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One of the very nicest things

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5 Ways to Eat Healthy

1. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

We love carbs as much as the next person, and there've been occasions when I've walked several blocks out of my way to get meat on a stick. But research shows that eating a rainbow of fruits and veggies provides a boon of benefits, including protection against cancer, heart disease, and the effects of aging — something that probably couldn't be said for devouring copious amounts of shawarma.

"Ultimately, the food pyramid recommends a total of nine servings of fruits and vegetables," says Lisa Young, PhD, author of The Portion Teller Plan and adjunct professor of nutrition at New York University. "However, if that seems daunting, rather than fixate on a fixed amount, make sure to have just one vegetable or fruit with each meal." Whether that means adding a banana to your morning cereal or putting tomato and lettuce on your lunchtime turkey sandwich, it's an easy way to get your greens in without keeping a tally sheet.

Or practice the "50 percent rule": aim to have half of your lunch or dinner plate covered in veggies. Not only will this help you get your nutrition fix in, but you'll also likely shed some weight: "Each bite of vegetable has 3 to 4 times fewer calories than any other bite of food on your plate," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association.

2. Limit Liquid Calories

Soda is essentially sugar water, which packs a caloric punch. Diet cola, though clocking zero calories, also tallies zero nutritional value. And smoothies and fruit juice, though healthier than soda, packs about the same number of calories. (If you're craving fruit, go with whole fruit instead, which has fiber to keep you full.)

But the healthiest choice? Go with water. Eight glasses are recommended per day, but if you hate drinking plain water, pick up flavored water or flavored seltzer. Unsweetened tea and coffee are good runners-up.

3. Eat More Fiber

Not only can fiber keep you full, it can also help you lose weight as well as lower your risk for cancer.

An easy way to fit more fiber into your diet is to swap out white bread for whole grains. When reading the ingredient list on, say, bread, "make sure the first ingredient reads 'whole' grain," says Blatner. "Whole grains have 3 parts — bran, germ, endosperm — which work together to prevent disease and may also help keep you at a healthy weight."

4. Go Natural

Choosing natural foods instead of processed foods is a health no-brainer. Without additives, non- or minimally processed foods — lean meats, whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables — mean you won't ingest excessive amounts of manmade chemicals. (Just read the ingredient list on a package of Twinkies and see if you can pronounce all those words.)

Better yet, choosing organic food means you'll be eating foods that were cultivated without pesticides, which have been proven to be toxic in the human diet, and are often linked with cancer. Plus, some studies show that organic foods have higher levels of nutrients and antioxidants.

It's a simple switch to pick the organic apple over the conventional apple, or the whole wheat loaf over the Wonder bread. But it's a simple swap that could mean a big nutritional difference.

5. Be a Smart Shopper

You already sidestep the Pop-Tarts and Entenmann's — great! But if you assume that your breakfast granola or stand-by frozen dinners are healthy, but think again: Many processed foods have more saturated fat, sodium, or sugar that you might've previously thought.

When shopping, do what nutritionists do. Check out the nutrition content for things like no (or low) saturated fat, low sodium, and high fiber.

One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.

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