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Do you have any healthy eating habits you're proud of? Do you have any unhealthy habits you wish you could change?

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Feeling overwhelmed? Think you'll never be able to eat healthy because of your family, your crazy schedule, or your old habits? It's not as hard as it sounds. Eating smart does require some energy and thought-but hopefully, only at first.

Be A Balancing Artist

Look at your eating one day at a time, keeping that Food Pyramid in the back of your mind as a goal. Here are some ideas that might help:

  • Think ahead. If you already know you're having barbecue for dinner, choose non-meat foods for lunch. If you're going to a party later, where there will probably be lots of junk food and sweets, skip that cookie you're eyeing as an afternoon snack.

  • Think back. Dinner is often your last chance of the day to pack in some needed nutrition. If you're deciding what to eat, reflect on what you've already eaten that day. Did you get enough veggies? Protein? Grains?

  • Think about how a little goes a long way. If you just can't enjoy your English muffin without butter, or your ham and cheese sandwich without mayo, then go for it! But instead of piling it on, try using half the amount you're used to. Most sweets and fats have so much taste that we really don't need to use that much of them.

  • Think substitutions. Try mustard instead of mayonnaise on your sandwiches, lemon juice instead of butter on vegetables, or plain yogurt instead of sour cream on baked potatoes. You might be surprised by how these "replacements" taste just as good as the old stand-bys-or better!

  • Think about eating the rainbow. Getting those five daily servings of fruits and veggies can be hard. But these foods come in all sorts of colors, and the more colors you eat, the better nutrition you're getting! Aim to "eat the rainbow" every day:

    • Blue/purple: blueberries, plums, raisins, purple grapes
    • Green: broccoli, lettuce, celery, cucumbers, green grapes, green apples, green beans, green peas, spinach
    • White, tan, and brown: potatoes, bananas, mushrooms, brown pears
    • Orange/yellow: carrots, grapefruit, oranges, peaches, sweet corn, yellow apples
    • Red: cherries, cranberries, red apples, tomatoes, strawberries, red/pink grapefruit, watermelon

    Remember, you can get some of your fruit and veggie servings from 100% fruit juice and dried fruits, too!

Be Smarter Than Food Companies and Restaurants

Now you can use your new-found nutrition knowledge at home AND when eating out:

  • Don't trust front labels. Foods that scream out "Low-Fat!" or "Sugar-Free!" can be misleading. For example, one package of cookies that's "low-fat" might contain lots of extra sugar, while that same company might make a "low sugar" cookie that's high in fat! The only way to know for sure is to read the Nutrition Facts label and the ingredients list. Choose products that are healthy overall, and not just high or low in one particular thing. When it comes to fast-food places, do a little research on your own to see how your favorite restaurants add up. You can try these cool online tools:

  • Think twice before super-sizing it! Larger portions can seem like a better value, but often our bodies don't need all that food, and eating more food than our bodies need can make us overweight. Instead, experiment with ordering regular-sized items; if you're still hungry afterwards, have a follow-up snack. Remember to take advantage of the many "lighter" alternatives chain restaurants are now offering.

  • Explore the menu possibilities. When you're at a restaurant, make sure you consider all your options, and don't be afraid to ask the server if you can make substitutions. Consider salad instead of fries with your main dish, or order dressings and sauces on the side. At fast food places, check out some of the healthier menu items now being offered. For instance, you may be able to order fruit and chocolate milk instead of French fries and soda.

Be Snack Savvy

Maybe your meals are always very healthy, but when it comes to snack time, you find it hard to eat smart. That's normal! Here are some ideas:

The best snacks for energy and concentration:

  • Cold or hot cereal, especially whole grain, topped with fruit and low-fat milk
  • Sandwiches made with pita bread, bagels, rice cakes, or whole-wheat bread
  • A bagel, or piece of fruit like an apple or banana, covered in peanut butter
  • Dried fruit mixed with sunflower seeds
  • Soft pretzels or mini-pretzels with mustard for dipping
  • Graham crackers with low-fat milk
  • A fruit smoothie made with fruit, yogurt, and milk
  • Low-fat yogurt
The best snacks for when you have the munchies, are snacking with friends, or just zoning out in front of the TV:

  • Mini-pizzas on English muffins, topped with low-fat cheese and veggies
  • Bite-sized pieces of raw veggies with a dip made from low-fat ranch dressing.
  • Mini-cups of fruit chunks like peaches and pineapples (more fun if you eat with a toothpick!)
  • Mini-sandwiches made with pita bread, bagels, rice cakes or whole wheat breads
  • Frozen grapes or frozen bananas served with light chocolate syrup
  • Popcorn sprinkled with parmesan cheese (instead of butter)
  • Low-fat cheese and crackers
In the next section, we look at how to handle Family Eating Habits.


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