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Trying to eat right and stay fit continues to challenge many people. Sometimes it's hard to find the time to shop for the right foods or to prepare a healthy meal. But there are some small and easy steps everyone can take toward better health. To put you on the right path to better eating, Suzanne Davis, RD, LDN, CDE, clinical nutrition manager for Nantucket Cottage Hospital in Nantucket, Massachusetts, shares 10 ways you can change up your eating habits to improve your diet.
Start With Breakfast
It's no secret that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. After all, it's the catalyst to rev up our metabolism for the next 24 hours. But it's important to choose the right fuel. "The average 'coffee shop' muffin is 500 to 600 calories," Davis said. "Swapping the muffin with a healthier alternative such as an English muffin will save you up to 400 calories."
Can the Salt
Although canned vegetables retain the same nutrients as fresh vegetables, they also may come with something extra that could prove unhealthy. "Canned vegetables can contain six-to-eight times the sodium of fresh vegetables," Davis said. "Drain and rinse the vegetables to reduce your sodium intake."
Count It Up
When your day revolves around a full schedule, it can be difficult to eat right when you don't have the time or choice to get something healthy. Therefore, it's important to keep track of your caloric intake. "Did you know there are 3,500 calories in 1 pound of fat?" Davis said. "In order to lose 1 pound per week, you need to cut 500 calories out of your diet per day."
Reach for the H20
We hear it everywhere: We need to drink more water. After all, it's one of the easiest things we can do to improve our nutrition. "Many people do not drink enough water on a daily basis," Davis said. "You can approximately determine the ounces of water you need to stay hydrated by dividing your ideal body weight in half." Remember that we take in water from beverages like coffee, tea and lemonade, so include those when totaling your daily intake.
Don't Drink It In
It's easy to forget that beverages contain much more than just good flavor. "A 24-ounce soda is approximately 310 calories, and 5 ounces of wine is 100 calories," Davis said. "Measure and count your liquid intake to help cut calories." To make it simple to remember, drink water throughout the day and occasionally enjoy a small glass of wine or your favorite soft drink with dinner.
Hold the Sugar
Sugar is included in many food products under a number of names, so it's important to know them all. "Sugar is sugar, don't be fooled!" Davis said. "Just because food companies may be taking high-fructose corn syrup out of some of their products and replacing them with sugar, it still boils down to excess calories. Make sure you read the food labels ... for serving size and calories."
Study the Labels
Companies today are coming up with all sorts of ways to promote their products with a healthy twist, so it's crucial that you know what you are reading on food labels. "Don't be fooled by 'zero grams of trans fat' boldly displayed on some food labels," Davis said. "The product may still be high in calories, fat and hydrogenated oils."
Skip the Chips
Chips make the perfect snack, which is what makes them so dangerous to our daily diet, especially when partnered with a tasty dip or salsa. "Two ounces of plain potato chips have 300 calories," Davis said. "Swap snacks for 2 ounces of plain popcorn popped with oil to save 200 calories."
Don't Be Sour
Many recipes call for sour cream, but this creamy ingredient brings along a wealth of fat and calories. Instead, switch out the sour cream for nonfat Greek yogurt, which has a similar consistency. Doing so could reduce your fat intake while boosting your protein, which will help you feel full for a longer period of time.
Baking your favorite muffins, pancakes or breads usually calls for a hefty dose of butter and sugar. To keep these favorites in your meal plans, change out the butter and sugar for applesauce. Doing so not only reduces caloric intake, but it also adds a healthy boost of dietary fiber.