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5 Healthy Eating Hacks Everyone Should Know

Easy tweaks (plus grocery shopping tips) that anyone can make to eat better

By Sarah Pfledderer

What is healthy eating, anyway? According to Karen Freeman, former dietitian for the San Diego Chargers and now a registered dietitian nutritionist at Scripps Clinic Carmel Valley, you’re doing it even if you’re caving into your craving for a California burrito. “It’s eating what you like and navigating your diet around that. A big misconception is ‘there’s bad food and good food,’” she says. “You’re not going to get a medal for eating healthy, and you’re not going to get shunned if you’re eating unhealthy.” Here, she shares a few tweaks anyone can make.

Drink water for breakfast.

Nope, Freeman says, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day. In fact, our hunter-gatherer ancestors never really ate it—they had to wake up, hunt for their meal, then cook it over a fire. Also, considering most adults aren’t eating dinner until 8 at night, she says you shouldn’t be waking up famished. Instead, gulp down 8 to 16 ounces of water in the morning and wait to see if you’re really hungry.

Dip, don’t sop.

Consider what happens when you pour syrup on a pancake. The pancake soaks up the sugary condiment like a sponge, so you just pour more syrup on top. Same goes for salads and dressing, French fries and ketchup, stir-fries and soy sauce. Instead, dip your bite into the sauce to limit overconsumption. “It’s always better to have it on the circumference,” Freeman says.

Quarter your plate.

Two quarters of fruits and/or veggies, a quarter of grain or bread, and a quarter of protein—or “moving food,” as Freeman calls it; “if it moved, it’s protein”—is what you should consider a balanced meal. And because it contains fat, protein’s only necessary for two of your daily meals and in portions about the size of your palm.

Move after you eat.

“Your blood sugar and insulin will shift for a healthier balance if you’re mobile after a meal,” Freeman explains, adding that yep, this means it is okay to eat dinner past 8 p.m. “As long as you can put in five minutes of movement, you’re okay.”

Eat fast food, but do it like a hunter-gatherer.

“I don’t ever tell someone not to eat out, or not to eat fast food,” Freeman says. “But whenever possible, I really encourage getting out of the car. It requires you to get dressed and feel dignified in any situation.”

Shopping Tips

When it comes to grocery shopping, Freeman abides by author Michael Pollan’s rule “If it came from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.” Stay on the perimeter of the store and “try to get every color of the rainbow in your basket,” she says. If you meander into the aisles, she suggests following this packaged-food rule: If it has more than five ingredients, don’t buy it. And just stay away from protein bars. “Unless you’re an extreme athlete and don’t have time to chew, normal humans have no business eating bars. They’re pulverized food in a package.”

5 Healthy Eating Hacks Everyone Should Know

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