Do you find yourself snacking to pass the time? How about stress eating during the nightly news? Ordering takeout on the regular? If your healthy habits have fallen by the wayside, you’re not alone: 30% of Americans report that their diet has gotten worse since staying home, according to a recent Gallup Poll.1
But don’t fret: There are simple ways you can tune up your diet — from healthy home recipes to meal prep hacks. In fact, you’ll find that there are numerous benefits of eating at home. We sat down with Jenny Craig’s Registered Dietitian, Briana Rodriquez, to discuss her top tips to eat healthy (and stay healthy!) during this time.
The benefits of eating at home
Being housebound is the perfect opportunity to focus on your eating habits and try a few healthy home recipes. You might even reap some of the benefits.
You’ll likely eat healthier. If you’ve been ordering takeout lately: You might want to reconsider. Research shows that people who cook more meals at home instead of eating out tend to have healthier diets.2
You’ll save some $$$. Research indicates that people who frequently eat out spend about two more dollars a day than those who eat at home.3 While that doesn’t sound like a lot, it adds up to over $700 a year.
Your waistline will benefit. U.S. adults eat an average of 200 additional calories a day when they dine out, one study found.4
If cooking isn’t your thing, you might want to consider a healthy meal delivery service like Jenny Craig. You’ll enjoy a variety of nutritious meals without the hassles of cooking or cleanup. New plans start at just $12.99 a day — affordable and healthy!
11 tips to eat healthy at home
Now is the perfect time to focus on your eating habits, Rodriquez says. Here are her top tips for ways you can improve your diet and eat healthy at home.
1. Start your day with breakfast
Your mom was right: Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Rodriquez explains, “Your body goes into a fasted state while you sleep, which is actually beneficial for your body. Your body takes that time to rejuvenate and focus on other functions besides digestion, such as repairing your cells. Your first meal of the day will break that fast, so you’ll want to choose foods that will nourish your body and give you energy.” Include a mix of protein, fiber (mainly from fruits and vegetables), and whole grains to avoid feeling ravenous by mid-morning.
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Here are some simple healthy home recipes to try:
Yogurt with berries and nut butter: Grab a ½ cup of plain nonfat Greek yogurt and top it with a ½ cup of your favorite berries (strawberries, blueberries or raspberries are all great options). Swirl in a teaspoon of nut butter and you have a protein-packed, fiber-filled breakfast!
Simple smoothie: Place ½ of a banana, ¼ cup of your favorite berries, ½ cup of spinach, 1 cup of nonfat milk or ½ cup of nonfat plain Greek yogurt and a couple of ice cubes in a blender. Or, use an alternative non-dairy milk of your choice (we love unsweetened vanilla almond milk). Blend away and enjoy! If you’re a Jenny Craig member, swap out the milk for your favorite shake mix for added protein.
Egg scramble: Sauté spinach, chopped peppers, onions, mushrooms and garlic in a pan with a little bit of olive oil cooking spray. Once the veggies are cooked to your liking, add two eggs and scramble. Sprinkle with a dash of salt and pepper. Bon appétit!
2. Eat the rainbow
“When you’re making meals at home, focus your efforts on choosing real, whole foods and including non-starchy vegetables at most meals,” Rodriquez emphasizes. “Vegetables make great snacks as well!“ (Here’s how to incorporate veggies at any meal.) By eating more colorful vegetables, you’ll likely fill up without going overboard, which is key if your goals include weight loss. Plus, vegetables are filled with nutrients and antioxidants to help keep you healthy and boost your immune system.
Photo by Anna Pelzer on Unsplash
Some excellent non-starchy vegetable choices include:
- Bell peppers
- Brussels sprouts
Pro Tip: If you’re hungry in-between meals, make a veggie snack plate. Chop up some cucumber, red bell pepper and carrots and dip them in a tablespoon of hummus. Healthy and delicious!
3. Keep it balanced
No, we’re not talking about learning a new yoga pose, we’re talking about macronutrients! Macronutrients or “macros” fuel your body and come from the foods you eat (think: carbs, fats and proteins). “At every meal, you’ll want a healthy balance of macronutrients that come from quality food sources,” Rodriquez states.
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Here are some examples:
Carbohydrates: Opt for whole grain varieties over refined options. Brown rice, quinoa, oats, whole-grain bread are all fantastic choices, Rodriquez says. And don’t forget fruit! It’s another excellent fiber-rich option.
Proteins: Choose lean protein sources like chicken breast, white fish and lean cuts of beef. If you’re a vegetarian, there are still a variety of options you can choose from (check out 14 of the best vegetarian protein sources). Lentils, tofu, peas and hummus are just a few of our favorites.
Fats: There is a difference between healthy and bad fats — so choose wisely. Olive oil, avocado, nut butter, nuts, and fatty fish are excellent options. Rodriquez also stresses to keep an eye on your serving size — 1 teaspoon is ideal if your goals include weight loss.
How to balance your plate. Fill half your plate with vegetables, a quarter of your plate with quality protein and the other quarter with healthy carbs. Pair your meal with a little healthy fat on the side like olive oil or a few slices of avocado.
4. Watch your portion sizes
Did you know? Portion sizes in American restaurants have doubled or tripled over the past two decades.5
“Being mindful of your portion sizes is key to supporting your overall health and weight loss goals,” Rodriquez says. Plus, when you watch your portion sizes — nothing is off limits! You can still enjoy your favorite foods, just make sure to check the serving size so you’re not consuming it in excess.
One of the best parts about eating at home is that you have access to measuring tools. You don’t have to measure everything — but it’s a great way to avoid eating too much, especially foods that are calorie-dense. For example, if you’re making pasta, measure out ½ cup to eat and save the remaining noodles for another meal. Or, if you’re having tortilla chips, measure out one serving and put the bag back in the pantry. This will also help you avoid mindless snacking.
Need some tips on portion sizes? Check out this helpful hand portion size guide.
5. Stay hydrated
“Staying properly hydrated is part of maintaining a healthy diet,” Rodriquez explains. “Drinking water can help prevent headaches and fatigue which might boost your productivity.” Drinking enough water might even support your weight loss efforts.
Photo by Kerkez on iStock
Rodriquez recommends avoiding sugar-filled beverages as they’re often packed with empty calories and lack nutritional value. Instead, opt for sparkling water. You can even infuse it with fresh fruit or herbs to add some flavor.
How much water should you drink in a day? Experts recommend drinking at least eight, 8-ounce cups.6
Pro Tip: Keep a refillable water bottle with you and continue to sip throughout the day. You’ll reach your goal in no time! Here are 10 tips for drinking more water every day.
6. Stock up on healthy non-perishable foods
If you’re having trouble finding fresh produce at the store don’t worry: Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious! Other healthy non-perishable foods include canned beans, canned fruit and vegetables, oats, nut butter and alternative kinds of milk. Having non-perishable foods on hand can help you make a healthy meal in a snap. Just throw some frozen vegetables in a pan and whip up a quick stir fry, or throw frozen fruit and almond milk in the blender for a nutritious smoothie.
7. Meal prep
If healthy home cooking every night isn’t your thing, you might want to give meal prep a try. Not only can it save you time during the week, but meal prep could also support your weight loss goals. Rodriquez recommends taking one night a week to prepare, cook and store your meals and snacks.
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Here are a few of her tips:
Wash and chop fruits and vegetables. If your veggies are pre-washed and ready-to-eat, it’s one less thing you have to do when it comes to mealtime. Freezing them is another great option.
Portion out snacks. Pack snacks for the week including baggies of sliced veggies, small handfuls of nuts and hard-boiled eggs.
Use clear storage containers. This way you can see exactly what you have in the fridge — so you can grab and go. Another bonus: you’re less likely to forget about something that could spoil.
8. Watch for added sugar
Did you know? The average American consumes 20 teaspoons of sugar a day.7 To put that into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that men limit their intake to 9 teaspoons of sugar a day (approximately 150 calories) and women limit their intake to 6 teaspoons of sugar a day (approximately 100 calories).8 All of that extra sugar can lead to weight gain — quickly.
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One of the best ways to avoid added sugar is to read the nutrition label, Rodriquez says. Try to choose products that have little to no added sugars. Also, make sure to scan the ingredient list. Ingredients are listed by predominance, so if sugar appears at the top of the list, the product likely contains a lot of sugar.9 Be wary: there are many different names for sugar, so read labels carefully. Some alternative names include:10
- Agave Nectar
- Corn Syrup
If you want to avoid the 3 o’clock slump and extreme energy crashes, skip the sugar-filled foods and beverages. Check out these 10 foolproof ways to reduce your sugar intake.
9. Stick to a schedule and follow your natural rhythm
Before you started spending most of your time at home, what did your normal routine look like? Did you usually pack lunches the night before work? What about making a quick breakfast before heading out the door? Even though your days are different, try to stick to somewhat of a routine. Not only can a routine help you feel more productive and organized, but research indicates it can also support your weight loss efforts.11 A healthy routine can help you eat regular meals, make time for exercise and get enough sleep each night.
Try this: Eat in accordance with your natural circadian rhythm. This simple trick could help support your health and your weight loss efforts. Circadian rhythm refers to the 24-hour internal clock that your body follows — regulated by lightness and darkness. It’s also referred to as your sleep/wake cycle.12 Your body naturally follows this rhythm — you’re more active and awake during the day and your body winds down at night. Here’s how to try it:
- Nourish your body during the first 12 hours of the day.
- Refrain from consuming calories for the remaining 12 hours (most of this time is spent sleeping!).
So, if you eat breakfast at 8 a.m. then you would eat your last meal of the day by 8 p.m. You’d start the cycle over the next day. Following your natural rhythm is a great way to avoid late-night snacking and meals, which often contribute to weight gain.
10. Jot it down
Keeping track of your meals and workouts is a great way to hold yourself accountable while you’re at home. You don’t need to meticulously track everything, Rodriquez says, but jotting down your meals can help you spot trends that might influence your weight loss progress. For example, if you notice you’ve been feeling sluggish lately, take a look at your notes. Have you been drinking enough water? What about eating your veggies? Keeping a journal is a great way to bring awareness to your eating habits.
Are you a Jenny Craig member? Download our easy-to-use app to track your meals, water intake and exercise.
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11. Listen to your body and avoid distractions
“Mealtime is an experience that should be enjoyed and savored!” Rodriquez exclaims. Now that you’re eating at home more often, try to slow down and take the time to appreciate each meal.
“You’ll also want to avoid distractions while you eat,” Rodriquez states. “Try not to eat at your desk and put away digital devices.” So put your phone away, turn off the TV, set the table and enjoy every bite of your next meal!
We hope you’ve found these tips useful as you find ways to eat healthy at home. If you need more guidance, Jenny Craig can help. With healthy weight loss meal plans starting at just $12.99 a day, eating healthy at home has never been easier. Get started today!
Elisa is a content marketing manager for Jenny Craig with over ten years of experience working in the health and fitness industry. She loves sharing her passion for living a balanced and healthy lifestyle. An endurance sports enthusiast, she is usually swimming in the pool, biking along the coast highway or running by the beach in her free time. Elisa holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Chico.
Favorite healthy snack: mozzarella string cheese with a Pink Lady apple
Reviewed by Briana Rodriquez, RDN
Briana is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer for Jenny Craig, based in Carlsbad, California. She is passionate about utilizing food as functional and preventative medicine. Guided by a simplistic and optimistic approach, Briana’s philosophy is to help people improve their health and achieve their goals through the development of sustainable habits to live a healthy life. In her free time, you can find her strength training, indoor cycling, coffee tasting, and at local eateries with her husband and two dogs.
Favorite healthy snack: peanut butter with celery alongside a grapefruit-flavored sparkling water (so refreshing!)
This article is based on scientific research and/or other scientific articles and was written by an experienced health and lifestyle contributor and reviewed by certified professionals.
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