It should not take a New Year’s resolution to start eating and thinking healthier.  Eating healthy does not have to be complicated.  It’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health and elevating your mood.  All of us should strive to replace processed foods with real food, whenever possible. If you would take one week and document the kind, amount and time you ate meals and snacks, I think it would be an eye opener.

Eating food that is close to the way nature made it, can make a huge difference in the way you think, look and feel.  This way of eating is not about strict diet restrictions, staying thin or depriving yourself of foods you love.  It’s a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins and minerals in our diets to sustain a healthy body.

Switching to a healthier diet doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach.  It’s best to make a few small changes at a time to set yourself up for a successful transition.  Start thinking about your diet in terms of color, variety and freshness.   Avoid packaged and processed foods and start incorporating more fresh ingredients.

Whenever possible, prepare more of your own meals. Just say no to take out!  Start making the right changes, replace dangerous trans fats with healthy fats, such as eating grilled salmon, not fried chicken.  Start reading the labels on the packaging.  It is important to be aware of what is in your food, such as, salt content, sugar, corn syrup and unhealthy fats.  Eat fresh vegetables not canned. Once you start to make these small dietary changes take stock of how you feel.  We all like junk food, but take a break and see how uncomfortable you may feel or drained of energy after you have overindulged.   Reading labels applies to the meat and fish you buy too.

If you can buy local, do it.  Drink more water, if your addicted to soft drinks, please do yourself a favor and quit immediately.  Water helps flush our body of waste products and toxins and will help you not going through life dehydrated.  Dehydration causes tiredness, low energy and headaches. It’s very common to confuse thirst for hunger, so stay well hydrated.  Feeling hungry, have a drink of water.

Eat in moderation.  This basically means eating only as much food as your body needs.  You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, not stuffed.  Moderation means eating less than we do now.  Start by reducing portion sizes of unhealthy foods and not eating them as often.  If you are reaching for that second chocolate bar or fourth cookie, put it back. When serving yourself, think smaller portions.  If you go out, chose a starter rather than an entrée, split a dish with someone else and never order supersized anything!

Start using smaller plates and bowls at home to trick your brain it’s a larger portion.  If you are still hungry at the end, eat some leafy greens or have a piece of fruit.  Eat slowly, think about the food as nourishment rather than woofing the meal down to run off and do something else.  Meal time should be sacred.  It takes a while for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough, so please, slow down.  Eat with others whenever possible.  Try not to eat in front of the TV or computer, that’s mindless eating and this leads to overeating.  Control emotional eating.  We don’t always eat to satisfy hunger.  Many of us turn to food, when stressed out, or dealing with sadness, loneliness and boredom.  Find a way of managing your stress and emotions and you’ll be on your way to successful eating habits.

Please eat your breakfast and eat smaller meals throughout the day.  A healthy breakfast will jump start your metabolism and your smaller meals will give you energy throughout the day and avoid eating late at night. When you eat many small meals rather than three large ones, you avoid spiking your insulin levels, allowing your metabolism to stay more even throughout the day.  If you tend to feel sleepy after eating, eating many small meals may solve the problem.   Try to eat earlier and fast for 14 to 16 hours until breakfast the next day.  It has been suggested that giving your digestive system a long break each day may help to regulate your weight.

Add more fruits and vegetables.  They are low in calories and full of vitamins, minerals antioxidants and fiber.  Try eating five servings of fruit and vegetable a day.  It is easier than you think. This will fill you up and help you cut back on the unhealthy foods. For most of us, this means doubling the amount we eat of these daily. Increase your intake by eating berries on your breakfast cereal, eat a medley of sweet fruit, such as oranges, mangos, pineapple and grapes for dessert.  Swap out rice and pasta for spaghetti squash or a beautiful green salad.  Liven up your salad with, kale, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli and Chinese cabbage; add some carrots, snow peas or cherry tomatoes.  Munch on some veggies dipped in hummus or peanut or almond butter.  Try some celery, you’ll become a convert.

You’ve heard it said to eat your greens, so instead of boiling or steaming these healthy foods, try grilling, roasting, pan frying with chili flakes, garlic, shallots, mushrooms or onions, or marinate in some lemon juice or lime juice before cooking.  Limit refined foods, basically anything white, such as white flour, rice, sugar, salt, etc.  Refining removes the healthy minerals and fiber.

Healthy eating starts with planning.  You should have a well-stocked kitchen, some quick healthy recipes and plenty of healthy snacks.  Cook when you can.  This means on the weekends and perhaps one night of week with the intention of having leftovers that can be frozen or set aside for another nights consumption.  This saves time and money and frankly is gratifying to know you made it.

Whenever you grocery shop remember that in general the healthy ingredients are found around the perimeter of the store.  The center aisles are filled with processed and packaged foods that really are not that good for you.  Think fresh fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, whole grain breads and dairy products.  Visit the aisles for spices, oils and whole grains.  Add a few things from the freezer section, such as frozen fruits and vegetables.  Try some wild blueberries for dessert or on a whole grain cereal.

When you are in the dairy section think about lower fat alternatives.  When buying cereals, grains and pastas for cooking, try rice or noodles, pasta with red sauce, pasta primavera, bran flakes, crispy rice, oatmeal or granola. In the meat, fish and poultry department think low fat cold cuts, extra lean beef, chicken or turkey without the skin, water-packed tuna, pork tenderloin, fish or shellfish, unbreaded, preferably fresh or canned in water. Egg whites or egg substitutes, think popcorn instead of nuts, frozen yogurt or frozen fruit bars instead of ice cream and puddings made with skim milk. You probably are already doing some or most of this, it is just about making better choices to be a better version of yourself.

Remember to get some exercise every day.  Park your car in the parking lot away from the store and take the long walk in.  Start monitoring your steps every day with an App on your cell phone, it’s addictive.  Start by consciously being more physically active.  If you are new to this, please speak with your doctor before a high activity program. The recommended physical activity level for adults, is 2 hours and 30 minutes every week (or about 22 minutes each day or 50 minutes three times a week) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity such as brisk walking and muscle strengthening exercise on two or more days a week that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest, shoulders and arms.) Always remember to get a good night’s sleep.

If losing weight is part of your goal, most people need to reduce the number of calories they get from food and beverages and increase their physical activity.  For a weight loss of 1-1 ½ pounds per week, the daily intake should be reduced by 500 to 750 calories. In general eating plans that contain 1200 to 1500 calories each day will help most women lose weight.  A plan of 1500 to 1800 calories a day are suitable for men and women who weigh more or who exercise regularly.