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Small Changes Matter: Nutrition Tips to Get You Started!

Author: Shannon A. Garcia, Lone Star Nutrition LLC
Frozen vegetables, pasta, canned goods on a counter top

Congratulations on taking the first steps to becoming healthier and establishing a better nutrition quality of life! As you begin this journey, I want you to realize that even the small choices count. This is not about skipping meals, restricting calories to the point of misery or giving up all your favorite foods. Instead, it’s about developing new habits, learning to make smarter choices, appreciating all foods fit in moderation and over time developing a healthy routine that you can actually see yourself following for life!

Now all of that sounds great, right? But it’s undoubtedly easier said than done. Restructuring a lifestyle doesn't happen overnight. Whatever your goals are, they will likely take time to accomplish, but as long as your stay on the path without throwing in the towel; you are one step closer to your own success! So where do you start? What are some tips and strategies that as mentioned above can be the small choices that count and contribute to results? I’m so glad you asked!

Frozen vegetables, pasta, canned goods on a counter topWhat’s in your kitchen?

Does your pantry overwhelm you? Do you have the basics to make a healthy meal on a weeknight? Meals in 30 minutes or less are great, but if your pantry and fridge are unorganized and overcrowded with possibly expired and unidentifiable food items - it’s time to clean up.

These are just a few of the items I tend to use a lot in my easy weeknight meals. I would love to soak beans overnight and simmer them on a pot all day, and also love to make tomato sauce from scratch, but realistically - most of us are pressed for time and need quicker solutions that can still be healthy!

Healthy whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, faro and oatmeal. Whole wheat pasta also! These whole grains are nutritionally superior than refined grains because of their fiber content and other nutrients like selenium and magnesium. Most simple recipes call for a grain of some sort so take a walk on the wild side by trying wild rice next time.

Canned (yes, canned is ok) beans. Beans are an excellent source of fiber, protein and iron. Black, kidney, garbanzo, pinto and Great Northern are just a few options!

Canned tomatoes and tomato sauce. Creamy sauces can pack on unnecessary fat and calories, so having tomato-based sauces on hand can help bring on the flavor without all the fat.

Greek yogurt. Not only is Greek yogurt high in protein and an excellent source of calcium, the plain variety makes for a great substitution for sour cream and mayonnaise.

A variety of bagged frozen vegetables (plain, without creamy sauces)

Office snacks and on-the-go options

When establishing new healthier eating habits, planning is key. Packing healthy snacks in our desk drawer, purse or briefcase is an excellent strategy to prevent last minute drive through snacks and less likely to overeat at dinner because we didn’t have a healthful afternoon snack.

Snacks, which include nuts, seeds or dried fruits where you can actually see the ingredients and are also pre-portioned, make great options. These are a few of my favorites that are tasty, nutritious and shelf stable!

  • Kind bars, Lara bars, True bars
  • 100 calorie Almond packs or other pre-portioned nut packs
  • Tuna/salmon packs
  • Beef or turkey jerky - Perky Jerky tastes great!
  • Oatfit or any other brand oatmeal packs (heat water in office or ask for a tall cup of hot water during an afternoon coffee stop)
  • Pre-portioned dry high-fiber cereal with a few almonds
  • Justin’s Peanut Butter packs with half a serving of whole grain crackers
  • If you find yourself in a drive thru or ordering from a restaurant, consider the following easy options to make your meal healthier!
  • Tweak your sandwich - ask for a whole wheat bun, a bun that isn't buttered or even better- no bun.
  • Swap your side option- apples or salad instead of fries, a cup of broth based soup.
  • If you choose a baked potato instead of fries, eat the skin for extra fiber!
  • Ask for dressing on the side, and choose a reduced-fat or vinaigrette option.
  • Squeeze fresh lemon or lime juice on salad & use less dressing!

Give yourself 5 extra minutes to sit down to eat. Eating while driving, on a conference call, etc. really hinders us from acknowledging how hungry we are when we start eating and how full we feel while eating.

Although these are only small changes, they are still hard work and very much worth the effort! As you start a journey to change lifestyle and eating habits- whether it’s eating less, or simply making smarter choices, there will be good and bad days. On the days you find yourself discouraged and not making the choices you planned, let it go and make tomorrow count. And once you've rocked a two-week challenge, make a plan to conquer another one!

Interest in a personalized program: Shannon A. Garcia, MDS, RD, LD, CLC Lone Star Nutrition, LLC 210.364.6542 |