St Mary's Guardian Pharmacy

6 Ways To Eat Better Starting Today

Slim your waistline, improve your health and boost your energy with these easy nutrition tips.

You're beautiful and wonderful at any size. But you may not be your healthiest if you're overweight or obese, as these conditions put you at higher risk of diabetes, heart attack, stroke and some cancers. If you're plus-sized, as two out of three Canadians are, fret not. Shedding pounds to protect your health isn't an impossible challenge. The combination of making good food choices and being active most days of the week will help you trim down and enhance your energy level so you feel great. Don't delay. Start getting healthier now with these eat-better solutions.

1. Downsize your portions
In North America, we suffer from portion distortion – everything is super-sized – and we generally eat far more than we need. So, reducing the amount of food you consume is important when you're cleaning up your diet. Just don't go overboard. For women, aim for 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day, and men go for 1,800 to 2,100 calories, to slowly and steadily lose weight without feeling deprived, says Nancy Guppy, a registered dietitian and chef instructor at Chapman's Landing Cooking Studio in Nipissing, Ont.

The easiest way to whittle portion sizes and calorie intake is to follow the plate method: Fill 1/2 your dish with vegetables, 1/4 with lean protein such as chicken breast, and 1/4 with a complex carbohydrate such as brown rice.

2. Eat more veggies and fruit
Many of us have a tendency to overdo meats and starches and to under-do produce. Canada's Food Guide calls for men to have eight to ten servings of vegetables and fruit and women to have seven to eight servings a day. Not only are these foods low in calories and high in fibre (which keeps you full for longer), they're packed with nutrients that your body needs to function well.

For the sake of your health, don't get stuck on just one shade of produce. "You need to choose a variety of colours, because different colours contain different nutrients," explains Guppy. For example, things that are red, such as watermelon and tomatoes, offer lycopene – an antioxGuardiannt associated with lower risk of heart disease and cancer, she says; while orange items, such as squash and carrots, provide beta-Carotene - a phytonutrient your body converts into eye-protective and immune-boosting vitamin A.

Not sure how to get the amount of vegetables and fruit you need? Stick to aforementioned plate method and your veggie consumption will automatically go up. As well, keep cut up raw veggies in the fridge and a supply of fresh fruit on hand for snacks, and frequently enjoy salads made with darker greens, such as romaine lettuce, spinach and arugula.

3. Have protein with each meal
Believe it or not, a bit of protein-rich food a few times a day can help slim your waistline. "Have some with breakfast, lunch and dinner to help you stay full for longer," says Guppy. When you feel satiated, you're less likely to reach for high-calorie, nutrient-void foods that promote weight gain. Choose modest amounts of leaner items, such as eggs, chicken breast, fish, tofu, beans and yogurt. Consult Canada's Food Guide for serving size recommendations.

4. Choose whole grains
Muffins, pastas, breads and desserts made with white flour may be delicious, but they're not good for your weight or health. They're usually high in calories and low in nutrients and fibre. Instead, eat whole grains, such as brown rice, whole wheat, millet and quinoa, and items made from them (make sure the ingredient list says ‘Whole Grain'). "They take longer to digest (than white flour products) and their glucose is absorbed more slowly into the blood stream, so you feel full longer and you have better blood glucose control," explains Guppy. What's more, whole grains provide soluble fibre that helps keep your cholesterol in check and your bowels working well.

If you're not ready to completely phase out the white stuff, follow Guppy's advice: "Start by making half your grain choices whole grain, then move to 100 percent."

5. Ditch calorie-rich drinks
A simple way to trim calories from your diet is to avoid pop, juice and alcohol. It's smart to keep your java consumption down too, especially if you like it double-double. "If you drink coffee, have it only at breakfast and put milk in it, not cream," says Guppy. "Have herb teas during the day if you need something hot because they're non-caloric." In order for your body to be and stay healthy it needs water, so make it your go-to drink. (H20 also keeps you energized!) If you're a pop drinker and desperately need a fizzy-fix, try mineral water with a splash of cranberry juice.

6. Start snacking
Eating every three to four hours helps you lose weight. Having three balanced meals and two snacks reduces your cravings and ensures you never become ravenous – and when you're not starving, you're less likely to overeat. This frequent munching also keeps your blood sugar and energy levels steady throughout the day.

It's not only how often you eat, but what you eat that matters. Choose snacks that provide a bit of fibre and protein, such as whole grain crackers with a slice of cheese, an apple with a few almonds or blueberries with a small low-fat yogurt.

Tip for success
To ensure you eat better for life, consider adopting these strategies one at a time. Change is less overwhelming and more sustainable for many people when it happens over time.