Diet Makeover Tips From the Pros

News and Advice, Nutrition, Weight Loss
on January 1, 2010
Bonnie Dain

"I need to eat better." As dietitians, we hear this constantly, especially this time of year. But as working moms, we also know people need realistic ways to meet their healthy-eating goals. So we've come up with this simple plan to help you change the way you eat-for good.
How it works: Adopt the change suggested for Week 1, then add the advice for Week 2, and so on, and so on. Sustain all six changes, and soon you'll be toasting The Year of the Healthier You!

Week 1
Rethink your drink. Our bodies crave simple H20—not the empty-calorie beverages like soda, iced teas and energy and coffee concoctions we often drink instead. This first week, focus on trimming your consumption of these sugary liquids in half to slash a ton of calories . Carry a refillable water bottle or keep a pitcher and glass at your desk. Try flavored waters to perk up your hydration routine.
Skinny Sipper: Thinly slice a seedless cucumber and half a lime and add to a pitcher of water for a refreshing, no-cal drink. Substitute oranges for limes or use sparkling water for a twist.

Week 2
Portion your plate. Increase the health quotient of your meals by mentally dividing your plate into three sections: 1/2 vegetables and fruit, 1/4 whole grains and 1/4 lean meat or seafood. You'll get more fiber and antioxidants while controlling servings. And don't just settle for the same-old-same-old: Try roasting vegetables for deeper flavors. Experiment with different grains like couscous and quinoa. Go vegetarian once a week with a bean or soy-based dish.

Week 3
Learn how to sauté. Knowing how to do a proper sauté will help you cut the amount of fat in your diet. This basic yet versatile cooking technique using high heat with little fat is perfect for prepping veggies, lean meats, poultry and seafood. A quick how-to:
Step 1: Cut food into pieces of similar size.
Step 2: Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat.
Step 3: Heat one tablespoon of canola or olive oil for a few minutes.
Step 4: Add food to skillet. Stir often during cooking process.

Week 4
Make your sweets work for you. The American Heart Association recently suggested limiting sugar to 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. Since you cut back on sugary drinks in Week 1, be smart about your sugar "budget" by using most of it to increase your consumption of nutrient-rich foods. For instance, a sugar-sweetened chocolate milk or frosted whole grain cereal can satisfy your cravings and give you more bang for your nutritional buck than a handful of jellybeans.
Tip: To convert sugar grams listed on labels to teaspoons, divide the number of grams by 4.2.

Week 5
Start a window herb garden. Having fresh herbs handy will help you kick your salt habit, as they add a ton of flavor to home-cooked foods. Basil, rosemary and Italian parsley are versatile, easy to grow and pair well with many ingredients. Additional bonus: your new kitchen green spot will remind you of spring.

Week 6
Build a better breakfast. There's too much riding on your morning meal not to make it better. For instance, studies show that regular breakfast eaters are less likely to be overweight (inspired yet?). If you get bored with cereal and oatmeal, try this: Wrap string cheese with salsa and your kitchen basil in a whole-wheat burrito and zap in the microwave. Or grab a slice of last night's veggie pizza. Even a banana with a skinny latte is wiser than an empty stomach.

* The authors are registered dietitians and owners of Teaspoon Communications, a food and nutrition consulting group.