The following is a guest post from Shaina of Food for My Family:
It’s February. The New Year’s diet resolution fad is fading in the distance. Valentine’s Day brings boxes of chocolates and delicious, high-caloric meals like steaks covered in cream sauce and sinfully rich desserts. If you find yourself struggling to stay on course as the year pushes forward, here are a few tips to keep you healthy and improve your diet without doing a complete overhaul.
Start cooking your own food
And I’m not talking about a box of macaroni and cheese. While cooking your own food doesn’t automatically mean fewer calories and less fat, it does eliminate so many of the preservatives found in prepackaged and preprocessed food.
Cooking from scratch from real ingredients – flour, fruits, vegetables, meat – ensures you know what’s going into your meals. Rather than eating acetate this and bicarbonate that, you’re eating carrots, peppers, nuts and strawberries – food that was grown in the ground and not in a lab.
Consider a CSA box
If you have trouble spending the money on fruits and vegetables, or if you just fall short when it comes to searching them out, deciding what you want and purchasing them, a CSA box may push your hand into eating more of the food that’s grown around you. Provided by local farmers, the boxes come filled with whatever happens to be in season.
Take the guesswork out of shopping and just use what comes in the box, which will give you access to those fresh vegetables and fruits weekly.
Plan a menu
It may seem simple, but planning a menu is a surefire way to control how often you’re running to the nearest McDonald’s when you just don’t have time/ingredients/ideas. Choose the meals you want to eat, make a list of what you need and then shop for them.
Knowing what’s for dinner can often be half the battle as you drive home from work or run errands and cart kids between school and activities. Having a menu in place can eliminate the “What’s for dinner?” conundrum.
Focus on variety in your diet
Growing up, my family ate nearly the same seven meals every week. By the time I moved out of the house, I never wanted to see another plate of spaghetti and meatballs or a tater tot casserole again.
Because I was bored with the meals, I often found myself snacking in between them on things I would have rather been eating. By incorporating a bit of creativity and diversity in your menu, you’ll find that you end up craving the meal more than the candy bar and chips as a snack.
Exercise portion control
The amount of what you’re eating can be the determining factor in your diet. Even people who eat perfectly healthy and make good food choices can still be overweight because of the portion size they’re allowing themselves to eat. Sure, chicken and rice with steamed vegetables may be a sensible option, but if your portions are out of whack, it’s not going to keep the bathroom scale from inching higher.
One way to control your portions is by using a smaller plate. You can fill most small plates clear to the edge and still end up with only a fraction of the amount of food were you to dish yourself up on a large plate. The idea is simple, but it works. A ½ cup of rice looks teeny tiny on giant plate, but it looks like much more and fills a third of a small plate.
Look at what you’re drinking
Without even realizing it, many people are drinking entire meals’ worth of calories before they’ve even lifted the fork to their mouth. Soda and sweet tea, juices, lattes and cappuccinos — they all pack quite the caloric punch.
- Not big on guzzling water? Try adding lemons, cucumbers or fresh fruit to your water glass for a splash of flavor. Just that little bit of oomph can make it go down easy and make it more refreshing and enjoyable.
- Switch out your soda for unsweetened iced tea or sparkling water. One can of soda packs as many as 260 calories. That adds up instantly, especially if you’re not restricting your diet in other places.
- Limit your alcohol intake. If you’re accustomed to a few drinks after work with friends or on the couch at the end of the day, try limiting yourself to one drink paired with dinner and not on a daily basis. Beer and wine are best when paired with food, so focus on enjoying a little here and there. Sip slowly and have a glass of water to rehydrate when you’re done.
- Cut the fat where you can. Even if you prefer your milk thicker when it’s just a tall glass with a meal, start ordering your lattes, mochas and cappuccinos nonfat. With all the frothing and steaming going on, you’ll hardly notice the difference with skim milk, and you definitely won’t miss the fat.
This is only a short list of small ways that add up to improve your diet without dieting. What changes do you make to eat healthier without dieting?
Shaina Olmanson is the home cook and photographer behind Food for My Family, where she shares recipes, tips, opinions and her philosophy on food as she wades through the process of feeding her family, her friends and anyone else who will let her. She strives to teach her four children how to eat well: seasonally, locally, organically, deliciously and balanced.