4 Tips for Creating and Keeping Good Eating Habits

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles | May 2, 2017

March is National Nutrition Month – the perfect time to make a commitment to better eating, to better health and to YOU! Here are my four favorite tips to help jumpstart your healthy lifestyle and keep you there permanently!

Eat Breakfast

Breakfast may not be the most important meal of the day (they all are), but it certainly provides your body with the energy it needs to set you up for success, no matter what your day has in store. It also gives your metabolism a boost after “fasting” overnight, which is crucial if you’re looking to improve body composition. A balanced breakfast helps you manage your intake throughout the day and prevents afternoon sugar cravings, along with that dreaded 5:00 PM snack fest. When planning breakfast options, include a balance of lean protein, whole grains and fruits, and vegetables.

Here are a few tasty examples to get you started:

  • Oatmeal cooked with low-fat milk, topped with sliced almonds and raspberries
  • Scrambled eggs with spinach and diced bell peppers
  • Low-fat cheese on a slice of whole-grain toast and a pear
  • Plain nonfat Greek yogurt, mixed with canned pumpkin, cinnamon, and nutmeg

Pack Your Lunch

First of all, don’t skip lunch. I find that people skip lunch more often than they skip breakfast! We work through lunch or “hold off” until dinner, thinking that we’re saving calories. What we actually do when we skip lunch is set ourselves up for overeating later in the day. Since most of us are more active during the early part of our days, we need to fuel that activity by eating lunch! Balance lunch the same way you do at breakfast by including lean protein, whole grains and fruits, and veggies. Packing your own lunch helps create and control this balance. If you can find a healthy restaurant or takeout option, that’s always a good backup. However, remember that most restaurants do not serve large portions of veggies, so ask them to double up!

Suggestions for delicious and nutritious lunches to pack:

  • Brown rice with diced grilled chicken, chopped broccoli and roasted carrots
  • Low fat three-bean turkey chili
  • Roasted turkey, avocado, spinach and hummus on whole-grain bread
  • Quinoa, black beans, salsa and grilled shrimp in a wrap

Cook Dinner

A meal that you make at home will always be more nutrient-dense than anything you’ll order when you eat out. You can prepare a larger serving of produce and add healthier sources of proteins and fats than any professional chef can provide. Restaurants want you to keep coming back, therefore they add a lot of unnecessary sodium and high-fat sauces, served in enormous portions that we don’t need. This is especially unhealthy at dinner later in the day. If you don’t like to cook, make meals similar to what you eat for breakfast or lunch. If all meals are well balanced, it doesn’t matter whether you eat scrambled eggs for breakfast or for dinner!

Try these simple and easy dinner ideas:

  • Chicken veggie soup with roasted chicken, carrots, celery, onions, chicken broth, and whole-grain noodles
  • Whole grain pasta with sautéed lean ground turkey combined with your favorite jarred red sauce, topped with shredded spinach and mushrooms
  • Stuffed peppers, filled with cooked quinoa, black beans, cooked diced onion, sautéed diced zucchini, and low-fat shredded mozzarella and baked until the cheese is melted and pepper is soft

Count Fruits and Veggies!

Instead of counting calories, count the number of fruits and veggies that you eat each day. The final tally should equal 9 or more. Fruits and veggies not only add vibrant colors to your meals, but they also provide texture, flavor, vitamins, minerals, and fiber! To optimally fuel your body, 9 is the major number. I know it sounds like a lot, but look at it this way:

  • Breakfast – berries in your yogurt (1)
  • Snack – smoothie with banana, kale, spinach, and pineapple (4)
  • Lunch – quinoa power bowl with broccoli, cauliflower, chicken, onions, bell pepper (4)
  • Snack – carrots, and hummus (2)
  • Dinner – grilled salmon and baked potato with a garden salad made that includes romaine lettuce, cucumber, grape tomatoes, and olives (5)

Grand Total = 16! That’s a nutrient winning day!

Making a few small purposeful changes can make a BIG difference in your quest for better nutritional habits. Happy National Nutrition Month and good luck on your journey to good health!

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles's profile picture

Jennifer O'Donnell-Giles

Jenn Giles, R.D., C.S.S.D. is all about health and wellness. She has over 15 years’ experience, including a dual master’s degree in Nutrition and Exercise Physiology from Columbia University. She is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and a Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD). She supplements all of this with her spin instructor certification and USATriathlon Level I Coach Certification.

Jennifer is passionate about (actually, obsessed with) the sport of triathlon. She has been personally participating in triathlons since 2000 and running road races since 1992. She is a two-time Ironman finisher and has completed countless numerous marathons. She has been a member of Power Bar Team Elite since 2006 and competed as a member of the 2006 Aquaphor/Active.com Sponsored Athlete Team. She was ranked as USAT All American Honorable mention in 2006 and 2011. Jennifer does all of this along side of her husband, Patrick, who is an equally accomplished triathlete and runner. They try as hard as they can to do all of their training and racing together.

She will tell you, however, that her most important, most rewarding and most challenging job is as a mother of four. She knows first hand the challenges of maintaining optimal fitness, overall good health and achieving goals while raising a family - of which good nutrition is the cornerstone.

Most importantly, she knows how to motivate, inspire and challenge athletes based on their own abilities, strengths and everyday lifestyles. She believes there is an athlete in everyone - no matter what their abilities are – and if those abilities are manifold, then there is an even better athlete in there!

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