Monthly Health Message:

Smart Ways to Eat Healthier

December 2013

Karen Ensle Ed.D., RD, FADA, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County

Want to eat healthier? Start by changing the "snack ratio" in your house. Slowly and gradually have more fruit (apples, oranges, grapes) and healthier snack choices around, rather than higher-calorie chips and sweets. Replace unhealthy snacks with alternative choices, such as oatmeal bars, granola bars, or peanuts and yogurt. Follow these tips:

  • At the Grocery Store, Spend Time in the Outer Aisles - Healthier foods, such as fresh fruits, fish, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy are generally found on the store perimeter.
  • Read Food Labels -The terms "low in fat," or "light," are not always the healthiest choice. Products may be lower in fat, but higher in sodium, or, if it's lower in sugar, it may be high in fat. Read the "Nutrition Facts" chart (food label) on the back of a box, can, or bag. Start by viewing packaged foods and snacks at home. Soon you'll start to notice differences in the amounts of the major nutrients as well as sodium, sugar and calories per serving. The next step is to make adjustments in your shopping choices, and to look for alternatives with fewer calories, sodium, fats, and sugar.
  • Don't Get Caught up in the Calories - Notice the portions and calories per serving size. Most consumers read the number of calories and assume that's the number of calories for the entire package, rather than the number of calories per serving - buyer beware.
  • Develop the Healthy Habit of Selecting Small Food Portions - A serving of rice that can't fit into the cupped palm of your hand is probably more than one serving. The "cup of your hand" technique is a good way to mentally measure the amounts of foods that go onto your plate. Some people use the size of their fist as a measurement. The size of your fist, or a cupped hand, is about the same size as one measuring cup.
  • Retrain Your Taste Buds - The natural sweetness of an orange or apple can't compete with the sugary taste of a candy bar, but you can change your attitude toward small, healthy food portions.
Try these alternatives to foods high in fat, salt, and sugar:
  • Choose brown rice, whole wheat, rye, or oat bread over white bread.
  • Choose the white meat of turkey or chicken over dark meat and limit red meat.
  • Choose baked or broiled foods over fried, battered or breaded.
  • Choose water over juice and soda.
  • Choose low-calorie sauces and dressings. Ask to have them served on the side.
  • Choose fat-free milk, yogurt and cheese made with 1% or skim milk, as opposed to whole or 2% milk.
  • Choose vegetables or green salad as side orders over fries and chips when eating out. Order steamed veggies rather than creamed.
  • Pack fruit and nuts as snacks to hold you over to the next meal rather than opting for fast food or snacks from a vending machine.
  • Add color: the more color on your plate like a rainbow, the better.
  • Eat breakfast! Don't skip meals as starving your body will cause retention of fat rather than burning it for energy.

End the year with a healthy lifestyle! Remember, small changes will make a huge difference in your overall health and weight.


  1. Rutgers
  2. Executive Dean of Agriculture and Natural Resources
  3. School of Environmental and Biological Sciences