Improve nutrition a bite at a time: Small changes result in big rewards

Paula Reece

When asking the age-old question, “How do you eat an elephant?” think about the answer. “One bite at a time.”  Challenges can seem overwhelming when presented as a whole component. Breaking a task down into bite-sized pieces offers a much easier way to achieve a goal or change circumstances. The same holds true for health and fitness.

Instead of making huge changes, think about enhancing your daily routine with small changes you can live with, starting with nutrition. Nutritional changes can be small, but reap big rewards on the scale.  Here are a few ideas that can significantly cut calories:

Keep a food log to track what you’re eating, both good and bad. Writing down everything you eat and drink can help even the challenged dieter make better choices.

Limit sugar intake. You might be surprised to discover how many items contain sugar. Read product labels. Take coffee creamer, for example. I want to drink my coffee as a treat, but  I didn’t realize my creamer contained as much sugar as I was limiting myself to for the entire day. By switching to sugar-free creamer, almond milk or black coffee, I was able to cut my sugar intake significantly each day. What I found was that I didn’t really miss it and was moving closer towards my goal with just one little change.

Eat smaller, “mini-meals” throughout the day to curb hunger.  This will keep your metabolism going and help you stay more alert and focused. Eating too little sends a signal to your body to slow down and conserve. Putting your body into starvation mode can produce weight gain because your body isn’t sure when you’ll re-fuel. Smaller meals — an apple, celery with peanut butter, or cut up veggies — will keep you from getting so hungry between meals. 

Plan your meals for the day or the week. It’s easier to grab cut-up veggies and a chicken breast from the refrigerator before heading off to work. Without planning, it’s easy to make unhealthy choices when you get hungry.

Dressings and sauces are full of hidden calories that can double the total calories in a meal. Try such alternatives as balsamic vinegar, lemon juice or reduced-calorie dressing or simply go without.

Control portions. Plates seem to be getting bigger and everything is super-sized. By using ordinary items, you can  better control portions. A half cup of almonds is about the size of a golf ball.  A 3-ounce portion of cooked chicken breast is about the size of a deck of cards. The more you use these visualizations, the easier it becomes. I now look at a baked potato and see a computer mouse. That’s a much smaller portion than most restaurants serve.

Remember your water. By drinking water throughout the day, you not only hydrate your body, but also keep it feeling satisfied. Hydrating, cleansing and refreshing are great ways to think about water.

Take the big picture of nutrition and break it down into smaller parts. Ask yourself which of these tips could work for you. Try them. These tips offer a few ways to easily make small changes in your eating habits. By making small changes, you’ll be amazed at how big the results can be.