though it’s not the new year any longer, March – also known as National
Nutrition Month – offers a wonderful opportunity to make new resolutions
regarding eating habits. Here are eight easy tips from CoxHealth dietitian
Renna Crawford to help curb hunger, lower calories and save money.
Take a salad: Salads are a great way to increase
vegetable intake, but aren’t always the most portable meal. To make salads
easier, build them in glass jars. Add one to three tablespoons of salad
dressing to the bottom of a jar before layering firm vegetables, such as
carrots or bell peppers. Next, include layers of beans, grains or pasta before
adding protein like meat, fish, egg, cheese or tofu. Soft vegetables such as
tomatoes, avocado or dried fruit are next, which can be followed by nuts, seeds
or lights grains. Last but not least, fill the remainder of the jar with
salad greens. Pack the jar fairly tightly, and refrigerate up to five days.
Batch-prep meals: Batch prepping lunch
means less temptation to pick up something quick for lunch. Set aside an
hour or two each week to prepare lunches for the week: Store and label lunches
in the fridge, making them easy to grab each day. Casseroles, soups, and
leftovers all work great for pre-portioning out into lunch containers. Add
a piece of fruit and/or a baggie of mixed vegetables to complete the meal.
Freeze ahead: When cooking at home, make an extra
serving or two and freeze for later lunches to help break up the monotony of
the “same old thing.” Having variety in lunches will help fight the
temptation of skipping home-packed lunches for something more exciting.
Stop drinking sugar: An easy way to cut
calories is to stop drinking sugary beverages such as soda, calorie-laden
coffee, energy drinks, sweet teas, lemonades, and fruit juices. Water
should be the primary beverage – but it can be made more exciting by adding
sliced berries, lemon/lime wedges, and mint.
Order ala carte: Don’t forget ordering
ala carte is an option at most restaurants. Choosing a side salad, steamed
vegetables, and a grilled meat (or sharing an entrée with a friend) will save
calories and allow enjoyment of the social setting. Skip the appetizers and
desserts; while tasty, these pack in sugars, fats, and calories without added
healthy snacks: Sometimes
work is simply too hectic for a proper lunch break, and all the best laid plans
go awry. Keep portion-controlled, healthy snacks – such as homemade trail
mix – on hand for those moments. (A simple recipe: Mix one ounce dry
roasted nuts with one tablespoon dried fruit and 1/2 cup unfrosted mini wheat
cereal. It’s a good source of fiber and healthy fats.) If space is
available, store a jar of natural nut butter and a box of whole grain crackers
at work to make a quick refuel break easy. Tuna “pouches” are shelf stable and
can also offer a quick protein lunch on the go.
That said, don’t skip lunch unless it’s completely unavoidable. Besides
providing a much-needed nutrition refuel point, it also provides a mental rest
to from daily work which is important in reducing stress. After all, stress
fuels bad choices and overeating. People might think they’re immune and that
skipping lunch is no big deal, but they might be making up for internalized
stress with just “a little bit more” at dinner or a “reward” dessert without
Taking a homemade, nutritious lunch to work gives people something else: A
little extra time, earned by skipping the cafeteria line or drive-thru. Use
five to ten minutes of the lunch break to take a short, brisk walk outside: If
the weather is bad, try stretching and strengthening muscles for five to ten
repetitions at a time. Both sunshine and exercise can help brighten mood
and support one’s healthy eating track.