Do your eating habits need a makeover?

You've heard it all before: eating right can bring you better health and a trimmer waistline. But despite our best-laid plans, many of us find we're eating more TV dinners than fresh vegetables.

Plus, when you have MS, you've got more than just your busy life to contend with: fatigue and other MS symptoms make it challenging to prepare healthy meals and snacks. So how can you give your eating habits a makeover?

Follow Canada's Food Guide. When deciding which foods to eat, stay away from fad diets – if a diet promises to help you lose more than a couple of pounds (1 kilogram) per week, if it tells you to eat only soup, or if you need to buy special "cleansers" or "detox" products, stay away. Instead, eat a varied diet that's rich in fruits and vegetables and low in saturated fat. Stick with lean meats and low-fat dairy products. Each day, you will need:

  • 6 to 8 servings of grain products (a slice of bread is one serving, a bagel is 2 servings)
  • 7 to 10 servings of fruit and vegetables (one medium-sized fruit or vegetable is one serving)
  • 2 to 3 servings of milk or milk alternatives (250 mL or one cup of milk is one serving)
  • 2 to 3 servings of meat or alternatives (100 g of tofu or 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is one serving)

Look to Canada's Food Guide for more information on serving sizes.

Take it slow and steady. Don't try to change everything at once. Start with making one of your daily meals healthier, and work from there. Snack on healthy foods (such as fruits and vegetables or unsalted pretzels) so you're not always hungry. And don't be discouraged if you find yourself falling back into old habits – it takes time for a change like this to become part of your routine.

Make a few simple switches. Replace junk food snacks like potato chips with healthier alternatives, like whole grain crackers. Try eating fruit for dessert instead of cake or candy. In recipes, substitute high-fat ingredients for lower-fat ones, such as skim or 1% milk instead of whole milk, low-fat cheese instead of regular cheese, or 2 egg whites for one egg.

Give yourself some satisfaction. If you really love chocolate, don't swear off it forever. This could lead to a chocolate binge in your future. Just cut back to a smaller amount each week. Eat slowly and pay attention to the taste, smell, and texture of your food. Avoid distractions like reading or watching TV while eating. This can help you enjoy your meal so you'll feel more satisfied after eating.

Set yourself up for success. Fill your fridge and cupboards with healthy snacking alternatives like cut veggies, pre-washed fruit, and unbuttered popcorn. If you don't have potato chips in the house, you'll be less likely to snack on them. If you're feeling short on time and energy because of your MS, try these quick tips:

  • Buy veggies pre-washed and pre-cut.
  • Cook a large batch of food once a week (some people even do this once a month!) and freeze the leftovers for later.
  • If you need to buy frozen dinners, look for versions that are low in salt and saturated fat.

You don't need a complicated diet to lose weight. Just making these simple changes can help you reach – and keep – your target weight.

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