements.
8. Try at least one new healthy recipe per week
Deciding what to have for dinner can be a constant cause of frustration, which is why many people tend to use the same recipes again and again. Chances are you’ve been cooking the same recipes on autopilot for years.
Whether these are healthy or unhealthy recipes, trying something new can be a fun way to add more diversity to your diet. Aim to try making a new healthy recipe at least once per week. This can change up your food and nutrient intakes and hopefully add some new and nutritious recipes to your routine.
Alternatively, try to make a healthier version of a favorite recipe by experimenting with new ingredients, herbs, and spices.
9. 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. It may lead you to eat fewer and healthier calories overall, which could result in weight loss. 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.
10. Eat your fruits instead of drinking them
Fruits are loaded with water, fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Studies have repeatedly linked eating fruit to a reduced risk of several health conditions, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. 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.
Even real fruit juices lack the fiber and chewing resistance provided by whole fruits. This makes fruit juice much more likely to spike your blood sugar levels, leading you to consume too much in a single sitting.
11. Cook at home more often
Try to make a habit of cooking at home most nights rather than eating out. For one, it’s easier on your budget.
Second, by cooking your food yourself, you’ll know exactly what is in it. You won’t have to wonder about any hidden unhealthy or high calorie ingredients.
Also, by cooking large servings, you’ll also have leftovers for the next day, ensuring a healthy meal then, too.
Finally, cooking at home has been associated with a lower risk of obesity and improved diet quality, especially among children.
12. Replace sugary beverages with sparkling water
Sugary beverages might possibly be the unhealthiest thing you can drink. They’re loaded with added sugar, which has been linked to numerous diseases, including:
type 2 diabetes
Plus, the added sugar found in these drinks doesn’t impact appetite the same way as regular food does. This means you don’t compensate for the calories you drink by eating any less.
Try replacing your sugary beverage with either a sugar-free alternative or simply choose still or sparkling water instead. Doing so will shave off the non-beneficial calories and reduce your intake of excess sugar.
13. 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, on the other hand, have been linked to a variety of health benefits, including a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
They’re also a good source of:
minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
There are many varieties of whole grain bread available, and many of them even taste better than refined bread. 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.
14. Get a good night’s sleep
The importance of good sleep can’t be overemphasized. Sleep deprivation disrupts appetite regulation, often leading to increased appetite. This results in increased calorie intake and weight gain.
In fact, people who sleep too little tend to weigh significantly more than those who get enough sleep. Being sleep deprived also negatively affects concentration, productivity, athletic performance, glucose metabolism, and immune function.
What’s more, it increases your risk of several diseases, including inflammatory conditions and heart disease. That’s why it’s important to try to get adequate amounts of good-quality sleep, preferably in one bout.
15. Choose popcorn instead of chips
It may be surprising that popcorn is a whole grain that’s loaded with nutrients and fiber. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of air-popped popcorn contains 387 calories and 15 grams of fiber, while the same amount of potato chips contains 532 calories and only 3 grams of fiber.
Diets rich in whole grains have been linked to health benefits, such as a reduced risk of inflammation and heart disease.
For a healthy snack, try making your own popcorn at home (not microwave popcorn varieties) or purchase air-popped popcorn.
Many commercial varieties prepare their popcorn with fat, sugar, and salt, making it no healthier than potato chips.
16. Choose healthy oils
Highly processed seed and vegetable oils have become a household staple over the past few decades.
Examples include soybean, cottonseed, sunflower, and canola oils.
These oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids but low in heart-healthy omega-3s.
Some research suggests a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio can lead to inflammation and has been linked to chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis, and autoimmune disorders.
Swap these oils for healthier alternatives, such as:
extra virgin olive oil
17. Drink your coffee black
Coffee, which is one of the most popular beverages in the world, is very healthy.
In fact, it’s a major source of antioxidants and has been linked to many health benefits, such as a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, mental decline, and liver disease.
However, many commercial varieties of coffee contain lots of additional ingredients, such as sugar, syrup, heavy cream, and sweeteners. Drinking these varieties quickly negates all of coffee’s health benefits and instead adds lots of extra sugar and calories.
Instead, try drinking your coffee black or just adding a small amount of milk or cream instead of sugar.
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 the above 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.
Have any questions? Drop as a comment to this post and one of our experts will reach out to you.
At Comfort Nutrition Services, we are committed to counseling and assisting our clients, fans and followers to reach their healthy nutritional goals.