It's that special time of year, when your blood sugar has reached near-critical levels, your cholesterol numbers are well above your IQ, and you vow to really start eating healthy. No seriously, guys -- this time you mean it.
And while the dramatic conclusion to trek off into the abandoned wilderness where you must hunt and gather sustenance with your bare hands to survive (and emerge svelte) may cross your mind, we have a few simpler options to getting back on a more nutritional, doable track. Helping us with her two cents is Linda Vaughan, director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion at Arizona State University.
Pay attention to what you are eating: if you are mindlessly snacking, it won't satisfy your taste buds or your stomach!
That means no TV, no computer, and pause your chewing while you read this post. If you've ever looked down at a slice of pie only to realize it's been kidnapped, chances are, you've been eating on autopilot.
Keep ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables at the front of the refrigerator or in plain sight on your countertops. Buy only as much produce as you/your family can eat before it spoils.
It's a simple combo of "waste not want not," and "out of sight, out of mind." All too often we have stumbled upon a withered tomato or some nonfat milk turned Greek yogurt in the depths of the ice box. If eating healthy is at the forefront of your mind it should be at the forefront of your fridge.
Whole grain cereals and low/non fat milk make a great breakfast, snack or even "emergency" lunch!
If there's one healthy dinning choice college students have made, it's eating cereal - lots and lots of cereal. Sure it's mostly out of laziness and most nutritional value is canceled out by the fact that there are little marshmallows floating around in the bowl, but you can take that idea and run with it (come to think of it, running might be a good idea too. Add that to your agenda).
But how do we single out the health cereals from the sugary ones? Easy. If there's a cartoon on the front, chances are, it shouldn't be in your big boy cart.
Use fat free chutneys, salsas, and lower sodium sauces to add variety to grilled meats/fish/poultry.
This shouldn't be a hard switch to make. Almost all of our mainstream grocery products are devoid of something in these modern times: gluten, soy, dairy, and especially fat. Eating healthy doesn't have to mean eating bland - unless you enjoy bland, in which case ignore this entire paragraph, you strange, strange creature.
Add some grilled vegetables to the mix.
Contrary to what others may think, broccoli is not just a garnish of miniature trees. And given the right amount of fat free dressings or sauces (see above) you could almost mistake them for something delicious. And hopefully the more you fill your stomach with Mother Nature, the less room you'll have for Little Debbie afterwards.
Take full advantage of our citrus season: oranges, grapefruit, tangerines can be eaten as is, added to salads, mixed into baked goods.
"Citrus is nature's candy." Look, we know you want to punch whoever said that in the face, but maybe they were on to something. Citrus fruits do have some amazing health benefits and unlike their artificial impersonators, you won't get that nasty sugar hangover that comes from tasting the rainbow one too many times.
Instead of high fat chips, choose popcorn (unbuttered but seasoned with chili powder or other spices), baked chips, or pretzels. Raw vegetables and hummus are great alternatives as well.
We admit, that last part is hard to swallow, but you can work your way into it. Start off with clean and lightly spiced popcorn, then step it up to some unsalted pretzels. Before you know it, you'll be eating carrot sticks like they're french fries - or resolving to a steady plateau of baked and popped chips; either way, the fat snacks don't win.
If you do your own baking, replace 1/3 or so of the flour with whole wheat flour, add dried fruits and nuts, use applesauce or mashed bananas to replace 1/3 or so of the oil or butter in quick breads or muffins.
Don't let the math scare you, this is fairly easy to do; and if you're real smart about it, the rest of your household will be none the wiser.
Another trick you can do when you're baking is to ask yourself, "What would Paula Deen do?" Then do the exact opposite.
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Keep healthy snacks (dried fruit, nuts, lower fat granola bars, single serve graham or animal crackers, peanut butter, single serve fruits) where you work and, especially if you drive a lot, in the car. If hunger strikes, you'll be less likely to stop for candy, ice cream, or other sweet treats.
Unless you're a Flinstone, you're not burning too many calories in the car; which is why enjoying drive-thru meals as you sit motionless in traffic is simply adding insult to injury. Rather than an assume you won't get hungry, be prepared with some healthy alternatives.
As an added safety measure you can also notify all your favorite fast food establishments within a twenty mile radius not to serve you (an attached mug shot would be a nice added touch) - but it's not entirely necessary.