With all the eating advice out there, it can be hard to know which strategies actually make sense for your life. Cue trying to do everything in your power to overhaul your eating habits, succeeding for a bit, then having a foodie free-for-all because that kind of instant change just isn’t humanly possible.
Enter registered dietitians, who make a living on helping clients cut through the noise and figure out which tactics work when it comes to sustaining a healthy lifestyle. R.D.s have amazing knowledge, and as a bonus, they’re more than happy to share. Here, 17 registered dietitians explain which healthy-eating tips they love most because, yes, they work, but they’re also habits you can make for life.
1. Focus on adding, not subtracting.
“When you think about which healthy foods you can add to your current diet versus focusing on which foods to avoid, it tends to shift you into a more positive mindset. I also encourage people to pick one or two healthy nutrition habits to practice on a daily basis rather than focusing on many things they need to change. I love these tips because they focus on sustainability of healthy-eating habits over time.”
—Rebecca Levine, M.S., R.D., L.D.N., registered dietitian at Northwestern Memorial Hospital
2. Make sure your meals’ proportions are on point.
“Always aim to have half of your meals consist of non-starchy vegetables, like salad, roasted veggies, or steamed veggies! That way, there’s not as much room for the less-healthy food choices. Also, this ensures that the meal will be full of hunger-fighting fiber and powerful phytonutrients.”
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—Kayleen St.John, MS., R.D., director of nutrition and strategic development at Euphebe
3. In general, add vegetables whenever possible.
“I always have a large bag of organic, pre-washed baby spinach in the refrigerator that I add to everything can: stews, slow-cooker dishes, chili, spaghetti sauce, scrambled eggs, and smoothies. It’s an easy way to boost your leafy green vegetable intake, get closer to the daily vegetable recommendations, and feel energized with very little extra effort!”
—Anne London, M.S., R.D.N., owner of Petite Nutrition
4. Load up on H2O.
“Drink a glass of water before every meal—it can’t get much simpler than that! Staying well-hydrated helps your body function properly, and it also helps make sure you don’t overeat.”
—Pam Bede, M.S., R.D. with Abbott’s EAS Sports Nutrition
5. Stop being afraid of healthy fat.
“When people think fat, they think calories. But healthy fat helps keep you full, makes meals more palatable, and helps stave off cravings for empty carbohydrates.”
—Certified health and wellness coach Lauren Blake, R.D., L.D.N, C.H.W.C., at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
6. Don’t skip meals.
“Eat throughout the day to ensure you are not starving, then overindulging at dinner. That’s a typical mistake: not eating early in the day in order to ‘save’ your calories for a big meal, but then you end up overdoing it.”
—Lisa Talamini, Jenny Craig’s resident R.D.
7. Slow your roll.
“We aren’t snakes, so stop eating like them! When you take the time to chew, taste, and savor your food, you naturally eat less and enjoy your meals even more. It takes around 20 minutes for your brain to catch up to your stomach, so eating more slowly can help you realize when you’re satisfied.”
—Lori Rosenthal, R.D. at Montefiore Medical Center and coach on the weight-loss app Rise
8. Read up before eating out.
“If you’re going to eat at a restaurant, research the menu beforehand to find healthy options, and try to order your choice first at the table. Having a game plan makes you more likely to stick to your nutritious choice, and ordering first ensures you won’t change your mind as a result of what others at the table are getting.”
—Sarah Rueven, M.S., R.D., C.D.N., owner of Sarah Rueven Nutrition
9. Shop smartly.
“The healthiest foods in the grocery store don’t come with a nutrition label. By filling up your cart with fruits and vegetables, you will avoid having to cut through the label madness. And when you are making a selection based on a label, look for foods with fiber and ingredients you can pronounce.”
—Jennifer Dunn, R.D.N., health advisor at Pack Health
10. Eat out of smaller containers.
“These days, bowls, plates, and cups are capable of holding multiple portions of food, but measuring out a single serving isn’t something many people are interested in doing. However, most people have containers around the house that will help them naturally restrict their portion size to one that is closer to a single serving. Try it by eating ice cream out of a teacup, cereal out of a mug, dinner on a salad plate, or even portioning a serving of nuts into a shot glass.”
—Carolyn Coulter Thiede, R.D., L.D., director of nutrition and culinary services at Wellspring Camps
11. Follow the “lean and green” rule.
“I always commit to eating one ‘lean and green’ meal a day, usually with a lean meat such as chicken or fish and a bevvy of healthy green vegetables for optimal nutrition. With so many recipe options out there, you’ll never have to repeat a meal and get bored of what you’re eating.”
—Cara Walsh, R.D. of Medifast California
12. Sniff out sneaky added sugar.
“Most Americans get more than 22 teaspoons—over 350 calories—of added sugar a day. Sugar spikes your blood glucose levels, making you feel hungry and potentially gain weight over the long-term. Plus, foods high in sugar and starches are high in calories and low in nutritional value. Look for products that have more combined grams of protein and fiber than grams of sugar. Fiber and protein slow down your digestion, make you feel full, and help keep your blood sugar in the optimal range.”