When fast food is everywhere, maintaining a healthy diet feels impossible. For the most part, we know what it means to eat healthy. MyPlate (the government tool that helps you visualize what a healthy meal looks like) and MyPyramid (the new and improved food pyramid) aren't hard to understand, but it can be hard to stick to them.
The rules are simple: Aim for seven servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Top that with lean protein, whole grains and dairy. This mix packs a punch, and provides you with a plethora of calcium, fiber and antioxidants if you can stick to it. But because I know eating healthy can be challenging, here are some tips for staying healthy both at home and while you're out and about:
1. Stay hydrated.
This isn't surprising advice, but it's surprisingly hard to do, even though there are perks abound from doing so. Water makes you feel full, which means you'll eat less.
It also keeps your skin clear and maintains your hydration, which fights fatigue. Oh, and it normally costs nothing. The hardest thing is remembering to do it, so make it a part of your routine.
You could also try DIY-ing your bottle and adding "timelines," so that you know how much you should be drinking throughout the day. If you find water bland, make it a little more flavorful by adding fruit or herbs.
2. Get your greens on.
Aim to fill half your plate with fruits and veggies at every meal. Take inspiration from these Country Living vegetarian recipes, and commit to Meatless Mondays to put the spotlight on veggies.
Dishes that focus on vegetables, like salads and stir-fries, are great ways to put color and variety into every dish. Reproduce the rainbow in your plating design for a fancy, healthy dish.
3. Watch those carbs.
Although carbohydrates are an essential part of any diet, much of their energy doesn't get used. This means it will be stored as fat. To this end, a low-carb lifestyle has become popular. But don't get carried away.
Before you consider cutting them out altogether, think about eating better carbs. Authority Nutrition says that certain starches, found in foods like potatoes, cashews and raw oats, are resistant to digestion and improve metabolic health.
4. Wean yourself off sugar.
According to Livestrong, the average American eats around 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. This is over twice the recommended dose of nine teaspoons. Sugar affects the brain in the same way a drug does. You can build up a tolerance to it, and you will need more and more sugar for your sweet tooth.
Livestrong recommends opting for homemade food instead of processed food. Reduce the use of sugar and sweeteners in coffee and other drinks, and opt for water instead of soda or fruit drinks.
5. Have a breakfast that's full of fiber.
One of the easiest ways to ramp up your fiber intake is to select a cereal that has seven grams of it (or more). This way, you've met your fiber quota all in one bowl, and you're ahead before you've even finished breakfast.
Fiber isn't just for staying regular: It can actually cancel out calories. Naturally Savvy says that upping one's fiber intake “helps control the insulin spike caused by eating refined carbohydrates.”
6. Snack, but snack well.
Dips in our sugar levels will have us all reaching for the cookie jar, so it is important to proactively manage hunger pangs. Carefully planned snacking maintains energy levels, and it reduces the desire to make bad food choices.
So, carry some carrot sticks and hummus, Greek yogurt or an apple. Avoid the vending machine when hunger strikes.
7. Keep it up when you go out to eat.
Restaurants can be a disaster for your good intentions. Along with the delicious smells and your growling stomach, peer pressure can easily rear its head and derail your progress.
To stay in control, try checking the menu online and deciding on a healthy option before you go. That way, you can make a good choice without feeling like all eyes are on you.
8. Go nuts.
Well, in moderation. An ounce at a time of these protein-packed snacks gives you good fats, vitamin E and more. Eat This! (of "Eat This, Not That!" fame) likes Brazil nuts, pistachios and almonds for weight loss, and advises single serving bags, which are ideal for keeping in a desk drawer or purse.
9. Watch your salt levels.
We know too much salt is bad for our hearts, but the American Heart Association wants to remind you that salt can also cause problems like water retention. Because a bulk of Americans get their salt from processed foods, try your hand at homemade pizza instead of frozen for family pizza night, and step away from the frozen dinner aisle.
10. Combinations are key.
According to Danielle Omar, a registered dietician, the ideal snack is either "protein and produce" or protein and carbs together. Omar suggests options like watermelon, feta, spinach and sliced avocado with cherry tomatoes. With options like that, maybe snacking isn't so hard.
Carbs alone process into sugar too quickly, and they don't always burn off. The protein helps you stay full for longer, while the produce or carb option gives you an immediate energy boost.
11. Keep your calories contained.
Denying yourself sweets like ice cream is only going to lead to food cravings and frustration. Instead, have some of that Häagen-Dazs, but serve up a sensible portion. Eating it straight from the tub is asking for trouble. Use a ramekin or some other kind of small dish, and stop before you're full.
Eating well is a very important step toward staying healthy, but if you still have questions about your health, SingleCare can provide affordable access to healthcare providers when you need it. SingleCare is not insurance, which means there are no co-pays, pre-authorizations or monthly fees. It's an easy, convenient and affordable way to see the doctor you need, at a price that won't make you sick.
This post was originally published on SingleCare.