Karen Ensle Ed.D., RDN, FAND, CFCS
Family & Community Health Sciences Educator
Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County
A healthy diet is good for your overall health. It also can help you reach a healthy weight and stay there. To improve your eating habits, it's best to make small lifestyle changes that you can keep doing over time. How can you change your eating habits? To eat a healthy diet, you may need to make some changes such as eating more fruit and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, lean meat, fish or poultry. Remember that you can change your eating habits a little bit at a time. Small changes are easier to make and can lead to permanent changes that improve your health. Here are some ways to make healthy changes in your eating habits:
Consume more fruits, low-fat dairy products such as 1% low-fat milk and low-fat yogurt, and small amounts of other cheeses along with a variety of vegetables, and whole-grain breads and cereals at home and away from home. Focus on adding healthy food to your diet every day at all meals. Healthy foods need to be the mainstay of your diet. Make the fried foods and high fat/sugar desserts “Blue Moon” foods rather than just cutting these unhealthy foods totally. Allow the higher fat, sugar and sodium foods once in a “Blue Moon” rather than on a regular basis.
Try to eat a meal every day at the kitchen or dining table. This will help you to focus on eating healthy meals and appreciating smaller portion sizes and meals that contain at least 3 food groups.
Buy a healthy-recipe book with recipes that can be prepared in thirty minutes or less. Try the Myplate.gov website for ideas on cooking healthy and recipes that are easy to prepare for yourself and others. Healthy recipes reduce the fat, salt and sugar and ultimately the calories and are developed to taste as good as their high fat/salt and sugar counterpart.
Prepare healthy lunch and snacks each day. This lets you have more control over what you eat. Consider joining a Meals-on-Wheels congregate feeding program for seniors for an inexpensive, healthy lunch if you have a limited income. Seek this information from county and municipal governments or non-profit organization websites. These organizations may receive federal, state or local grants to support these meals.
Remember all your snacks are part of your total daily food intake. Keep them as healthy as possible. Try putting your snacks on a plate instead of eating them from the package. Or, purchase snacks in single serving packages. This will help you control how much you eat.
Keep your mealtimes on a schedule. Don't skip or delay meals, and be sure to schedule your snacks. If you ignore your feelings of hunger, you may end up eating too much or choosing an unhealthy snack. Feeling too hungry during the day can cause you to think about foods all the time. This in turn will make you want to eat more often during the day.
Eat your meals with others when you can. Relax and enjoy your meals, and don't eat too fast. Try to make healthy eating a pleasure, not a chore.
Drink water instead of high-sugary drinks like soda, ice teas, sports drinks and high-sugar juice drinks. As we get older we often do not feel thirsty, but our body still needs fluids. Make sure you drink enough water each day to stay hydrated.