In the quest to lose weight, it is often too easy to get involved in difficult, hard-to-keep- track-of diet plans, and overlook the simple steps you can take in your life to eat healthier, and consequently, lose weight. There are many simple steps you can take at home to allow you and your family to eat better. The most important change most Americans need to keep in mind is to eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains (grains that are minimally processed or refined.)

I know what you’re thinking: I don’t have time to cook. I have two things to say to that. First, there are quick and easy cooking methods, such as stir-frying, grilling, and making salads, that take less than 15 minutes to do. Second, if you don’t have time to cook, maybe you have too much going on in your life, and it is time to take stock of your priorities. Plan meals and shopping lists ahead of time, cook ahead on weekends and freeze meals, ask your children to help prepare meals, decrease the amount of activities in your family’s life so you can have time to sit down to a meal, etc. Your health is important enough to take the time to eat right!

That said, there are easy ways to get more fresh, healthy foods on the table. Start simple. Your first goal should be to eat three meals per day. Next, have one more serving of fruit per day than you do now. Keep fresh, whole fruits washed and on the dining room table, so they are easy to grab snacks. Next, try to start with vegetables by serving them two or three times a week. (Eventually, you should be eating two vegetables with dinner and limiting all starchy carbohydrate side dishes, but start with an easy goal first.) Also, prepare your own trail mix snacks with nuts, raisins, and dried fruit that are easy to keep in the car for on-the-go snacking.

After these three suggestions become habit, you can try these next steps. First, do not serve any form of fried potatoes anymore. Serve only baked potatoes, and with low-fat plain yogurt instead of sour cream. Add in fish for dinner twice a week. Try at least one vegetarian meal per week. Add a salad to each dinner. Also, throw out any sugared, processed cereals and replace them with only high-fiber, low sugar cereals for your breakfasts.

You should now be three to six months into your healthy lifestyle changes. Finally, switch from white bread to whole wheat. Pack vegetables to take to work every other day. Drink water with meals, instead of juice or soda. Take your children to the health food store or farmers’ market to pick out vegetables and other healthy foods. Throw out all high-calorie foods in the house–if they aren’t there, you won’t eat them.

There are three other easy to remember “rules of thumb” you can incorporate into your healthy strategy. First, if it comes in a bag or a box, it is probably not healthy for you. Secondly, fresh, healthy foods have the ability to rot. If it can stay on the shelf or in the pantry for eons without spoiling, it is not a healthy food. Third, stick to the perimeter of the store when shopping. The healthiest foods are on the outside, in the produce, refrigerated, and meat sections. The pre-packaged, canned, and prepared foods in the inner aisles are generally unhealthy.

So, in six to twelve months, you have made these healthy changes in your family’s eating habits:

  1. Three healthy meals each day.
  2. A salad and two vegetables with each dinner, daily.
  3. Very limited starches/carbohydrates.
  4. Fruits and vegetables as snacks at least twice per day.
  5. Fish twice per week, and a meatless dinner once per week.
  6. No juice or soda consumption.
  7. Healthier food purchasing and preparation habits.

Best of all, you have managed to do this without counting a calorie, calculating a carb, or going on any sort of diet. I am sure the pounds are dropping and your clothes are fitting better. You are also teaching your children healthy eating habits that will last a lifetime. Healthy eating is a lifestyle change. Keep up the good work.

References: Baker, Larry C. “Picking Your Game Plan.” Energy Times, June 2004. “Healthy Family Eating.” Energy Times, June 2003. Mikell-Parsons, Suzanne, DC. “Functional Nutrition” seminar. Wisconsin Chiropractic Association, July 2004.

Source by Jessica Heller, DC, CSCS