Updated August 06, 2015.
Begin Eating Healthier With Better Planning and a Gradual Approach
Most Americans consume too many calories and not enough nutrients, according to the latest revision to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
Currently, the typical American diet is low in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and high in saturated fat, salt, and sugar. As a result, more Americans than ever are overweight, obese, and at increased risk for diseases such as:
Of course old habits are hard to break, and the notion of change can seem overwhelming. But it can be done with planning and a gradual approach.
Some people can improve eating habits on their own, while others need a registered dietitian to guide them through the process. You may need a dietitian if you are trying to lose weight or if you have a health condition such as:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol
Changing Your Eating Habits
Many people are used to eating a certain way and never think about what they are actually putting into their bodies. For example, some people regularly drink six cans or more of regular soda every day, but when they find out there are about nine teaspoons of sugar in one can, it puts things more in perspective. Start by slowly changing your habits. Try cutting back to three cans a day, then to two and so on, and then start replacing some of the soda with healthier options.
Other people are eating a lot of food between mid-day and bedtime because they skip breakfast.
Another common scenario is when someone has grown up thinking that meat should be the focus of every meal. Change your habits slowly by trying to eat two-thirds of the meat you would normally eat, and then decrease the portion little by little. Cutting portion size limits calories. So does eating lean cuts of meat and using lower-fat methods of preparation such as broiling.
Look for Balance
When people strive for more balance in their diets, they tend to enjoy mixing up their food choices. A lot of times, people eat the same things over and over. When they start trying new foods, they find out what they've been missing.
Make Better Choices
The Nutrition Facts label is an important tool that gives people guidance for making smarter food choices from every food group. The label shows how high or low a food is in various nutrients.
Dietary experts suggest, that once you start using the label to compare products, you'll find there is flexibility in creating a balanced diet and enjoying a variety of foods in moderation. For example, you could eat a favorite food that's higher in fat for breakfast and have lower-fat foods for lunch and dinner. You could have a full-fat dip on a low-fat cracker. What matters is how all the food works together.
Motivations for Change
Older people are most likely to improve their eating habits, but nutrition is important for people of all ages. Dietary experts recognize, when people have health problems or their friends become ill, these are often strong motivators of change. The more serious the health condition, the more serious the change, but it would be better if people made changes early and prevented health problems in the first place.
So what if you're feeling trapped by a diet full of fast-food burgers and cookies? You can work your way out slowly but surely.
Here are 12 tips to moving your eating habits in the right direction.
Tip #1) Look at What You Eat Now
Write down what you eat for a few days to get a good picture of what you're taking in daily. By looking at what you eat and how much you're eating, you can figure out what adjustments you need to make.
It is suggested that people write down what they are feeling. Were you nervous, happy, or sad when you ate five slices of pizza in one sitting? The very nature of writing things down in a food diary can help people make healty changes. A food diary can keep your goals on track. Be honest. I you have to write down that actually ate nine cookies, you may only eat two instead.