1. Prepare meals from scratch whenever you can
When you cook for yourself using whole, fresh ingredients, you can monitor your sodium, sugar, and fat levels — something that is difficult to do when you eat out or buy prepared food. Preparing meals at home is also cheaper than eating out.
Besides ensuring that you get adequate nutrition, preparing meals from whole foods may also impact your mood. Studies have suggested a possible link between eating heavily processed foods — such as fast food and processed baked goods — and an increased risk of depression. Other studies, alternately, suggest that diets high in vegetables, whole grains, fruits, and fish may be associated with reduced risk of depression. More studies, however, are needed on the link between depression and diet.
2. Eat smaller portions (on smaller plates)
Restaurant portions are often enough for two or three people. Control your portion size by ordering an appetizer or a small plate instead of an entree, or by sharing an entree with a friend.
At home, serve meals on small plates, which can make your portion feel larger. Studies have shown that people are more likely to overeat when they are eating from larger plates.
3. Avoid sugary drinks (including fruit juice)
Daily drinking of sugary drinks such as soda and fruit juice increases the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. In addition, the fructose in these drinks does not make the body feel full, so soda drinkers tend to consume more total calories than those who do not drink soda.
4. Drink coffee (in moderation and without sugar)
Coffee drinking is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and may be associated with lower risk of dementia, and Alzheimer’s, although adding sugar can negate some of the health benefits.
While drinking too much coffee can cause anxiety and insomnia in some people — largely depending on genetics — a recent study out of Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, suggests that for adults consuming three to four cups of coffee per day, “there is little evidence of health risks and some evidence of health benefits.
5. Plan meals and make extra for leftovers
Meal planning helps you keep an eye on nutrients and ensure you are getting a well-balanced diet. Plan a few meals a week around recipes you and your family like, and shop for those ingredients.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but how many times have you been caught hungry with an empty fridge and ended up ordering delivery or going out to eat? Make enough food to have leftovers for another day or two and you’ll only need to cook two or three days a week.