1. Try Something New
Life is short, the menu is long, and the odds favor the adventurous eater. Variety ensures a nutrient-rich diet and a much happier diner. Eat your way through the color palette―in foods, each color reflects a different set of key nutrients that your body needs. Experiment with different cooking methods to entertain your palate, expose your family to exciting new dishes, and keep yourself learning and growing as a cook. You'll never run out of new things to try and never, ever, grow bored.
2. Choose Healthy Fats
This "less is more" approach to fats is so over. We now know that it's the type of fat that matters. Research shows that certain fats―from vegetables, nuts, and fish―actually promote good health. You probably already know the delicious potential of starting a cooked dish with healthy fat (olive oil is the de rigeur choice these days). Take the next step: Finish a dish with a delicious, healthy oil made from hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, sesame, avocados, or even pine nuts to add a lovely nuance to salads, grains, fish or vegetables.
3. Cook More Often
No simple, inexpensive, daily deed has more positive impact on your family's health, togetherness, and quality of life. Family meals matter, in so many ways. If you think you're too busy to cook on most weekdays, we've got hundreds of quick-and-easy recipes that prove otherwise. All it takes is a little planning. Take 15 minutes right now to choose and print a few recipes from our Superfast and 5-Ingredient collections. One shopping trip later, you're prepared to have dinner on table in less time than it takes to get takeout.
4. Eat Less Processed Meats
The reasons continue to mount. Many processed meats contain nitrates, implicated in cancer. The compounds formed by browning or charring meat, poultry, and fish are linked to disease. Meat-centric eating pushes healthy foods, like vegetables or whole grains, to the side of the plate (or right off it). You don’t need to give up meat entirely, though. Use meat for flavor instead of filler (think stir-fries or pastas with bits of chicken). Treat meat as a side. Eat fish. Go meatless one night a week. And when you do opt for beef, splurge on grass-fed.
5. Eat More Whole Foods
It's no news that processed foods—even those with wholesome-sounding ingredients—reduce the flavor and health benefits of the foods they contain to a shadow of their natural selves. Populations with diets based on whole foods tend to see lower rates of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other health problems. Eating more whole foods increases your consumption of fiber and complex carbohydrates and cuts your intake of dietary pitfalls such as simple sugars, refined carbs, and salt. Best reason of all? Whole foods, particularly those at their peak, taste great and celebrate the changing seasons.
6. Eat Breakfast
The path to weight loss begins with a good breakfast. An impressive 78 percent of the 5,000 participants in the National Weight Control Registry report eating a regular breakfast―and they have lost an average of 66 pounds, maintaining that for more than five years. Mornings tend to revolve around habits, so breakfast makes a great opportunity to incorporate whole grains, fresh fruit, and low-fat dairy into a day that starts with good choices.
7. Indulge Adventurously
A healthy approach to eating includes the right to satisfy that part of the soul that craves butter, chocolate, and cheese―in modest portions. And if you're going to indulge (which you will, as you should), make it utterly worthwhile. Splurge on top-rate chocolate and high-quality cheese. Have slice-and-bake cookie dough in the freezer for moments when your sweet tooth might settle for a candy bar. Host a tasting party and have guests bring one gourmet food or drink to share with all. Small, smart indulgences go a long, long way toward enjoyment.
8. Eat Out Creatively
We live in the golden age of restaurant eating in America. Might as well enjoy it. Our food renaissance is reviving endangered traditions, celebrating local provenance, and blending the ideas and ingredients that different cultures brought to this country. Might as well enjoy it. Make the most of each restaurant outing by choosing wisely. Order what you don't cook. Choose difficult dishes. Favor the labor intensive. If you can splurge a bit, book the chef's table―think of it as dinner and a show.
9. Be Portion-Aware
Even though you may know what makes a healthy meal, it's still possible to eat too much of a good thing. Learn what reasonable portions look like. (It helps to borrow or buy a kitchen scale; once you've seen a 4-ounce portion of beef or a 2-ouce portion of pasta, it's easier to gauge them by sight.) Find clever ways of sticking with right-size portions. Set aside leftovers before you eat, at home or in restaurants. Use smaller plates. Read and heed nutrition labels―one food container, even a small one, often holds more than one serving.
10. Drink Well
The same awakening to the joys of authenticity and variety that is transforming food in America also informs the world of wine, beer, and spirits. If you need reason beyond the pleasure of discovering the singular flavors and complexities present in such libations, consider this: One drink a day for women (two for men) is statistically associated with heart health―and not just wine, any alcohol. Research also suggests that those who drink regularly as an integrated part of a food-centered, social lifestyle―think of the French, Spanish, and Italians―are more likely to enjoy the heart-healthy payoff. Cheers.