7 Tiny Nutrition Tweaks That Make A Big Difference

by Carina Wolff

We've all been told that eating healthy requires a change in habit. And habits definitely don't form overnight. In fact, they can take months to solidify, and they require a lot of effort, time, and patience. Completely changing what you're eating can be an intimidating process, and it might discourage you from eating healthy. Sometimes, starting small is the way to go.

"A large diet overhaul tends to be overwhelming, which can cause people to shut down and return to their old way of eating faster," says Adrienne Raimo, Registered Dietitian-Nutritionist and Certified Holistic Health Coach at One Bite Wellness. "I find that with my clients, and people in general, small changes work best because they're focusing on a couple elements of diet and/or lifestyle change until they become more of a habit. Then we work to layer more small changes on top."

Science even supports this theory. Studies have shown that making small changes — such as eating every few hours, putting things on a plate instead of eating them out of the box, and eating breakfast when you wake up — can lead to sustainable weight loss and a healthier diet.

Now that you no longer feel pressured to fill your fridge only with bags of kale, try making one of these seven little diet tweaks that will help set you on the path to a healthier lifestyle.

1. Stick To One-Ingredient Foods

"Clean out your fridge, pantry, freezer, and house of highly processed refined foods, especially junk foods," says Jan Patenaude, RD, CLT. "Go shopping and make a point of buying only one-ingredient foods as much as possible."

Buying whole foods such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, eggs, and meat and poultry is a quick way to rid your diet of unnecessary chemicals and additives, and it can even lower your risk of disease.

2. Drink Smoothies

More cold, blended drinks? I think everyone can get on board with that. Making smoothies is a great option for increasing your intake of essential plant nutrients and fiber.

"An easy way to get more fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds is with a smoothie that contains a bit of each," says Patenaude."

If you're worried about consuming too much sugar from fruit, stick to a ratio of 70 percent vegetables to 30 percent fruit — you'll be surprised at how much those few strawberries can really balance out the taste of spinach.

Hamilton Beach Blender, $27, Amazon

3. Slash Your Portion Size

"Most people are shocked when they learn the portion sizes for cheese, pasta, and cereal,"says Raimo. "They are typically eating way more than they think!"

Being mindful of how much you're eating can prevent you from overloading on too much of one food group. If you find that you're still hungry, then substitute vegetables for the remainder of your meal. Their fiber content will leave you satiated and provide you with a more balanced meal.

4. Start With A Glass Of Water

Beginning every meal with a glass of water will not only keep you hydrated, but help fill you up before you even begin eating.

"Sometimes we can confuse thirst as hunger," says Raimo. Staying hydrated can prevent you from eating when you're not hungry, boost your energy levels, and aid in digestion.

Nalgene Water Bottle, $10, Amazon

5. Sleep More

I know what you're thinking. "This has nothing do with food." But surprisingly, sleep plays a role in the types of foods you crave, and how much you eat. "The hormone ghrelin stimulates hunger, while leptin signals satiety," says Raimo. "Less sleep is associated with elevations in ghrelin and decreases in leptin. The result: more hunger."

Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can lead to junk food cravings. So make it a priority to get some quality shut-eye.

6. Ditch The Soda

Though you may love your glass of cola, drinking soda daily can age you as much as smoking cigarettes. Because the drink is so high in sugar, it can increase your chances of suffering from diabetes, heart problems, and other diseases. If you're not quite ready to ditch the fizz, then try drinking plain soda water, sweetening it with a bit of Stevia and lemon or other fruits.

SodaStream, $100, Amazon

7. Drink Your Coffee Black

If you enjoy a daily cup of Joe, know that the added milk, sugar, and artificial flavorings can easily add up. Drinking plain black coffee is actually good for you. It lowers your risk of major diseases and aging. But mindlessly adding cream and sugar can turn the drink into a dessert — something that should be enjoyed just once in awhile.

Images: john, nakrnsm, khawkins04, ian-s, cindeesniderre, paulidin, lukema, eclectic-echoes/Flickr