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1. Eat food that is as close to its natural form as possible.
This means eating a fresh apple found in the produce section of your grocery store, rather than a processed form found in a can, box, or bag. This might even extend to the pre-packaged produce section as some produce is treated with a sodium solution which adds unnecessary sodium to an otherwise healthy choice.
Be cautious - the more obvious products found within the aisle of the grocery store can also have added sodium, sugar, and other unnecessary ingredients.
2. Eat more fruits and veggies.
Most Americans do not meet the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables as found within the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Including these foods in each of your meals will give your body the necessary vitamins and minerals required for normal metabolism, function, and repair. They also include a good amount of fiber which has been suggested to lower cholesterol, be heart healthy, and keep you regular.
If you can’t keep fresh produce in your home because you only grocery shop once per month, at least choose frozen produce over the canned variety. But again, check the ingredient list to make sure you’re only buying the fruit or vegetable and not added, unnecessary ingredients.
3. Choose whole grains.
There is a whole aisle in your grocery store dedicated to breads. What really makes each loaf different from one another other than color and price? Look on the front of the package to see whether the food contains “whole grains.” Then flip the package over and look at the ingredient list.
Are there a lot of ingredients you can’t pronounce or ones you wouldn’t be able to buy to make your own loaf of bread?
If there are, keep moving down the aisle until you find a loaf that lists real ingredients. This also extends to other starches like pasta, pita, and tortillas.
4. Limit added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats.
Let’s face it. Convenience products (pre-packaged, ready mixes, canned foods) found within most grocery stores have lots of ingredients added to them to keep them self-stable and last longer on the shelves. But these products can definitely be useful when it is time to make a meal after a long day/night at the office.
If you find yourself in need of these products, decide which ones you really don’t have time to make yourself (like chicken broth or tomato sauce) and weed out the others. But choose wisely and select low-sodium or low-sugar varieties of those needed food items.
5. Drink more water.
Most people don’t drink enough water throughout the day. Water is great calorie-free fluid that helps regulate body temperature, assist in metabolism, and can assist with a healthy skin appearance. Do you find that you often drink sweetened beverages, soda, or milk-based coffee beverages? Some people would be amazed how many calories they drink throughout the day when they actually write it down.
Start by replacing one of those beverages per day with a bottle of water, and choose the low-calorie version of other beverages.
For example, ask for fat-free milk or sugar-free flavored syrups in your coffee drink, or select a diet soda or a smaller bottle of soda. Over time, replace more of those calorie-laden beverages with water instead. There is no exact water recommendation for everyone, but a good goal would be to shoot for those eight, 8-ounce glasses per day
Katie Miller, RD, LDN, CSCS, is a registered dietitian with dual bachelor degrees in criminal justice and nutrition and dietetics. She has served as a police officer in her previous local community, has trained with the Marine Corps, and currently trains with the U.S. Army as a commissioned officer. At the NSCA, Katie currently works as a nutrition consultant and tactical athlete coordinator.
United States Department of Agriculture and United States Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. 7th Edition, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 2010.