Easy Diet Hacks for National Nutrition® Month and Every Month

I love National Nutrition Month® because it’s the one month of the year that legitimizes my nonstop chatter about all things food and nutrition! This year’s theme is Go Further with Food, which emphasizes both good health and reduced food waste.

Diet hacks for National Nutrition Month

Image courtesy of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

I invited 7 colleagues to share their favorite diet hacks to help you Go Further with Food and to steer clear of useless fad diets. To me, unsustainable diets are the ultimate waste. They distract us from what’s important. They keep us from developing the good habits we need for a lifetime of good health. And when they become drudgery  – and they surely will –  we give them up and we feel bad about ourselves.

8 Diet Hacks Better Than Any Fad Diet

Diet Hack #1: Focus on what’s in your food

This diet hack comes from Rosanne Rust, MS, RDN, LDN, co-author of DASH Diet For Dummies®

Rosanne Rust Dash for Dummies Book
We so often focus on what’s not in our food (cue gluten-free, fat-free, sugar-free, GMO-free), that we may lose track of the nutrition we need. One of the beauties of the basic food groups is that each group delivers not just one key nutrient, but a whole set of them. When you avoid or severely limit foods from one food group, you are missing out on important nutrients. The grain group for instance, provides fiber, B vitamins (folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin) and minerals (iron, selenium, magnesium). So go further with food – rather than ban bread products, pasta, rice or cereal from your diet, for example, set a goal to count up your servings per day. It’s not the bread that’s a problem, it’s the amount. When you account for it, you’ll be fine. If you are trying to lose weight, shoot for no more than 2 servings per meal, or 5-7 servings total (men may need more). One serving may not be what you think it is. Here’s my handy guide. One serving of grains = 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup pasta, 1/3 cup rice, 1/2 English muffin, 3/4 cup dry cereal, 1/3 bagel.
Diet Hack #2: Create Something New and Delicious From What’s On Hand
Karen Collins, MS, RDN, CDN tells me that her favorite food is dried beans. “I really think people don’t eat enough, and it’s a shame considering the health advantages and cost savings.”
Hmmm, I love beans and I eat them nearly every day, but I don’t know if I’d call them my favorite food. What about dark chocolate? And peanut butter? If you want to know more about why Karen (and I) love beans and other legumes, check out her blog post on pulses and healthy eating.

Here’s Karen’s diet hack (And surprise! It contains beans)! I make a “Nature’s Bounty” meal once a week, which may be in the form of soup, salad, casserole, stir-fry, or other mixed dish. Eating more vegetables is a key element of healthy eating, but extra vegetables that go unused contribute to food waste. So I make a dish that combines extra raw or cooked vegetables with leftover cooked lentils or beans (or open a can if there are no leftovers). If there’s leftover farro or whole grain pasta, that goes in. And to further reduce waste, I check the fridge for leftover tomato sauce, broth or canned tomatoes (which I combine with olive oil for a delicious sauce) as a base. If there are fresh herbs leftover from a bunch I bought, those go in the dish; otherwise I choose herbs from my garden or dried herbs to set the flavor theme for the Nature’s Bounty dish and make it delicious. All this adds up to make a nutritious, tasty meal that cuts food waste and grocery budget dollars.

Diet Hack #3: Creatively Reuse Food

Nutrition expert and best-selling cookbook author Toby Amidor, MS, RD shares this timely diet hack involving planned leftovers, which is sure to save both time and food. Be sure to check out Toby’s cookbooks, including The Easy 5-Ingredient Cookbook and The Healthy Meal Prep Cookbook.They’re packed with time-saving, delicious recipes.

Instead of letting leftovers go to waste, I love to creatively reuse them. For example, I’ll reuse my Slow Cooker Barbecue Chicken to top whole grain pizza one day. Another day, I’ll use it to make quesadillas using whole wheat tortillas, black beans and part-skim mozzarella cheese. It’s an easy way to go further with food and minimize food waste while still enjoying healthy fare.

Diet Hack #4: Honor Fullness

Overeating is a form of food waste. It’s also a way to cause ill health and can lead to feelings of guilt or shame. Health and wellness coach Jennifer Neily, MS, RDN shares tips to help clients honor fullness.

Building healthy food habits is not only what you eat but also how you eat, whether you eat when you’re not hungry and if you eat beyond what your body needs (the clean the plate mentality).

Ideally, we would eat only when we were truly hungry. Hunger is the physiological drive to eat—physical hunger. It’s the uncomfortable feeling caused by lack of food that starts the food-seeking behavior. And we would stop when satisfied, typically several bites before full. The Okinawans in Japan have a saying for it. It’s hara hachi bu, and it means eating until 80 percent full. Too often we eat well beyond 80 percent and not unlikely beyond 100 percent.

Getting in tune with satiety signals and feeling satisfied allows people to eat what they want. I teach my clients if they can grasp this behavior, no food is off limits. Too often we eat beyond our limit, even what we think is nutritious food. Eating to the point of comfort or satisfaction versus fullness and discomfort takes a lot of practice but the pay off is worth it. Strategies include slowing down, taking small bites (a small bite tastes exactly the same as a large bite!), chewing food well, putting the fork down between bites, taking a sip of water, engaging in conversation, and savoring the flavor of food. To read more and get more tips including my hunger/fullness scale, read more.

Diet Hack #5: Consume Adequate Protein at Breakfast

This diet hack comes from Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN. Be sure to check out her delicious, creative and high-protein recipes at NutritionStarringYOU.com and treat yourself to her beautiful cookbook The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club.

Aim for at least 20 grams of protein at breakfast to help keep you satisfied and to protect and prevent muscle loss during aging. Most people consume adequate or more than adequate protein throughout the day, but the key is to distribute it evenly. You can use only 25-30 grams at a time for muscle growth and repair.
Do more with your food by getting creative with your breakfast protein sources. It’s not all about eggs. Low fat and nonfat versions of Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and ricotta cheese are really versatile, and so are tofu, protein powders and powdered peanut butter. Add them to French toast, pancakes, oatmeal, smoothies and much more. One idea is Strawberry Vanilla Protein French Toast. Check it out.
Diet Hack #6: Boost Nutrient Density While Right-Sizing Your Portions

Karen Buch, RDN, LDN has three tips to guide your choices. Karen is founder and president of Nutrition Connections LLC, where she provides food & nutrition communications and consulting services to clients within the food industry nationwide. Karen is active on social media as author of Food News & Reviews, a blog dedicated to the healthy enjoyment of food.

1.  Choose an abundance of fiber-rich and vitamin-dense fruits and vegetables.  Round out your selections with lean protein sources and nuts, seeds and whole grains. A few must-have foods on my shopping list include berries, eggs, spinach, apples, sweet potatoes, walnuts, almonds, avocados, eggs, cottage cheese, beans and other legumes, chia seeds, steel cut oats, skinless chicken breast, 99% lean ground turkey and fatty fish like salmon.

2.  Be mindful of your appetite. Eat when you are hungry and stop eating when you begin to feel satisfied. This might mean eating smaller, more frequent meals and snacks rather than several large meals. It’s a good idea to enjoy eating in the company of others too.

3.  Stay in balance by being physically active and avoiding long periods of inactivity throughout the day. Choose both strength-building exercises such as weight lifting and aerobic exercises such as high-intensity interval training, brisk walking, cycling, swimming or running to include in your activity routine.

Diet Hack #7: Do M.O.R.E. with Dinner

Melissa Joy Dobbins MS, RDN, CDE aptly uses the moniker The Guilt-Free RD® because she helps readers and listeners of her podcast make smart decisions as she separates science fiction from science fact.

Instead of trying a fad diet, why not put your efforts into something that will truly bring some positive benefits to your diet and your life? I’ve been doing a “Do M.O.R.E. with Dinner” initiative on my blog and podcast to try and get more out of my daily dinnertime and “Make Ordinary Rituals Extraordinary”. It’s a great way to Go Further With Food. I encourage you to try this at home and find ways to get more vegetables at dinner, modify a family recipe to be a little healthier, get into the kitchen a little more often, and try some conversation starters with your family or friends. You can do anything you want with “Do M.O.R.E. with Dinner” – check out my free downloadable resource kit for some inspiration!

Diet Hack #8: Give Up the Notion of Perfection

Helping you get to goal is my goal in my new book Prediabetes: A Complete Guide. I think the subtitle describes the contents so well. It’s Your Lifestyle Reset to Stop Prediabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses.

Prediabetes: A Complete Guide

I want my patients, clients and readers to recognize that lifestyle changes are hard because they’re hard – not because of a character flaw. Instead of aiming for the perfect diet (whatever that is!) or a flawless record at the gym, set goals, assess results and celebrate progress. I ask clients to look at their goals as mini experiments. Take a scientists view. Don’t judge the results; just examine them. Then ask, what did you like and what did you dislike. What was hard and what was easy? If you tweak this part or that part might you get a different result? These steps and the proper mindset will help you get closer to goal. But being rigid and identifying anything less than perfection as a sign of weakness or failure will likely not get you far in the long run. You can use this process to help you eat less, waste less, cook more, exercise more and so on.

For more, I’ve also got some free strategies for sticking to a healthier lifestyle that you can download. Just fill out the form in the sidebar.

How do you like these 8 diet hacks? Please check out my colleagues’ websites and follow them on social media to get tips all through the week every week. This is a talented group of people with lots of great information to share!

What are your favorite diet hacks?

Jill Weisenberger

I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.

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  1. julie on March 16, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    The perfection thing is hard. In my long and somewhat ongoing training in mostly eating my own cooking rather than takeout or restaurants, i had to give up on trying for perfection. I’d try to make heathy stuff, and I just couldn’t stand to eat it. So, eating out anyway, yet spending money and effort on food. Now I’m a lot more flexible, knowing that even the less healthy stuff I sometimes make at home is much better than the restaurant versions. And if it’s too healthy, I’m just not going to eat it. Good enough is good enough!

    • Jill Weisenberger on March 16, 2018 at 4:56 pm

      Absolutely! Good enough is good enough!

  2. jim on February 27, 2020 at 1:10 pm

    Nice content, been reading your post and always provides great value.

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Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.

Jill Weisenberger

I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.

And I believe willpower is way overrated.

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