Simple Steps to Healthy Eating

There are many reasons to choose healthy foods at mealtimes, but a study released earlier this year gives us one more: Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that improving the overall quality of your diet helps to prevent type 2 diabetes — regardless of whether you lose weight or exercise.

Weight loss and increased physical activity will reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes even more, of course. But even if all you do is drop the junk food and switch to a healthy meal plan, you will be better off.

Researchers found that those who incorporated more whole grains, fruits and vegetables and fewer sweetened beverages and saturated fats into their diets over a four-year period lowered their risk for type 2 diabetes by roughly 20 percent, compared to those who made no changes to their eating habits. That’s good news for people who struggle to cut back on how much they eat over a prolonged period of time, as long as they can swap the cookies and chips for nutrient-rich foods like fruit and yogurt.

HEALTHY SNACKING
Contrary to what some people think, snacking is not bad for you and can definitely be part of a healthy meal plan — assuming you’re choosing the right snacks.
Nibbling between meals can help you manage hunger, eat smaller meals, control your weight and, of course, if you have diabetes, control your blood glucose levels. You just have to be smart about how you nosh.

GO NUTS
Forego the sour cream and onion chips — which are full of extra saturated fat and salt and lacking in any nutritional value — in favor of nuts with healthy, unsaturated fats. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published last year found no evidence that eating nuts increases body weight or waist circumference, and one in the New England Journal of Medicine found that people who eat nuts frequently have a lower risk of premature death than those who eat them less frequently or not at all. Nuts are rich in unsaturated fatty acids, fiber, vitamins and minerals. And there are so many tastes and textures to choose from: almonds, peanuts, macadamias, pistachios and walnuts, to name just some.

FINISH YOUR FIVE
Having trouble fitting five servings of fruits and vegetables into your day? Snacking can help get you there. Serve up a couple of apple or orange slices, a cup of grapes, some melon or some fresh berries during the late afternoon, and don’t forget to invite your kids to join you. Fruit is naturally sweet and a great way to ward off hunger between meals.

If you would prefer something a little salty, try steaming some edamame.

DIP THIS, NOT THAT
If you love to dip, skip the pretzels and cheese and try some carrot and celery sticks, or strips of bell peppers, in hummus.

SPREAD THE JOY
If you prefer spreads, try peanut butter or hummus on whole-wheat crackers.

Just remember to keep portion sizes reasonable and to count the carbs and calories as part of your daily meal plan.