The best ways to “eat healthy” depend on your goals. Once you know what you’re working toward — like eating fewer calories or more protein — use the tips below from New-York-based registered dietitian Isabel Smith and Ilyse Schapiro, registered dietitian and co-author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? to make it happen:
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO CUT CALORIES:
1. Eat cold greens instead of warm ones. Crisp lettuce takes up more room on the plate and requires more crunching. While it’s probably not the greens themselves that pack on the pounds, there’s something to be said for filling up your plate (and your mouth) with salad instead of other stuff.
2. Opt for plain, dark meat poultry instead of light meat loaded with condiments. Dark meats (like chicken thighs) get a bad rep for containing more fat and calories per ounce than white meat (like chicken breast). But dark meat, which tends to be more moist and flavorful than its lighter counterpart, only has about 10 more calories per ounce, according to Schapiro. And because light meat tends to be on the dry side, you end up covering it in condiments, which can contribute loads of calories that settle the score.
3. Instead of sharing an appetizer and ordering your own meal, order your own appetizers and split an entree. When you share apps, you’re more likely to agree to order unhealthy ones (Nachos, anyone?) — and starters tend to be more appropriately portioned for one than some of the colossal entrees you see on menus, so you’ll save calories by eating less food overall.
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO EAT MORE PROTEIN:
4. Add chicken to your pizza. A measly 3 ounces of chicken can add about 25 grams of protein to your meal, according to Smith.
5. Use Greek yogurt instead of mayo. Smith likes this trick because Greek yogurt contains about 10 times as much protein as mayonnaise.
6. Mix in a liquid that forms on top of yogurt. As unappetizing as the cloudy water might appear, that liquid is worth eating because it contains valuable whey protein. Mix it back into the yogurt and try to forget what you saw when you peeled back the lid.
IF YOUR GOAL IS TO CUT BACK ON CARBS:
7. Wrap sandwiches in lettuce instead of bread. You’re still eating a burger (or chicken sandwich, or whatever) — so that will taste just as good. And the lettuce gives the whole thing a crunch that’s different from bread but not entirely terrible.
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8. Start your meal by eating protein. Protein is more substantial and satisfying than anything you’ll find in a breadbasket. Start your meal by eating your main — chicken, fish, etc. — and eat the rice, pasta, or bread after if you’re still truly hungry, Smith suggests.
9. Swap whole wheat flour for regular when baking. It contains more indigestible fiber than white flour, so your body absorbs fewer carbs, explains Smith.