5 On Your Side

Small changes can kickstart healthier eating

Posted May 31, 2010 4:08 p.m. EDT
Updated May 31, 2010 7:13 p.m. EDT

Fresh fruit is on the counter – it's part of Karim Fugel's plan to make sure her home is stocked with both nutritious and convenient food choices.

"We make sure that the healthy snacks are just at the kids' fingertips, so that it is very easy, easily accessible for them to reach for and grab," Fugel says.

A few simple changes can help put your family on a healthier track. For example, make vegetables the star of the meal.

"Many of us were brought up on meat and potatoes, but shift your focus," says Gayle Williams with Consumer Reports. "Instead of saying, 'I've got pork chops, what can I do with them?' Say, 'I've got great green beans, what can I do with them?'"

Vegetables are a great source of antioxidants and fiber and are pretty cost effective. As a general rule, they should fill half your plate.

Divide the other half between whole-grains and a lean protein, such as fish.

"Fish is a nutritional powerhouse, but you might want to avoid certain species that are very high in mercury, such as swordfish and some types of tuna," Williams says.

And eat like the Greeks. Consumer Reports says it's one of the smartest approaches to eating.

The Mediterranean diet is linked to heart-healthy benefits. It's rich in fish, olive oil, and fresh vegetables.

Also try switching to low-fat dairy, which provides a healthy dose of calcium and vitamin D.

"If your family is used to drinking whole-fat milk, start by mixing it with one-percent," Williams says. "Wish your family drank more milk? Try adding powdered milk to recipes."

Williams says the key is to make gradual changes so that you pack more nutrition into family meals without sparking a dinner table revolt.

Another step toward healthier eating – lower or eliminate added salt. Spices like mustard, onion or garlic can help satisfy your taste buds so that you don't miss the salt.