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Five Meal Plans
How to Eat Healthier All Day

The worst time to think about eating healthy is when you're late for work and rushing out the door. There just isn't enough time. Good nutrition takes a little planning and preparation beforehand. It also takes knowing what you can eat for all those meals.

That's where many people fail. They have an idea of what they shouldn't eat, but what can they eat?

To help you out, I've put together some healthy options, broken down over five meals throughout the day. Simple things you can keep on hand to make sure you'll have a nutritious choice when you're hungry.

Breakfast - The most important meal of the day. This usually sets the stage for your eating habits. Start with something high in fiber and low in fat. Bran cereal topped with 1% or fat-free milk is an excellent option.

If you want it sweeter, add one of the artificial sweeteners like Equal, Sweet 'N Low, Splenda or Stevia. If you want something natural, cut up some fresh fruit and put it on the top. Blueberries are a great choice since they're full of anti-oxidants, but strawberries and bananas can be used as well.

Skip the juice drinks, instead eat a serving of whole fruit. You'll take in less calories and get the benefit of the fiber in most fruits.

ALTERNATIVES: Whole Grain cereals, scrambled egg whites with whole grain bread, oatmeal (not the sugar-loaded instant ones) or an egg-white omelet stuffed with vegetables.

Mid Morning Snack - A couple of hours after breakfast, you probably aren't hungry yet, but it's an excellent time to eat. If you eat before you start to get hungry, you're less likely to choose a binge food. Eating several small meals all day also helps keep your metabolism revved up.

Cut vegetables like carrots, celery, broccoli, edamame (fresh soybeans), red pepper slices or cauliflower are very low in calories but high in vitamins. If you like things creamy, one protein-packed option is to mix them with fat-free cottage cheese. Just don't cover them in sweet dipping sauces or drown them in cheese and dressing.

To keep it interesting, alternate between vegetables one day and fresh fruit the next. Apples, peaches, pears, nectarines, grapes and star fruit are all tasty choices. Make sure they're fresh though, not dried or canned.

If you can afford the calories, dry roasted nuts without salt are another option. To make sure you eat less, buy them in their shells. It takes longer to crack them open and you won't be eating a handful at a time. Nuts have more fat, but it's generally the polyunsaturated fats that can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Almonds, Brazil Nuts, Pecans and Walnuts are all good options.

Lunch - Prepare something in advance, or this meal can sabotage your day. If you're in an office with a refrigerator and microwave, Lean Cuisine or Healthy Choice frozen meals are two excellent choices. Some foods many seem healthy, such as the vegan or vegetarian options, but many are full of fat and sugars. Whatever you do, make sure to read the nutrition labels before you buy them.

If you can't heat it up, bring a sandwich. Make it with baked and sliced chicken breast, low sodium tuna, peanut butter and sugar-free jelly or go vegan with sprouts, avocado, tomato and romaine. A medley of cooked vegetables stuffed in pocket bread is another healthy choice. For some spice, add mustard, fat-free mayo and pepper. Pack a fat-free, low sugar yogurt and mix in some fresh fruit for dessert.

Afternoon Snack - You can eat the same foods as the mid-morning snack, but that can get boring pretty quick. I like to make a batch of healthy chili or soup in advance and freeze it in individual portions. Bring it along with a piece of whole-grain bread, zap it in the microwave and it makes an excellent afternoon pick-me-up. If you don't have a microwave, heat it up first thing in the morning and store it in a thermos for the day.

Granola is another option but skip the bars because most are full of sugar. Pick a low-fat and low sugar granola cereal and pour a single serving into a plastic bag. Eat it with a spoon right out of the bag.

ALTERNATIVES: You can also eat a protein bar or protein shake; just make sure to read the nutritional content first. If it says "energy" anywhere on the label, you should probably skip it. Most "energy" bars and drinks get that energy from sugar. If you're feeling particularly ambitious, you can cook up your own protein bars or mix up a protein shake.

Dinner - Dinners don't have to be complicated, just well balanced. Start by choosing recipes you can bake instead of fry. If you're cooking poultry, skip the skin. Make at least one vegetable along with the main dish and eat beans at least twice a week. While you're at it, skip the cheese and start experimenting with spices to liven food up.

If you spend just 30 minutes a day planning and preparing your meals, you'll be well on your way to a healthier life.

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