vegetablesLet’s face it, even the word diet is a downer; just hearing it makes you want to start eating. That’s because we have come to associate diet with deprivation or starvation. In fact, the word is defined in as food and drink considered in terms of its qualities, composition, and its effects on health: Milk is a wholesome article of diet. It does not have to mean rice cakes, celery and wheat grass. How can you set healthier standards of diet without feeling deprived? It isn’t as hard as you think. Here are some tips.

Add veggies

One of the best ways to improve diet without dieting is to focus on additions rather than subtractions. Including healthy choices leaves less room for unhealthy choices that you can then enjoy in moderation. There are some really easy and tasty ways to add vegetables to your diet even if your favorite vegetable so far has been French fries with ketchup.

  • Add spinach, broccoli, tomatoes or salsa to your eggs. Pair that with a whole grain English muffin or wrap for an easy meal on the go. Pass the drive-thru line and head straight to work.
  • If you aren’t ready to skip burgers and fries for lunch, that’s okay. Start with a side salad (go easy on the dressing) or vegetable soup. Then enjoy a small burger with lettuce and tomato and small fries.
  • Try vegetable noodles. I recently bought a vegetable slicer and used it to make zucchini noodles. It was super easy to do and delicious topped with pasta sauce. You can also use it to make stir fries or salads. Try adding the noodles to meatloaf, too. Especially if you have children that aren’t vegetable fans, this is a good strategy because you get all the nutrients into them without a fight out of them.

Add fruit

  • Put slices of lemon or lime in your water to easily add vitamin C.
  • Add berries to your yogurt, muffins or pancakes.
  • Have an apple or banana before your workout.

Try it with a twist

Maybe you don’t like boiled broccoli or asparagus. That doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t like them another way. Try roasting the broccoli with a little heart healthy olive oil and sea salt;  top with  a few sprinkles of parmesan cheese and some pine nuts. Sauté your asparagus and wrap with prosciutto. If you hate raw carrots try cooking them with honey, dill or ginger. If you don’t like canned or frozen vegetables, try fresh-there is a world of difference in taste. Look for recipes that excite you instead of make you feel like you’re missing out.

Plan your plate

You don’t have to give up all the good stuff; you just need a good strategy to avoid overdoing it. Start by choosing a smaller plate at mealtime. Visually divide the plate into quarters and put healthy options in at least three of those quarters. If that feels too hard, start with two quarters. Avoid stacking the plate. Chew slowly and give your body time to let you know when it is full.

It has been estimated that Americans make more than 200 food choices each day. Improving your diet is only a matter of making healthful choices more often. If you make choices that support your health and nutrition goals just 20% of the time now, aim for 35 or 40%  for the next month and build from there. Keep snacks on hand to tame temptation. Good suggestions include nuts, whole grain crackers with cheese or hummus with veggies or pita. When you let yourself get too hungry it can be tough to make choices you feel good about.