Congratulations! You’ve decided to clean up your diet to buoy energy, banish fatigue, possibly lose a few pounds and achieve greater general health. But if your goal is simply to “eat better,” chances are you’ll fall short. Broad objectives are difficult to maintain because there is no metric of success—does “eating better” mean choosing a turkey burger over a beef burger or does it mean eating eggs for breakfast?
“I find that committing to one to two small changes doesn’t feel as painful for people—but it can create big results,” says Kate Geagan, RD, author of Go Green Get Lean, who adds that making extremely detailed goals sets you up for healthy food victory. “The goal ‘eat more veggies’ is too vague.” Instead, your goal should identify what foods you’ll swap the junk with, for example, instead of eating chips, eat one cup of edamame with sea salt.
Here, we pair important health goals with tangible food and beverage recipe ideas to help you truly “eat better” for the long term.
Goal: pack my lunch
Save money, control what you eat during the day and ditch scrounging for whatever sugar-laden nutrition bar is hiding in your desk by brown-bagging it to work or school. Commit by stocking up on widemouthed, quart-sized mason jars with tight-fitting tops to use instead of plastic or single-use brown bags. Lunch is a prime time to incorporate more healthful veggies into your diet, so try packing a filling salad.
Mason Jar Lunch Salad
2 tablespoons balsamic salad dressing
1/4 cup each of diced red peppers, diced carrots, diced cucumber and halved cherry tomatoes
3 tablespoons roasted, salted sunflower seeds
2 cups organic baby kale
Starting with the dressing at the bottom, layer the following ingredients in a quart-sized mason jar; tightly screw on the cap for safe transport. When ready to eat, open the jar and shake the contents into a large bowl and toss to incorporate the dressing into the greens.
Goal: eat breakfast
Eating breakfast can reduce your body mass index (BMI), suggests ample research, including one large observational study with 57,000 participants. But scrambling eggs while you’re scrambling to get out the door is tough. The fix? Prioritize breakfast prep for the entire week when you have the time, such as on Sunday night, to streamline your morning routine and ensure breakfast isn’t an afterthought.
Egg & Veggie Breakfast Burritos
2 bell peppers, thinly sliced
10 eggs, scrambled
2 cups raw spinach
1 1/2 cups shredded Monterey jack cheese
5 whole-wheat tortillas
Packed with protein, fiber and vegetables, these burritos are portable and delicious. Sauté bell peppers in olive oil, then scramble with eggs, spinach and cheese; wrap in tortillas as burritos. Wrap each burrito in parchment paper and place all in a large ziptop freezer bag. Freeze for up to one month. To eat, place a damp paper towel over the burrito to avoid dryness, and microwave for 4–5 minutes. Makes 5 burritos.
Goal: lower my alcohol intake
If you want to lower your alcohol consumption but don’t want to eliminate it from your diet, Geagan recommends diluting white wine with carbonated seltzer. Bonus: In addition to reducing alcohol, replacing half the volume of wine with unsweetened seltzer will slash calories and sugar from each glass.
Summer White Wine Spritzer
3 ounces dry white wine, such as pinot grigio (about half a typical pour)
1/2 cup seltzer water or club soda
slice of lime and 1 mint sprig
Assemble the ingredients on right in a standard, long-stemmed wine glass. Add crushed ice and sip slowly.
Goal: reduce sugar
Excess sugar consumption places you at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes and inflammation-based conditions like heart disease and stroke. Most Americans eat far more sugar than the American Heart Association’s recommended limit of 6 teaspoons (about 24 grams) of added sugar per day—less than the amount of sugar found in one Coke.
Berry Dessert Yogurt Parfait
1/2 cup plain skyr
1/2 cup sliced strawberries
2 tablespoons granola
Research from the Cornell Food & Brand Lab indicates you are less likely to eat sugary junk food if it’s out of your line of vision. Protect yourself from cravings by placing ice cream in the back of your freezer. Place better-for-you after-dinner snack options—such as ingredients for this tangy yogurt parfait—in the front of your refrigerator. Combine the following ingredients for a low-sugar, high-protein nighttime snack.