Ask The Experts: What's Your Top Get-Healthy Tip?

As registered dietitians, there are some tips we give our clients over and over again to help lead them to a healthier lifestyle. We polled nutrition experts around the country and found the top tips they’re always telling folks to start and stop doing. This week we’re starting with the top dos. Check out what they said and keep count of how many you follow.
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Sometimes we registered dietitians feel like broken records, giving clients the same get-healthy tips over and over again. But we do it for a reason -- these simple changes work!  We polled nutrition experts around the country for their most-offered dos and don'ts.  This week, we're starting with the dos.  How many do you follow?
Control Portions

Several dietitians said their top dos were all about portion control. Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE, says, “start pre-plating meats and starches, but serve fruits and vegetables family style. That way you have to get up for seconds of some foods, but others are within reaching distance.” Jessica Cox, RD advises folks to “…enjoy favorite foods but in smaller portions. You'll feel less deprived and find it easier to stick to your healthy eating goals.”

Of course when dining out controlling portions gets tough, so clinical dietitian Judy Franjieh, RD tells her clients “when going out to eat, box half your food BEFORE eating it -- that way you don't over eat.”

Control Calories

To lose weight, cutting calories is a must. Registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Marisa Moore encourages people to start their meal by filling up on the veggies. This leaves less room for the higher carb and calorie foods on the plate.

Reward Success

Heather Mangieri, a registered dietitian and private practitioner suggests rewarding success weekly. “I tell my clients to find their stickers or stars (like when we were kids and used sticker charts or got a gold star on our paper.) Maybe it’s a 10 minute chair massage, a magazine subscription or a new song downloaded onto the iPod.”

Plan Ahead

Kathleen Searles, MS, RD, LDN (a.k.a. The Lunchbox Nutritionist) tells folks to “start planning ahead about where and what you will eat so that you can make healthy food choices (which usually included my specialty of packing your own lunch and snack).” Leslie Schilling of Schilling Nutrition Therapy, LLC, says it best: “Plan ahead, even if just for 2 to 3 days — flying by the seat of your pants usually lands you in bigger pants!”

Be Mindful
Our own Katie Cavuto Boyle suggests to start being mindful of your eating. Ask yourself the following questions before you take a bite:  Are you hungry? Are you chewing your food? Are you eating quickly?
Time It

Another smart tip by registered dietitian Jessica Fishman Levinson is to “eat 3 meals and 1 or 2 snacks a day in order to keep your metabolism going, maintain blood sugar levels, and prevent becoming ravenous.”

Eat Breakfast

Janel Ovrut reminds folks to start eating breakfast – it doesn’t have to be a big sit down meal. Even half a banana or a small handful of almonds first thing in the morning is enough to get your metabolism revved.

Get In The Kitchen's nutrition expert Dana Angelo White tells her clients to start cooking more -- it doesn't have to be fancy or gourmet, just simple and fresh.

Read the Labels

"Start paying attention to 'serving sizes' on food labels to see how much you're really getting," says Bonnie Taub-Dix, author of Read It Before You Eat It and a weight-loss expert in New York.  "So many of us skip to the 'calories' not realizing that the calories listed on the package may represent an unrealistic portion size."

Finish in Style

Here's a fun tip by Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN, author of Nutrition At Your Fingertips: "When you've had enough food and are done eating, brush, floss, rinse with mouthwash or put on lipstick to signal the end of eating."

Log It!

Food journaling is another "do" that registered dietitian Melissa Buczek suggests.  "Write down what you eat daily, including when, where, how much and how you feel at all meals and snacks," she says.  "It's a powerful tool that allows you to stay accountable and increase awareness of your daily habits.”

Veggie Time

You can’t deny the importance of vegetables in a healthy diet. Grocery store dietitian Jessica Dugan tells folks to start enjoying more vegetables. "There are so many ways to add vegetables into your diet: try them in stir-fry, soup, omelets, pasta, tossed into whole grains or rice, on a sandwich, salads or roast them to bring out their rich and savory flavors," she says. "Every time you eat, try to think of a way to add to your meal."

Discover New Foods

Eating better doesn't mean eating boring, and that's why several dietitians suggested experimenting with new foods. Nutrition consultant Susan Moores, MS RD says to “add one new food to your grocery cart every week (one you’ve never tried before).  It gives you a chance to discover… new flavors, new favorites, more fun.”

If you’re looking to jazz up your snacks, VP of Health Content at Alere Heather S. Zeitz, RD has the answer.  "Get out of the banana, orange, apple rut!" she says.  "Challenge yourself to try new fruits and vegetables each week. Go more slowly through the produce section and pick up something new each time. Ever try dipping Jicama instead of chips?  Ever saute some broccolini?“

Family Time

How often do you have family time? The more often, the better, says registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Susan Weiner. "Plan to eat as a family at least three times each week! For some families eating together every night might not work, but family eating several times each week can improve communication and give you a chance to promote healthier food choices."

TELL US: How many of these tips do you already follow? Which do you plan to start?

Check back next week for the top things dietitians tell their clients NOT to do.

Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby's full bio »

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