Friday, January 20, 2012

Tips for Eating Healthier Without Really Trying

I know that it is a great many peoples goal each New Year to eat healthier or lose weight. Sometimes this can feel like a horribly daunting task but, I'm here to share a few super easy tips to make it simply flow into your regular life with little to no hassle. This is not about cutting out everything you love but rather about making healthier choices easier & seeing what you eat.

Snacking- This is most of our worst enemy. Your hungry but in between meals or it's late & your watching TV & on comes the munchies. Now, while our intention is to have just 1 cookie or a small handful of chips or crackers next thing you know half of them are gone. Then you just get depressed. There are 2 very easy ways to prevent this from happening in the future.
#1 is about putting what's healthier in front of you. Most snacking is about convenience. You grab what's easy or what you see in front of you. So solve the problem by putting what you should be eating in front of you & those special treats out of sight. First, let's talk about keeping the good stuff front & center. One of my favorite tricks is keeping snack treat jars on your counter. These MUST be clear containers & preferably with a sealing lid of some type (I like the ones they have at World Market). Keep them in a highly visible spot. This way, when you need to grab that little snack to tide you over till dinner (or whatever) you'll spot these right away & are more likely to reach for them instead of rummaging through the cabinets. I like to keep raw, unsalted almonds in one always! They are really tasty, good for you, & fill you up very quickly. In the other you can keep a healthy version of what you crave. I'm a sweet person so, I like to keep gram-cracker bits with added dried fruit in one canister for when I get a little sweet craving. Matt's a salty person so, he keeps healthy rice crackers with herbs in his. Another reason for making sure that they are in a small, clear container is that you see how much you are eating & are less likely to over indulge (I get into that more below). Also, putting out a fruit bowl is a great idea. It adds flair to your kitchen without a lot of cost. It also will make you more likely to grab that apple because it's right in sight with your other goodies. This also makes you more likely to buy fruit (an empty bowl just looks stupid) & you wont want to just waste money by letting them go bad. Just make sure to be realistic on how many you will actually eat when you buy them. It's better to buy 2 & need to go back to the store, then buy 10 & have them go bad. The other half of this is to keep the snacks that you crave out of sight. This does not mean hiding them (we all know that never works) or not letting yourself have that little treat (that doesn't work either). Simply make them less visible. We tend to grab for what we see first that's easy & may not even really want those chips or that candy bar. If you keep your goodies out of sight, you will save them for the times that you actually really want them. I like to do this with a basket on top of my fridge. I don't keep anything food related in the cabinets above my fridge so I rarely look up there unless I know what I'm going for. By keeping them in a basket, I don't see them just sitting there tempting me. Make sure that the basket is tall & wide enough that you can't see what's inside of it without taking it down. Don't have space on top of your fridge? Keep them in a lower cabinet with baking goods or pots & pans & trow a towel over the basket. The point is to keep from seeing all those goodies until you actually have a craving for them. Then when you really want them, you know right where to go. But try a small serving of your healthy alternative first, just to make sure it's not the salt/sweet you're actually craving.
#2 is all about portion control. If you have a closed off bag in front of you, it's very easy to ignore/not see how much you have eaten. You need to take this out of the equation. Buy a set of small bowls (about the size of a child's cereal bowl) & use these for your snacking. If your goal is to eat 4 cookies or a small handful of chips (check the label for the appropriate serving size), put this amount into the bowl then put the container away. Then take your small bowl to wherever you're sitting (part of the point is for it to be away from the full container). By doing things this way you accomplish a great many things at once. First of all, you can see how much you are eating & this makes you think about it more. Second, you must think about it if you really want more. You can't just reach your hand in the bag again. You must get up, refill your bowl, & go sit down again. For most of us, this little extra step makes us forgo that extra serving. Third, you get to have your craving but in a controlled amount. This helps prevent binging later because the craving has gotten too strong. When doing it this way, you can also get exactly what you want instead of feeling like you have to get the low fat/sugar free/diet whatever version. Which, let's face it, never really satisfy that craving anyway.

Fruits & Veggies-
#1 is about putting what you should be eating within sight again. I touched on this with fruits above but, what about all those pesky things that need to stay refrigerated? Simply rearranging your fridge can solve this. Having your fruits & veggies in a sealed off drawer in the bottom makes you less likely to think about them, so move them. I put a small sheet of semi thin plastic on my middle shelf (so that the bars don't put pressure on them) & put them right there in plain sight. Now every time I open my fridge I see all my fruits & veggies staring at me to use them! I moved my bread, cheese, & eggs to the bottom drawer (if you don't need the extra space, you could put these on the bottom shelf & your goodies in the drawer).
#2 is about meal planning. I never used to do this. I just bought whatever looked good at the store & then kind of made it up as I went along. This ended in a lot of pasta dishes & very few fruits & veggies being added to the mix. Once I started planning out most my meals for the week (I mainly do my dinners & weekend breakfasts) my grocery shopping was easier & I already had a vegetable planned with at least 2 meals a day! Plus, I found out how easy it is to add vegetables to most of the meals I was already making. Spaghetti goes great with some zucchini or squash added in & Alfredo is amazing with mushrooms. Now my pasta dishes have more vegetables then pasta & everyone loves it. Making a casserole? Add some broccoli. Chili? Add diced tomato & onion. Having scrambled eggs? Add some spinach or tomato (it tastes amazing!). Not only does this add more vegetables to your diet, it actually adds more flavor to your food. Now I have a chalk board in my kitchen that I write out every meal on & we simply pick which one we want that night. I know everything I need to make it & it makes the "what to make for dinner" dilemma almost disappear because I already have everything mapped out & paired together! It also affords us to try fun new dishes because I just need to write out everything I need for it on my grocery list at the beginning of the week. My favorite cookbook has become The Vegetarians Cookbook from Readers Digest. So many amazing recipes that are almost all vegetables.
Side Note- It is also so much more rewarding when you have to put a little work into your meal & makes it a lot more enjoyable.

Random, Useless Calories- This is the one that kills most of us. A soda here, a latte there, maybe a little bite out. We are racking up hundreds of useless calories all over the place & not even enjoying them. So that chocolate cake you have been denying yourself all week? You just drank the same amount of calories & sugar in that Starbucks. Seems like a waste, doesn't it? A few simple exchanges & being prepared can solve this huge problem!
#1 is about switching your beverage choices. (You can add a lot of fruit to your diet here as well) If you tend to drink a lot of soda try exchanging it for Italian soda or sparkling fruit juice or sparkling water. This may take a little while to get used to but, your body will thank you for it. If you do need to keep a few sodas around (for mixed drinks or something), keep them in your goody basket. It will help keep it outta sight (yes, once again!) & a warm soda just isn't as satisfying. Also, buy the small half sized 6/8 packs instead of large full sized cases. If you do the meal planning/once a week grocery shopping; this will greatly reduce the amount you have available & make you more likely to save them. Also, keep a large amount of juice & water in your fridge (& again, keep it front & center for visibility). Make sure to make a point of having a full glass of either with every meal (this will also help prevent over eating). Once you get in the habit of drinking juice or water you will actually get a taste for it & start to crave it over sugary drinks (in my experience). I will say that this is the hardest of these tips to do & will take willpower  to think about what you are drinking on your part. But, it will become easier over time & eventually will just be the normal routine for you.
#2 is about grabbing something to drink while you're on the go. As I was saying above, our simple little trips to Starbucks land us on average 200-1,100 calories. Plus, at $4-$10 each, it's a HUGE waste of money. With so many adorable to go mugs out there (I recently saw an adorable Valentines Hello Kitty one at Barnes & Noble) simply bring your own. You will save money & useless calories (standard coffee with cream & sugar has 120). You can also pack a few tea bags in your purse for that mid-day pick me up, then all you need is hot water. OR you can keep around those little packets that you just mix with water (I know Crystal Light makes some but, there are lots of brands), just make sure to check the calorie & sugar content on them first. Personally I like to fill my huge Nalgene water bottle with boiling water & 4-5 tea bags & carry it around with me all day. It's simple, easy, & lasts me all day (great for at work too).
#3 is cutting out those quick bites to eat while you're out. We all plan to grab a small snack after a long day of shopping or errands but rarely does it turn out that way. You end up getting the sandwich that's huge or those tasty nachos or the Caesar salad that ends up being gigantic. Then you end up over eating & wasting even more money. There are 2 very easy ways to prevent this. First is to be prepared for that mid-afternoon hunger by packing yourself a snack. Just throw a granola bar (or something similar) or a handful of nuts in a bag in your purse. It's such a simple solution but so few of us think about it. When I started doing makeup I always packed myself something to eat because I never knew when I would get a break. I can't count the number of times that the model or someone else on set needed a little pick me up & my granola bar saved the day. Now I always make sure to have a few snacks & a couple of waters in my kit. Such a simple think that so few people think about. Second is to help prevent it. Eat something small before you go out or chew a few fiber tablets. Fiber is great at controlling your hunger & they even have it paired with probiotics now, making it even better for you. It sounds so easy & simple but really makes a huge difference.

Now of course all of these things are dependent on you changing your habits. You will have to think about buying something other then soda, or picking up those veggies & nuts at the store, or grabbing a granola bar instead of having that snack when you find yourself starving after your shopping trip. But these are simple ways to integrate healthier eating easier into your life without feeling like you are giving everything up. Am I against having a shopping trip followed by lunch out? No. Simply make that the plan & compensate for it. Know that this is your decision & not just something random because you're hungry. Indulge in that Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with extra whip cream (I do). Just order a small & make it a special treat instead of your everyday trip before work. The way I do things allows me the room to have what I want in controlled portions but balance it with healthier options as well.

That's all that I can think of for now. I hope that this helps some of you.
If you have any tips or tricks that you use, please feel free to share them below!


  1. Wow, I just read this whole thing! haha I enjoy your tips and you have some great ideas! Thanks for sharing.