Leah McGrath is the corporate dietitian for Ingles Markets, and she is offering nutritional tips to families on how to improve their diets during the Fit Family Challenge. To maintain healthy eating habits, she recommends families follow these 23 suggestions:
1. Have healthy snacks easily available so kids and adults can make better choices.
2. Pre-cut fruits are often more likely to be eaten than a whole piece of fruit. Try apple slices, segments of oranges or tangerines, cubes of melon or pineapple.
3. When picking cereal, look for ones that are made with whole grains and have at least 5 grams of fiber and less than 10 grams of sugar.
4. An easy whole-grain snack is air-popped popcorn.
5. Eggs are an inexpensive source of protein, so try adding hard-boiled egg to salads.
6. Using your crock pot or slow cooker can help make meal preparation easier.
7. The first thing you should notice on packaged items is the serving size.
8. Use garlic and fresh or dried herbs to season food when cooking before reaching for the salt shaker.
9. Keep your water bottle or container in plain sight so you are more likely to drink it throughout the day.
10. Make activity a family affair by joining a gym, taking hikes, walks on the weekend or playing sports together.
11. Save money and calories by making meals at home rather than eating out. The cost of eating out can be two-to three-times more than preparing food at home.
12. Plain Greek yogurt makes a great breakfast or snack and has more protein and fewer carbohydrates. Try sweetening it with fresh fruit or honey.
13. Think about what you drink — all of your calories may not be on the end of your fork or spoon.
14. Try different whole grains — brown rice, quinoa, barley and sorghum — as an alternative to white rice and pasta.
15. Nut butters without added sugar are a good way to add protein and monounsaturated fats to snacks.
16. Make sure you store your food properly to reduce wasted food in your home.
17. Cow's milk is a good source of protein and calcium. Some plant-based milks do not have the same amount of protein or calcium. Be sure to read the nutrition facts.
18. Meat doesn't have to be the star of your plate; half your plate should be fruits or vegetables to get the nutrients you need.
19. Eating a variety of foods helps you get the nutrients you need. Don’t get stuck in a food rut!
20. If you only need a small amount of a food, nut, fruit or vegetable consider buying it from the salad bar to reduce cost and wasted food.
21. Sodas should be an occasional treat and not an everyday beverage.
22. Don't get discouraged if young children refuse a new food. It can take multiple introductions to get them to try or like something new.
23. A smoothie with milk, Greek yogurt, a banana and some peanut butter is a protein-rich choice for that teen or adult on the go.