Six simple ways to smarter, healthier eating

Healthbeat

To eat well, you need to combine nutritional science, a jolt of common sense, and pure enjoyment. Most of us know that fresh salad, berries, and slowing down when eating are better for us than wolfing down energy bars and sweets. But how to make that leap from our current habits to healthier ones?

Here are six ways you can eat healthy, delicious meals, and really enjoy what you're eating.

1) Ditch whole milk

Not only does this reduce saturated fat in your diet, it shaves off calories.

How: Switch to 1% or nonfat milk, and nonfat versions of other dairy products like yogurt and ice cream. Can't bear to go cold turkey? Step down more slowly to 2% milk, then 1% en route to nonfat, if possible.

2) Harness the power of nuts (and seeds)

Almonds, cashews, filberts, hazelnuts, peanuts, pecans, and pistachios pack plenty of beneficial nutrients, including vitamin E, folic acid, potassium, and fiber. Although many nuts are high in fat, the fat is mainly unsaturated — a healthy choice.

How: First, put nuts on the grocery list. Nuts are high in calories, so it's best to enjoy them in place of other snacks, not in addition, and to keep serving sizes small.

3) Taste food before you salt it

Break the autopilot habit of reaching for the salt shaker.

How: For two days, don't put any salt on your food at all. A short break can help reset your taste buds. Then, leave the salt shaker in the cabinet, so it becomes a bit of an effort to reach for it. Make a ritual out of truly tasting your food before you decide if it needs tweaking.

4) Pack lunch once a week

This makes healthy food choices readily available to you at work or on an outing. And since you are controlling portion sizes, you can make sure that you're not supersizing your meal. Plus, it saves you money.

How: Once a week before you shop for groceries, write out a meal plan that leaves enough leftovers for one or two lunches.

5) Eat five (or more) vegetables and fruits a day

It's a nutrient-packed way to fill your plate that is generally low in calories.

How: First, for one week, keep track of how often you eat fruits and vegetables. One serving equals one-half cup of chopped fruit or most vegetables; for raw leafy vegetables like lettuce and spinach, a serving is one cup. Once you have your baseline, try adding one fruit or vegetable serving a day.

6) Plan meals that are delightful, delicious and healthy

In an ideal world, food delights all our senses: it looks beautiful, smells heavenly, and tastes delicious, and its textures feel and even sound satisfying. Start thinking about food as something to really savor and enjoy.

How: Pencil in time to prepare and savor one or two special meals a week. Once you've assembled great ingredients, set a gorgeous table. Take a moment to truly take in scents, companions, and surroundings, and if you like, give thanks.

For 42 simple changes to help you exercise more, eat healthier, stress less, and live a happier, more fulfilling life, buy Simple Changes, Big Rewards from Harvard Medical School.