Betty Says: Tricks for Eating Healthier

Let's face it: not everything we eat will be fresh from the farm.

Welcome to the second installment of “Betty Says,” where we tackle reader questions.

This week, we have:

Dear Betty,

What’s the best advice you have for someone who wants to eat better?

– Hungry in California

Hi Hungry,

I think that when it comes to eating healthy, there are two primary issues: eating better food, and better management of portions. I’ll address food quality first.

Food Quality

I’ve always been a decent eater, but have been more attentive to my consumption of fruits and veggies since the Tiny Kitchen Assistant came along almost 5 years ago. But even so, I find myself easily falling into the trap of just eating food for convenience instead. If I’m not careful, I won’t come anywhere close to reaching that old goal of 3-5 servings of each.

The best way that I’ve found to ensure better eating is to keep track of my food. I think that The Daily Plate feature of Livestrong.com is a great resource for keeping track of what you’re actually consuming on any given day, but you could just as easily jot it down in a notebook. It makes you really focus on your eating habits, and by being accountable — even if just to yourself — it subtly corrects your behavior (it does for me, anyway).

Portion Control

The more you eat out, the harder it is to control your portions. Most restaurant meals show up on a plate that could be used as a household serving platter, and contain enough calories, fat and sodium to meet your family’s weekly requirements. I use three tricks to eat healthier.

  • I cook at home. I make dinner six or seven nights a week, and post many of the recipes on this blog; they’re reasonably healthy and can typically be prepared in less than an hour even with the “help” of a Tiny Kitchen Assistant. Even my most calorie laden meal — probably my lasagna — has smaller portions and less fat and calories than its restaurant equivalent.
  • I take home half of my restaurant meal. I’ll never be the kind of person who tells you to go out for dinner and order grilled chicken and steamed veggies. You can make that at home! I absolutely believe in the restaurant splurge, but I’ve also realized that I don’t have to leave the restaurant feeling like I’m going to burst. Leftovers are a good thing.
  • The exception to the second trick comes when I’m traveling. I usually don’t have access to a fridge and microwave to reheat leftovers, and night after night of heavy meals leave me feeling sluggish. I try to balance things out by eating a relatively healthy (and relatively cheap, compared to the hotel) breakfast of oatmeal and fruit at Starbucks. I try to carry Kind bars or trail mix with me to satisfy the midday munchies. And sometimes I’ll just order something simple, without heavy sauces or tons of carbs. A grilled bison steak with a side of steamed broccoli would be a good example.
What do you say, readers? What are your tricks for healthier eating, either at home or on the road?

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