By March (National Nutrition Month!), New Year’s resolutions have likely long been forgotten, even though eating healthfully is still top of mind for many of us. Here are some common pitfalls to eating healthfully and how to avoid them.
Mom said breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and research has found there may be some truth to that. One study’s results found that skipping breakfast may wreak havoc on the body’s hunger and appetite cues, possibly resulting in eating even more calories later in the day. Nonetheless, breakfast is an opportunity to include whole grains, vegetables and fruit, and there are no more excuses with these options:
This vegan, gluten-free and easy smoothie opens in a new tab has protein, fiber, and greens to fuel your morning.
These make-ahead breakfast cookies opens in a new tab (yes, cookies!) are perfect to-go with some low-fat yogurt or milk.
Stir — no cooking required — this oatmeal opens in a new tab the night before and you’re ready to go in the morning with a banana on the side.
Not Eating Enough Fruits and Vegetables
Research shows that Americans typically don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Recent Dietary Guidelines recommend a colorful variety of 2 1/2 cups vegetables and 2 cups (preferably whole) fruits daily. No big deal: just include a vegetable or fruit at every meal to help consume a variety of vitamins and minerals plus the fiber found in produce.
Have a piece of whole fruit at breakfast — an apple, orange, banana or cup of berries will do.
Start your day with a vegan tofu scramble opens in a new tab that is filling, packed with veggies, and prepped the night before.
Serve this edamame hummus opens in a new tab with crudités for a double-hit of vegetable goodness.
Set a goal to eat one raw veggie every day. Cucumbers, radishes, carrot sticks, cherry tomatoes, or crunchy romaine are great on their own for snacks (and work fabulously in salads, too).
The Late-Night Snack Attack
You may eat like a nutrition expert all day and then pile on the calories after dark with fatty, sugary snacks. If this is you, it’s time to do some soul-searching to find out what’s going on and make changes:
Be mindful of food cravings versus boredom. Instead of snacking, maybe read a book or work on that hobby you’ve put aside for awhile.
If midnight munching is a habit, examine your dinner. Make sure to include fiber (from beans or produce) and quality protein (from fish or tofu) to promote satiety.
Eat regular meals, so you don’t feel like you can compensate for missing one of your three square with a nighttime calorie surplus.
Clean up the kitchen and brush your teeth right after you finish dinner so you can avoid any temptations the rest of the evening.
If snack you must, try a lower-calorie alternative to those indulgences: crunchy crudités dipped into hummus, sweet banana “ice cream” opens in a new tab or sparkling water instead of a nightcap.
A study funded by the NIH found that the test group that slept one hour and 20 minutes less than the control group consumed about 500 additional calories daily compared to the better-rested group. What’s more, when you’re exhausted, you may have less energy for exercise or cooking, which may mean a higher-calorie take-out meal is on your menu.
Avoid watching television or reading on personal electronic devices close to your bedtime, which may activate your brain instead of help you wind down.
Avoid heavy meals, caffeine and alcohol in the evening, which may disrupt sleep.
Stick to a schedule, sleeping and rising at the same times daily.
Not Planning Ahead
Sometimes the biggest roadblock to eating well is making a plan to just do it. Besides having a well-stocked kitchen opens in a new tab to help make healthy dinners, a meal plan does the thinking-ahead part for you so you can have fun in the kitchen. Check out our healthy meal plans opens in a new tab to get you started.
What are your biggest healthy eating challenges? What tips work for you to eat healthy?