8 Secrets to Eating Smarter

empty-plate-with-forks-and-knifes-1357304-mLike most Americans, my eating habits need help. I am addicted to fast food, decadent desserts, sweet drinks and unhealthy snacking.

Most adults and one-third of the kids in this country are overweight. You can change your eating habits, but it means changing your lifestyle and learning to eat healthier on a daily basis.

You can replace the worst food offenders with healthier choices. It’s also important to watch portion control and pay more attention to your snacking.

Here are 8 secrets to eating smarter and changing your eating habits for life:

Control serving size
Most servings in fast food chains and even restaurants are over-sized. We have become accustomed to large servings and assume that this is the right amount of food to eat at a meal. Unfortunately, many of these meals contain almost all the calories and fat you need to eat in one day – packed into one meal.

You can learn to judge the right portion size of the foods you eat. Here are some common foods, and the size you should picture in order to judge portion size:

  • Medium baked potato = a computer mouse
  • Pasta = 1/2 a baseball
  • Cooked rice = a light bulb
  • Waffle = size of a CD
  • Muffin = tennis ball
  • Bagel = hockey puck
  • Cheese = four dice
  • Meat or fish = deck of cards or palm of your hand
  • Peanut butter = golf ball
  • Portion of fat = poker chip
  • Dessert = 1/2 a baseball

Plan for dining out
It’s important to remember portion sizes when you are eating out at restaurants. As we mentioned earlier, when dining out the meals can be enough food for two or three people.

Here are some tips to curbing portion size at restaurants:

  • Order a half portion or kids’ meal
  • Box up half of a full-size entree before you even start eating
  • Split a dish with your partner or a friend
  • Eat a healthy appetizer with a soup or salad instead of a main entree

Use a smaller plate
As a kid, you may have been told to clean your plate. You may have been taught not to waste food. The problem is that dinner plates – at home and in restaurants – have gotten bigger. We also load them up with more food than we need. If you are cleaning your plate, you are probably eating too much.

The secret is to use a smaller plate. It may seem silly, but it can help. You are forced to take smaller portions, and you may make better choices knowing you have less room on your plate. Even if you go back for seconds, you are still eating less than you did with bigger plates. Put leftovers away right after the meal, so you aren’t tempted to come back and graze.

Look for whole grains
Pizza, pasta, rice and tortillas can load on calories and fill you up with white flour and refined grains. These flours and grains have been processed to remove the bran. The bran is full of fiber and vitamins. Choose whole grain wheat, rice, barley and other grains when you can.

Watch our for solid fats
Most saturated and trans fats are solid at room temperature. These fats are found in butter, margarine, shortening, coconut oil and animal fats. Creamy dishes, fatty cuts of meat, some cheeses, bacon and chicken skin all have solid fat. While some fatty foods are good for you, you may want to learn the truth about good and bad fats.

Cut back on sugar
As a whole, we eat too much sugar. It’s just so easy! We have sodas, sports drinks, cookies, cakes and every kind of yummy pre-packaged treat. Desserts have also become over-sized and packed with sugar and unhealthy fats. The average American eats 22 teaspoons of sugar a day when we should only eat about 6 to 9 teaspoons. Artificial sweeteners may not be any better for us than real sugar. Read more in 6 Truths about Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners.

Eat more nutritious foods
As you cut back on portion size, you can also add in more healthy and nutritious choices to your diet. Instead of fatty meats, choose lean protein and seafood. Fish is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Choose whole grains instead of refined white flour and grains. Add in more fruit and vegetables, eggs, low-fat dairy and beans. Cut back on butter and margarine, and choose olive and canola oil. These oils are good for your waistline and your heart.

Keep an eye out for food frauds
Many healthy foods can wreck your diet if you go overboard on the serving sizes. Here are some good for you foods that should still be consumed in moderation:

  • Avocado
  • Red wine
  • Chocolate
  • Nuts
  • Trail mix
  • Dried fruit
  • Energy bars
  • Smoothies

It’s hard to change eating habits that may have been developed when we were kids. It takes practice and hard work to create healthier habits. By starting with portion control and thinking about the foods you eat each day, you can learn to eat smarter and create better habits for life!

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