By devoting a few minutes to planning for more nutritious eating, you invest in your own health and that of your family. And when I say few, I mean it: Studies from UCLA suggest that a wholesome, home-cooked dinner takes only about ten minutes longer to prepare, on average, than serving processed or ready-made food. If you make enough for leftovers, you'll save time in the long run. And don't forget: Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease all lead to doctor and hospital visits—which take a lot of time.
7. Retrain your palate.
As any 5-year-old or picky eater can attest, familiarity is a powerful driver of dietary preference. But taste buds are malleable and can be taught to appreciate new and subtler flavors. When you swap processed, high-fat, sodium-packed, and oversweetened food for healthier fare, it can take one to two weeks before your taste buds acclimate. Don't expect to love new flavors right away (and certainly don't expect your kids to). Just keep serving the new dishes, and soon neither you nor your palate will recall what all the fuss was about.
8. Stop eating before you feel full.
Slow the pace of your meals. Pay attention to what you're eating. And call it quits when you're about 80 percent full. After a pause, you'll likely find that "mostly full" is full enough. Studies indicate that simply by eating at a leisurely pace, you could drop up to 20 pounds a year.
9. Sit down to dinner with the entire family.
Whether it's just you and your spouse or a family of 12, demand that everyone treat the dinner hour as holy. Kids who eat with their parents are less likely to consume junk, less likely to overeat, and less likely to be overweight. Parents who eat with their children report greater satisfaction with family life.
And families who eat together are far less likely to be plagued by eating disorders, drug use, smoking, and alcohol abuse, according to several studies conducted by the University of Minnesota and the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. That's a remarkable benefit to something as simple as sitting down together for a family meal.
10. You really are what you eat.
You want radiant skin? Consider that your skin depends on the flow of blood for nutrients and oxygen—which, in turn, requires healthy blood vessels and a steady supply of red blood cells generated by your bone marrow.
The best way to keep your body humming is to eat a well-rounded, nutritious diet. Want to-die-for, salon-style hair? Then you need healthy hair follicles to build hair in the first place—and that, in turn, depends on having a healthy heart to pump nutrients to those follicles, and healthy lungs to give them oxygen.
As for better mental acuity—well, you get the idea: Your brain depends on the vitality of your heart, lungs, liver, kidneys (you name the organ) to be in tip-top shape. The best way to bring out your best attributes is to foster your overall health through smart eating—a diet that favors produce, grains, legumes, and lean sources of protein, such as fish and soy.
Get started with Laura Pensiero's Real-Food Diet Mix-and-Match Meal Plan
David L. Katz, MD, is director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center and president of the nonprofit Turn the Tide Foundation.