Whether you are trying to lose weight or improve your overall health, making big changes to your diet probably seems daunting. However, it is possible to improve your diet and your health with just a few small modifications. Try incorporating some of the ideas below, and you will find that these small changes really do add up to big benefits.
Follow the 80/20 Rule
In a perfect world, you would eat nutritious and healthy food 100 percent of the time. Striving for perfection in the real world is not only impossible, but it is also unnecessary. Following the 80/20 rule allows you to reap the benefits of a healthier diet while still allowing for splurges. Aim to follow a natural and nutritious diet 80 percent of the time, and give yourself permission to be less restrictive the other 20 percent of the time. This strategy works great if you want to be able to enjoy dining out, socializing or traveling without fear of derailing your diet.
Focus on Vegetables
Vegetables are filled with nutrients and should be the basis of most of your meals. Start your meals with a lightly-dressed salad, and fill at least half of your plate with vegetables. Try planning at least one completely meatless day a week. Meatless meals are a great way to boost your vegetable intake and experiment with new ways of enjoying these nutritional powerhouses.
Have Fruit for Dessert
Fruit is naturally sweet and nutritious. Reach for fruit instead of empty calories to satisfy your sweet tooth. Rethink your dessert, and treat yourself with sweet but healthy fruits like berries, peaches, apples and melons.
Eat Balanced Snacks
Try to structure your snacks like mini meals and include a small amount of carbohydrates, protein, and fat at every meal. Pair peanut butter or cheese with crackers or fruit for a simple snack. Your body needs carbohydrates for energy, and the protein and fat will help give your snack more staying power.
Replace sweetened drinks with water for major health benefits. Stay hydrated and avoid unwanted empty calories. Even zero calorie beverages made with artificial sweeteners can wreak havoc on your diet by stimulating your sweet tooth.
Opt for Dark Chocolate
Turn to dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher) to satisfy sweet cravings. Dark chocolate is packed with antioxidants and may even help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Enjoying a few squares of good dark chocolate will help you stay on track to meet your health goals.