Leaders in healthy eating (ie scientists, authors, chefs) came up with 6 doable strategies to help choose virtue over comfort when it comes to eating a more nutritious diet:

1. Make your plate pretty. Presentation is important and they suggest creating a visual seduction when putting together your own dishes at home. That way, eating dinner will be a sensory treat in more ways than one. (Personal endorsement: seeing a colorful rainbow of veggies, fruits, etc. on a single plate feels like an accomplishment even before eating the meal!)

2. Try to remember exactly how bad you felt after the last time you ordered onion rings. To thwart unfortunate cravings, summon a memory of a last foray into junk food. Were you up all night thirsty from the salt, vaguely nauseated by the fillers and additives?

3. Make meaningful associations with healthy food. It’s a cognitive and emotional process. Try to make affirmative connotations with good-for-you dishes. (Many of us connect positive, nostalgic feelings with unhealthy foods.) Once you activate that circuitry, you’ll be able to recognize that this desire for junk food is simply your brain playing a trick on you. That realization allows you to move on to better things to eat.

4. Always have fresh-and long-lasting-stuff in your refrigerator. (Keep the sturdiest produce on hand: carrots, red cabbage, bell peppers, and romaine lettuce all last for up to a week.) Always have a vegetable available to put on your plate.

5. Got to have steak? Save it for dinner. If reducing the amount of meat you eat is a goal, treat the protein like a side dish. Or skip the bacon at breakfast and chicken salad at lunch in order to enjoy a juicy fillet at night. The goal? To eat plants most of the time.

6. Always eat dessert. This is how you teach balance and moderation, with one dessert a day, because everyone needs a little decadence. Go ahead, but make it a small dish of ice cream. (Or a vegan cookie in my house!)

The anatomy of a healthy meal has changed from the four basic food groups (meat/fish, dairy, grains, vegetables/fruits) to a new model with easy math: 1/2 your plate should contain vegetables & fruits, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 whole grains. Plus a small amount of healthy fats such as olive oil & nuts.

In addition to all the previous foods/drinks I’ve talked about on this blog that in some way relate to healthy eating for healthy weight loss, here are some others (again, according to the experts) you can consider for an overall, healthy diet:

1. Sardines. It’s a protein-rich winner. Toss chopped sardines into a salad of cucumbers, tomatoes, & fresh parsley.

2. Skim milk. It offers nine essential nutrients. Warm a cup of skim milk with a dash of vanilla and ground cinnamon.

3. Mushrooms. Meaty and filling, as a stand-in for beef, they can slash up to 400 calories from a meal. Saute sliced mushrooms and shallots until tender. Add a splash of white wine and cook until evaporated. Serve over roasted fish or chicken, or alone.

4. Whole-grain pasta. Contains three times the amount of fiber per serving as the typical semolina variety. Toss whole-grain pasta with pesto, chopped arugula, and grated lemon zest.

5. Lentils. They are a protein powerhouse. Toss cooked lentils with extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, chopped celery, and fresh thyme then serve over salad greens.

6. Bulgur. It delivers more fiber than brown rice even. Cook bulgur as you would oatmeal, top it with honey and chopped nuts.

7. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Shred cooked chicken and toss with olive oil, raisins, curry powder, and fresh lime juice.

8. Chard. It’s supercharged with nutrients. Saute chopped chard with sliced garlic, then toss with whole-grain pasta and raisins.

9. Kidney beans. One of the most antioxidant rich foods in a USDA study. Make a quick salad with kidney beans, olive oil, fresh lime juice, and fresh cilantro.

10. Oranges. Vitamin C can help the body burn fat. Roast orange wedges along with salmon.

11. Pumpkin. Peel, cut into chunks, and roast with olive oil and sprigs of fresh thyme.

12. Edamame. These young soybeans have the same amount of protein as roasted turkey. Puree cooked edamame with garlic, olive oil, and fresh lemon juice for a quick hummus-like spread.

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