12 Nutrition Tips from Local Pros to Help You Eat Better at Home
From flexible planning to "sitting and savoring," these easy-to-implement tips will help you eat more mindfully and nutritiously.
There’s a difference between eating healthfully — so your body has the nutrients it needs and you feel good throughout your day — and dieting, which often consists of restricting calories and can be detrimental to your health. To help give you some easy-to-implement tips to nosh in a positive and healthy way at home, we chatted with local nutrition and dietitian pros Cristina Hoyt, Alexis Newman, and Liz McMahon. (To read our full story on Philly’s evolving nutrition scene, head here!)
Aim for “healthy striving” rather than restrictive goal-setting • Avoid perfectionist goals — those that are restrictive or are focused on what you “shouldn’t” be eating set the stage for failure. I encourage aiming for “healthy striving” — creating goals for yourself that are flexible and achievable. For example, rather than “I need to cut out all cookies,” say, “I’ll strive to add more fruits and veggies to my meals.”
Do some flexible planning • When you set out to incorporate more health-promoting behaviors, one of the traps is not having a plan, which can make you feel like you’re scrounging to throw together each meal or eating the same things over and over (boring!). Each week, try to come up with at least three base meal ideas (salad, grain bowl, pasta), and rotate the ingredients based on availability.
Have your staples stocked • Having basics around will help when you’re running behind. Create your own staples list by writing down the foods you typically use to make your go-to dishes. My list includes some kind of broth, a source of protein, artichoke hearts (they go great with most items for a Mediterranean-style dish), frozen veggies, canned beans, and rice or some type of grain. With these items, you can have a nutrient-dense soup or stir-fry ready in a matter of 15 minutes.
Befriend batch cooking • Batch cooking really helps you out on busy workdays. Plus, it gives you a variety of meal options throughout the week. On weekends, I’ll make a big batch of quinoa or rice, roasted sweet potatoes — or your go-to carb — pan-roasted vegetables, and some sort of protein. Voilà! You can mix and match: Pair sweet potatoes with some fried eggs in the morning, or combine rice, roasted veggies and protein for a lunchtime grain bowl.
Make your meals calendar appointments • If you’re working from home, it can be so easy to get caught up in the tasks of the day and find yourself snacking rather than eating well-balanced meals. Sometimes, snacking can leave you feeling even more hungry and fatigued during the day, because you’re missing key nutrients you need for energy and stamina. Schedule your meals (especially lunch!) in your daily calendar so they become appointments you can’t miss.
Always have a stash of frozen veggies on hand • Frozen vegetables are an easy way to increase your fiber intake. Plus, they’re nutrient-dense, since they’re typically harvested and flash-frozen at the farm. Bonuses: You don’t have to worry about them spoiling like you do with fresh, and they’re often less expensive!
Up your H2O game • Adding frozen fruit to your water is an excellent way not just to add flavor, but to stay hydrated with natural nutrients. (No artificial sweeteners here!) It will also ideally make you drink more. Even better: You’ve got an easy, healthy snack at the ready, since you can eat the fruit when you’ve finished sipping.
Sit and savor • After each bite, put the fork down. This will help you pay attention to the taste, textures and flavors of what you’re consuming, which in turn will help you eat more mindfully. Many times, we eat so quickly and inattentively that we don’t appreciate or enjoy the food.
Make your protein prep effortless • Cooking a protein-rich dish doesn’t have to require a ton of effort. Grab a rotisserie chicken at the grocery store — it comes hot and is typically lightly seasoned and budget-friendly. You can shred it for tacos or incorporate it into a salad or grain bowl. For the fish lovers out there, frozen non-marinated salmon is a great quick-meal option. You can season it to your liking at home, then throw it in the oven at 425 degrees for 20 minutes.
Learn to love seeds • Seeds are typically inexpensive, and they add fiber, protein and healthy fats to any meal. I always recommend hemp seeds, chia seeds and pumpkin seeds. They go great with both savory and sweet options — salads, overnight oats, smoothies. I also love adding them to homemade energy bites. Yum!
Cooking simple, hearty meals is a major time-saver • Preparing meals in a slow cooker saves so much time. You can just let it sit and do its thing while you go about your day. Chop up some sturdy veggies like carrots or potatoes, then add your choice of protein and a few simple spices. Bookmark some easy recipes. For example, you can make chicken with just a jar of salsa!
Canned beans > dried beans • Don’t waste your time on dried beans. Canned are inexpensive, have a long shelf life, and are very versatile. They’re also much easier to digest compared to their alternative, making them a better option especially for folks with GI issues.
This story was originally published in the Be Well Philly 2021 print issue as the sidebar to “Our Plates, Evolved.” To request a complimentary copy, follow this link.