A lot has changed since 2012, but from talking with my clients, I know that one thing really hasn’t changed much. That thing is the result of a 2012 study that found 52% of the Americans (of those who participated in the poll) believed that doing their taxes was easier than figuring out how to eat healthy.  (https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-american-eating-habits)

If you’ve ever done your taxes, you know that there is nothing straightforward about them, so that there are so many people who find taxes easier than eating healthy says a lot. Just walk down any aisle in the grocery store and pick up a box. It’s sure to be full of conflicting messages: things like low-fat, gluten-free, all-natural and a slew of other words specifically designed give you an impression of healthiness, but flip the box over and the ingredient list and nutrition facts tell an entirely different story. 

There is so much to say when it comes to nutrition, but let’s just start off with 5 simple things you can start doing today to consume more of what your body needs and less of the stuff you don’t. 

Surround Yourself With Good Options – It’s tough to be in the grocery store, especially if you’re hungry because everything looks so good. Just remember most of what is attracting you was designed to do so. Passing by the ice cream, the cookies, the chips and the amazing cheese counter may be difficult, but if you can do it, you’re more than halfway there. The simplest way to eat healthier is to simply not stock those cookies and chips in your cabinet. If they’re not there, you can’t eat them. 

Instead, stock your kitchen with healthy snacks. Buy your favorite fruits, and display them in a fruit bowl on your counter. For the fruits that are more difficult to eat unless prepared, buy a whole watermelon, pineapple or cantaloupe and cut them up so they are ready to snack on. Do the same with vegetables. Keep small, snacking veggies around to be dipped in hummus or guacamole. Keep nuts, seeds and dried berries (like goji and mulberries) in the snack drawer or on your desk at work so that you snack on those instead of reaching for chips or cookies. 

Make the foods that you want to be eating more of easy to see, easy to get to and easy to consume. If you must have some of the unhealthier items in your house, make them more difficult to consume. Store cookies in a jar that you can’t see into or store chips in the top cabinet. You’ll be amazed at how much sight and accessibility paly a role in what you consume. 

Chew Your Calories; Don’t Slurp Them Up With a Straw

According to a survey down by the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans drink 45 gallons of soda per year. That’s a lot of soda. And unfortunately, the ingredient that comes along with the great, bubbly taste is sugar. The sugar in all of this soda provides no nutritional benefit to you, but it does add a lot of extra girth to your waistline. Even other beverages that appear good for you, like sweetened teas and fruit juices have very little to offer in the way of nutrition. Mostly, they are just adding on calories. 

When you can, stick to water or seltzer. You can spice these beverages up by squeezing real fruit into them. This can provide some variety and a bit of flavor without all of the added ingredients and calories. When you must indulge, stick to one, alternate with a glass of water or water the drink down to dilute some of the sugar and calories. 

Limit Packaged Foods

The biggest difference you can make to your diet is by limiting packaged and processed foods. The more often you can consume whole, real ingredients, the better off you will be. Once a food finds itself in a box, a bag or a can, you can be sure that unnecessary ingredients are being added to the mix. They may be more convenient, but that convenience comes at a cost. 

My best advice for those of you longing for convenience is to make your food convenient, but do it yourself. By this I mean setting aside some time on a Sunday afternoon and taking care of the time-consuming portions. Cut up the vegetables, boil some rice and other grains and store in the fridge so that you just need to reheat them. Pre-cook some of the meat and get any casseroles or soups ready ahead of time. Not only will this save you time when its mid-week and you are exhausted and starving, you will also know every ingredient that you put into your food. You are in control of what you and your family are eating. 

Give Vegetables and Legumes Some Love

Vegetables and legumes are great way to bulk up your plate. They don’t add many calories, bring a ton of nutrients to the table and have plenty of fiber to fill you up. Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University says, from day to day “people tend to eat the same weight of food, not the same numbers of calories.” That is great news for vegetables. That means if you can bulk up your meals by adding more vegetables to the mix, you won’t feel as though you’re missing out. 

And vegetables and legumes are so easy to slip in. You can add them right into sauces. You can stir-fry them, put them into casseroles and even mix in with your ground meat. For some reason, we’ve always made protein the star of the meal. When we search for recipes, we most often do so with the protein in mind. But what if you dressed up your vegetables that same way, and made them the star of the meal rather than the bland green thing off to the side of the plate? 

These are just some quick tips to get you started on your healthy eating journey, but I hope you can start incorporating these things today. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be difficult and it doesn’t have to be a chore. Take some time to discover all the variety out there…the best stuff isn’t in boxes and cans.