We all know that we should be eating healthy, but the convenience and ease of fast food are pretty irresistible—especially when you’re busy and don’t have the time to prepare every meal at home. But with obesity and heart disease rates at a record high in the United States, it’s time to start changing the ever-popular drive-thru diets for the sake of long-term health.
Living and eating healthier means making little decisions throughout the week to get more exercise, fruits, and vegetables, and avoid excessive fat and sugar. Those might seem like broad objectives, though—so here are a few super-easy swaps you can make in your diet to achieve those goals, starting today.
1. Swap your white for wheat
Next time you order a sandwich at a restaurant, ask for whole wheat bread instead of the usual white. Not only does whole wheat bread provide more fiber and protein, but it’s also much more flavorful than white bread. If you want to get some wheat bread for home, look for brands that have extra protein or Omega-3s, like Dave’s Killer Bread. You can also go to your local bakery and ask which of their breads are whole wheat—generally, if it looks darker and heartier than white bread, it’s whole wheat.
2. Try lean or low-fat meats
One easy way to cut the amount of fat in your diet is to opt for lean or low-fat meats. Try lean turkey (it’s not just for Thanksgiving!) for your next burger, or get low-fat sliced deli meat for your sandwiches. Many restaurants have these options on their menus, too.
3. Make your afternoon snack a smoothie or protein bar
Many people, especially those working high-stress jobs, get a regular mid-afternoon energy slump. While it’s tempting to fight this drowsiness with a sugary coffee drink, going for a high protein snack will provide you with longer-lasting energy with no crash afterward. Try swapping in a fruit smoothie or protein bar for that afternoon snack instead, and see how much better you feel at the end of the workday. Both smoothies and bars are available premade in dozens of flavors in grocery stores and at coffee shops.
You can also make yourself a smoothie at home: Use a blender to mix together some frozen fruit, milk, a handful of ice, and peanut butter or protein powder in a blender.
4. Got a sweet tooth? Try some light ice cream.
Who doesn’t love ice cream? As delicious as it is, it also has plenty of unhealthy fat and sugar. Thankfully, many ice cream makers have started making “light” versions of this classic treat, with a fraction of the calories and fat. Next time you’re in the freezer aisle, look for brands like Halo Top and SkinnyCow, which specialize in making light ice creams or go for the light versions from classics like Edy’s and Ben & Jerry’s. With a serving of light ice cream, you can satisfy that sugar craving without the guilt!
5. Skip the cheese—add avocado instead
In general, cheese and dairy are fine for you in small amounts, but most of us have more than enough of them in our diets. To cut back on dairy in your burgers and sandwiches, try a few slices of avocado instead. It provides the same creamy, satisfying texture with more fiber and vitamin content than cheese. Although avocado does have significant fat content, it’s largely monounsaturated fat—a heart-healthy fat.
6. Go for grilled instead of fried
Next time you’re out at a restaurant and deciding what to order, take a look to see if that fried chicken sandwich or fried fish plate is available grilled instead. Even if the menu doesn’t mention it, it’s worth asking your server—most restaurants are used to getting requests for lighter versions of their dishes. Going for grilled meat instead of fried means you’ll skip out on the high-fat content in fried food, especially the trans fats that are linked with higher rates of heart disease.
7. Swap soda for a sparkling water
Sparkling water has become a major trend in recent years, and for good reason—it’s tasty, does a great job of satisfying that fizzy soda craving and most kinds have zero calories and sugar. Some are also sweetened with artificial sugar, and some with fruit juice which adds a few calories, but is still way better for you than sugary soda. Most grocery stores have huge selections of sparkling water in the same aisle as bottled water or sodas.
As you can see, you don’t need to do a complete overhaul of your diet to start building better habits. All it takes is one small change here and there to begin eating more nutritiously. Pick one or two tips to start and begin your journey to a healthier you today!
Written by Robin Babb for Matcha in partnership with Blue Cross Blue Shield of AL and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.