Making Healthy Eating Simple and Sustainable

How often do you skip meals? Go hours without eating, only to overeat when you finally get a chance to eat? Establishing regular meal patterns and eating the majority of your calories during the daytime is vital to increasing your energy levels during the day, improving your sleep at night, and keeping your metabolism running strong. A little planning can go a long way in having nutritious meals available throughout the day.

• Plan ahead with ingredients. Many staples (like brown rice or quinoa) can be made ahead and kept in the freezer or refrigerator to use throughout the week (cooked foods kept under refrigeration should be used within 5 days). Vegetables like onions and carrots and celery and peppers can be cut in advance (or even bought precut) and kept in the refrigerator to use all week long. Toast extra seeds and nuts and keep in an airtight container until ready to use. Even proteins can be made ahead of time. Cook some chicken breasts in a slow cooker with seasonings or a flavorful sauce (such as harissa), shred and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use within 5 days.

• Join the Meatless Monday Movement! Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns, working in collaboration with the Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School for Public Health. Eating less red meat and processed meat may lower your risk of heart disease, obesity, and cancer. Adding more plant based foods to your diet can improve your quality of life and may increase your longevity. Plant based nutrition also has less of an impact on the environment. Check out meatlessmonday.com for great meatless recipes.

• Ease your evening meal rush with soups. Soups are easy to make. Many can be made in the slow cooker for a meal that is ready when you are! Soup is an easy way to increase your vegetable and bean intake, all in one pot. Leftover soup can be reheated for a midday meal.

• Salads you can prepare ahead of time make lunch time a breeze! Use large, wide mouthed mason jars, and layer dressing, lean protein (beans, edamame, or cooked chicken work really well), tougher vegetables (carrots, peppers, cucumbers), nuts or seeds or cheese, and top with lettuce. Pour out onto a plate when you are ready to eat!

• Rethink your snacks. Mindlessly eating between meals can have a negative impact on your weight and your health, but a well-timed and well-planned snack can keep your energy levels up throughout the day and stave off “hanger” (anger that occurs when you get too hungry) as well as the subsequent overeating that occurs when one becomes hangry. Treat your snack like a small meal. A hearty piece of bread topped with ricotta cheese, sliced pear, and walnuts then drizzled with honey is a great afternoon pick-me-up and a good way to get another serving of fruit (complete with fiber) into your diet. Greek yogurt, topped with blueberries and granola would make a perfect mid-morning snack. Keep a food journal to determine when hunger strikes or when there is a prolonged period of time between meals and plan your snack for that time, be it mid-morning, mid-afternoon, or after dinner depending on your schedule and metabolism. Stick to three meals and one snack per day.