Minor nutrition changes can bring major long-term benefits to your health and wellbeing. Here are six healthy dietary tips to consider.

Great Grains

Whole grain products have more fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Look for 100% whole wheat flour as the first ingredient on labels for breads and pastas. Oats, brown rice, quinoa, farro and barley are excellent whole grains to try. Fiber helps your stomach feel full, often with less calories, which can aid in weight maintenance or loss. Fiber is also helpful for regulating blood sugars, removing extra fats and cholesterols from the body, and promoting regular bowel movements.

Choose Fats Wisely

Fats are an important part of a healthy plate because they aid satiety and help vitamin absorption, among other functions. Prioritize unsaturated fats containing omega-3 fatty acids from foods like avocado, salmon, walnuts, olive oil, and flax seed. These foods can reduce inflammation in the body and increase HDL “good” cholesterol.

Abstain from high fat deep-fried foods like potato chips, French fries and donuts which contain a lot of calories without nutrition. Avoid excess saturated fat, the solid kind of fat found in meat, butter, full-fat dairy products, coconut and palm oils.

Vary your Victuals

Choose a variety of foods from each food group — grains, vegetables, fruit, lean protein and dairy. With all of the food groups, choose new varieties, colors and textures. Consider vegetarian sources of protein like beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, tofu, and eggs instead of meat.

Try different cooking methods and use new spices to accent the flavors of your food. The internet provides more than a lifetime’s worth of recipes from all of the world. Have fun and try something new!

More fruits and vegetables

Choose fruits and vegetables in an assortment of colors for the broadest range of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber. Each color of produce represents a different nutrient profile; choose red, orange, yellow, green, blue/purple, and white produce every day!

Think of ways to include produce in your day – mushroom and spinach in an omelet, berries added to a yogurt snack, and sautéed bell pepper in a burrito. Raw vegetables with hummus are delicious — try sliced jicama, daikon radish, and cucumber spears, or bell peppers. Add extra vegetables to soups, stews, casseroles and pasta sauces.

Eat a fruit and vegetable with every meal and by the end of the day you will have six servings of these highly nutritious foods. Plan to include fruits and vegetables at every meal and snack to meet the goal of 8 or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily.

Turn off the TV; Watch what you eat instead.

Actively choose and prepare your own food whenever possible. Many meals are consumed on the run, in the car, in front of the TV or in noon business meetings. Taking time to enjoy your food and actively engaging yourself in the preparation process more often than not makes us personally responsible for the food we put in our mouths. When we’re able to couple nutrition knowledge with personal responsibility, we’ll all be empowered to improve our own health.

Pop Goes the Waistline

Americans consume billions of gallons of soda and other sweetened beverages each year. As the weight and waistline increases, so does risk of chronic disease such as heart disease and diabetes. Swap your soda for flavored seltzer, water with a squeeze of citrus, or unsweetened iced tea, and save the soda, diet or regular, for special occasions and only in small amounts.

Walk the Walk! (Bonus!)

Nutrition needs its “partner in health”: physical activity. Strive to move more every single day whether you are working out or doing household chores. Set your sights on 60 minutes of some kind of movement daily.

Moving forward…

Choose one idea at a time and stick to it and once it becomes second nature, tackle another. Nutrition will make a difference in your health, and I urge you to consider some of these simple tips to start on your journey.

Jenny Wood, RDN, LD, is a clinical dietitian at CHI Mercy Medical Center.

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Soft drinks, like all the beverages made by our industry, are safe to consume as part of a balanced diet. The sugar used in our beverages is the same as sugar used in other food products. We don’t think anyone should overconsume sugar, that’s why we’re working to reduce the sugar people consume from beverages across the country. Additionally, low- and no-calorie sweeteners have been repeatedly confirmed as safe by regulatory bodies around the world.

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