If you snack on junk food and eat convenience foods on a regular basis, you probably already know that you need to change your eating habits. A diet of unhealthy foods can take its toll on your body over time, so it's important to make changes to your diet now. Here are some guidelines that you can follow in your quest to choose more healthy food:
- Follow the food pyramid. The Food and Drug Administration's food pyramid has been revamped over the past few years. But even though it has changed with the times, the underlying principle has always been the same: eat more whole foods and eat less fats and sweets. If you adapt the principles of the food pyramid into your lifestyle, you will find it easier to choose healthier foods.
- Ditch the processed foods. We live in a world of convenience and it is taking its toll on our health. Packaged and processed foods -- from artery clogging potato chips to fat laden cookies and crackers to overly processed cheese products -- are found in most American households.
One of the most important changes you can make during your journey to choose more healthy food is to eliminate packaged and processed foods from you diet. Yes, it will be hard at first and yes, it will take some getting used to (especially if you have kids in your house) but it is well worth it!
Make your own "convenience" foods by having pre-cut fruits and vegetables available for your family when they are craving a snack. The world of convenience food is everywhere, so it has indeed moved into grocery store produce aisles as well, where you can find pre-washed bagged salads, fruit chunks and pre-cut vegetables.
- Follow some simple grocery store "rules." There are a few tricks you can use when you go grocery shopping that can greatly help you to choose more healthy foods. First of all, don't go shopping when you are hungry -- you will be more prone to buy convenience junk foods if your belly is growling.
Also, always shop with a grocery a list. If you make a list of healthy foods -- and stick to it -- you can ensure that you won't be bringing junk into your house.
Finally, don't shop with your kids. Children have a way of "sneaking" junk food and sugary cereals into the grocery cart. In addition, you may find yourself bribing your child with "a treat" if he or she behaves at the store. If your goal is to choose more healthy foods, it should be a family affair. Besides, junk foods that you buy for your kids will prove to be tempting for you, especially in the early weeks of your healthy eating plan. It's best to just stick to your list and move on.
- Go organic! Gone are the days where you had to search all over creation for organic foods -- most grocery stores now carry lines of organic produce, dairy products and meats. So what are the health benefits of organic foods? Organic produce is free from pesticides and organic meat and dairy products come from animals that are not fed antibiotics or hormones.
Organic foods have more nutrients than non-organic foods and even though organic foods are more expensive, you really can't put a price on your health. Start out slowly, by buying organic fruits and vegetables and then venture over to other organic areas of the supermarket.
- Read labels and nutrition information. Most foods have detailed nutrition labeling on them, so read the labels and don't buy products that are loaded with chemicals (hint: if you can't pronounce an ingredient or have never heard of it, it's probably an additive of some sort). If you must eat at a fast food restaurant, ask at the counter for the nutrition information before you order.
- Try shopping at a variety of stores. After a few weeks of healthy eating, you may get bored of seeing the same old items at your regular supermarket. Try shopping at other stores every so often. Stores like Whole Foods Market, Wild Oats and Trader Joes have a much larger variety of organic and healthy foods than most supermarkets.
- Try something new. Part of the joy of healthy eating is experimenting with new foods and recipes. Sample a variety of exotic fruits, whole grain breads and soy products. Eat more heart-healthy fish, like salmon. Make a decision every time you put something into your mouth and stop eating unconsciously. After a few weeks of changing your habits, you will find that choosing more healthy foods will just come naturally.