Are you a healthy eater?

The key to healthy living is developing healthy eating habits.

Eating healthy can be a challenge with so many temptations that can sabotage our efforts. If we can become aware of cues that steer us to unhealthy choices, we can learn to slowly change those unhealthy eating habits to healthier ones. Let’s explore some eating habits that can be improved upon in the quest to becoming a healthy eater.

Do you go to fast food restaurants weekly or eat out three or more times per week?

With busy lifestyles that are “on the go” most of the time, this habit is easy to create. A quick trip through the drive-thru for the dollar menu or a family value pizza dinner seem harmless but when this becomes a routine weekly or more, it can provide extra unwanted calories, fat and sodium into your families diet missing out on valuable nutrients. Eating a meal at a restaurant can provide double the amount of calories than eating a homemade meal at home. Planning out your meals and packing lunches and snacks that are nutrient-dense will lead to healthier eating. Shopping goes hand in hand with meal planning and having healthy foods in the house will promote healthy eating.

Do you choose processed foods, packaged foods and fried foods daily?

This choice would consist of foods like potato chips, French fries, fried chicken and cookies to name a few. Processed foods can be any food that is not in its natural state. This includes canned fruits and vegetables and frozen pizza. Many processed foods contain added nutrients that have been lost during processing and contain added sugar or sodium as preservatives. Careful label reading can help you make smart decisions on processed foods. Decrease your intake of processed foods overall and choose less processed or whole foods to add more nutrients to your body. When cooking at home, use as many foods that have not been processed to make you meals as possible. Home cooked meals do not have to be gourmet but are beneficial when they contain many nutrients. This can be a pot of turkey chili or quesadillas made with vegetables and black beans.

Do you tend to skip meals?

Eating regular meals and regular times each day leads to better blood sugar control and less overeating at night. Work towards at least three meals a day incorporating three food groups into each meal. A variety of foods helps to provide your body with the necessary nutrients to stay healthy. Incorporating fruits and vegetables into each meal packs a powerful punch for nutrients and also helps to control blood sugar levels. An example of a meal with three food groups is grilled chicken, vegetable salad and quinoa.

What is your choice of drink?

Water is life. Choosing sugary drinks like soda, lemonade, sweetened tea and special coffee drinks throughout the day can take the place of drinking water which can become a problem. Water plays many roles in our body from our kidney function to hydration and electrolyte balance. Chronic dehydration can cause many health problems. Not everyone who drinks soda or coffee is unhealthy but in excess, these drinks can become a problem. Drink lots of water.

If you are not already practicing these tips, start slow and you will be on the road to being a healthy eater. Not all healthy eaters are perfect so if you overdo it, get back on track immediately. For more information on a healthy lifestyle, visit Michigan State University Extension at www.msue.msu.edu

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