Simple nutrition tips to stay on track

Sep 21, 2010 at 10:46 p.m. ET

Life can be hectic with jobs, household duties, and social obligations—making drive-through or dial-up delivery dining an easy fix. Our waistlines beg to differ, though. Good nutrition will keep us strong and energized to meet those challenges head on.

Woman eating fruit salad

1Eat breakfast, even if you don't feel hungry

You're groggy when the alarm goes off and all you have time for is a cup of coffee? Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, nutritionists say. It gets your systems functioning and powers up your brain; a sweet pastry and coffee are not going to cut it. You need fruit, whole grains, and some protein to tackle your day. If that donut is calling your name, try eating a slice of bread with peanut butter and honey to satisfy the craving.

Good breakfast suggestions: whole grain cereal with pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top and fresh fruit or oatmeal with berries and sliced almonds. If you don't have time to cook the oatmeal, opt for instant oatmeal. Another alternative is to make a big pot of oatmeal and then freeze single serving size portions so you can heat them in the microwave and enjoy them in just minutes. Your body absorbs more nutrients when your food is less processed and contains fewer additives or preservatives.

2Choose healthy snacks and plan for hunger attacks

People snack for a variety of reasons, whether it's physical hunger because we need a boost to beat the afternoon slump and didn't have a substantial lunch, or mindless noshing while lounging on the couch watching our favorite sitcom. One nutrition mistake people commonly make is not eating enough throughout the day and then gorging at night. Snacking throughout the day can help you get your vitamins and minerals and it keeps you energized.

Plan for healthy snack attacks; eat veggie sticks with yogurt dip instead of greasy potato chips with empty calories. Raw vegetables may sound bland, but add some herbs to yogurt for a dip for a wholesome, flavorful snack. If you're a yogurt fan, try plain yogurt with fresh fruits, nuts, and a little honey to avoid all the extra sugar added to flavored yogurts. Snacks don't have to be fancy to be satisfying: try peanut or other nut butters on whole grain pita wedges or crackers. Tasty!

3There's more to nutrition than cute packages

Walk down the cracker aisle at the supermarket and you'll be bombarded by boxes of packaged mini-foods that promise only 100 calories per serving. They are appealing, but you'll eat two or three bags before you know it. Most are not filled with nutrients, but are processed and packed with preservatives. Instead, make your own mini-bags. For example, buy a bag of precut vegetables and portion them into small baggies, or make a homemade trail mix with raw almonds, peanuts, raisins, and other dried fruit; crunchy, filling and delicious.

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