As a registered dietitian nutritionist, these 10 healthy “hacks” are things I try to practice in my everyday life and recommend to others as well. When it comes to becoming a healthier person, it’s all about small lifestyle changes.
1. “Whole” or no go
Turns out nutrition can be a little tricky when it comes to grains. In order to get the most benefits from your grains, you want to make sure the keyword “whole” is the first word listed in the ingredients. This means it is the wholegrain, so it has the bran, germ, and endosperm (AKA all the good parts filled with vitamins and minerals) whereas refined grains only have the endosperm which is the primarily starchy part. So next time you are almost tricked by just wheat bread, make sure to check the food label and ensure that it’s whole grain bread.
2. More ZZZs please
Yes, yes, yes. You’ve been told a million times that you need more sleep, but what you may not know is that your health can take some real hits without proper rest. Weight gain, poor workout performance, and increased risk for certain diseases are just a few of the possible negative health effects. So next time you hit the pillow, make sure to shoot for the recommended 8 hours of sleep!
3. Let’s get steamy
Never know how to handle those veggies when it comes to mealtime? Turns out that steaming is one of the best methods for getting the maximum nutrient content because it retains the most water! If you are in a hurry at dinner time, throw your veggies into a ziploc bag for a few minutes.
4. Simple swaps
Sometimes it’s simple trade-offs that can make the greatest impact on our health. Try to implement small changes in your daily life like choosing skim milk or almond milk instead of whole milk for that bowl of cereal. Or choose to satisfy that late night craving with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. Or instead of just drinking fruit juice, try to eat the fruit in its whole form (it will have more fiber, nutrients, and natural sugars this way)! Here are some more ideas for possible swaps.
5. Balanced B-fast
Most know that breakfast is said to be the most important meal of the day, but what goes into that meal is just as important. Make an effort to make your breakfast high in protein and fiber to satisfy you throughout your mornings. Try make ahead breakfast options like overnight oats, yogurt parfaits, or egg bites.
6. Chug, chug, chug (water)
Hydration is a super important part of staying on top of your health. Aim to drink half your bodyweight in ounces. So for example, if you weigh 140 pounds, you should shoot to drink 70 ounces or about 9 cups a day. Time to fire up those water bottles (or gallon-sized water jugs if you prefer).
7. Find fitness for you
Fitspiration is all around — magazines, Pinterest, endless Instagram fitness accounts. But ultimately, everyone is different, especially when it comes to their ideal workout plan. Get creative and try different workouts to find what works best for you. Whether it’s the squat rack, cycling, weight training, a 10 minute ab workout, walking, or dance classes — any fitness you enjoy is good fitness.
8. Added sugar, not so sweet
Sugar is the big bad guy in the nutrition world. While I believe sugar can definitely be a part of balanced diet and consumed for enjoyment, it can have certain health implications when it is over-consumed. It is important to be aware of the potentially harmful effects of our everyday sugar-filled foods and try to reduce our added sugar intake.
Try things like cutting back on sugar-sweetened beverages, opting for fruit for dessert, or aim to make your own granola bars without all the added sugar. On a side note, right now it is difficult to tell which sugars are natural vs which sugars are added, but stay tuned as the new nutrition facts labels rolling out will make this more clear.
9. Smart snacking
Snack time is the best time, and there’s no need to feel guilty about it either. Healthy snacks are a great way to curb cravings, keep your brain fueled, and control weight. Try pairing hummus and veggies or an apple and some nut butter next time that 3 o’clock stomach growl sounds.
10. Make your plate MyPlate
When I say this, I don’t mean to say that you have to divide out your food perfectly into the MyPlate categories, but do strive to make your day of meals and snacks balanced with grains, protein, veggies, fruit and dairy. Confused about portion sizes for these? Well then, your right hand just became your right-hand-man. Use your palm to measure out a portion of protein such as chicken or beans. A fist represents a serving of vegetables. A cupped hand represents a serving of carbs. Thumbs up– the top of your thumb is a portion of fats like peanut butter or salad dressing.
Like any good message on health, it’s all about balance. So while it may not be practical to try all these healthy hacks at once, try to think about what make sense for you and slowly start to implement it into your everyday life.