It takes years and years of schooling to become a registered dietician. I am not one—not even close. However, there are some basic tips and tricks I can share with you that I have picked up over the years that you can use to make sure the food you are ingesting is healthier, leads to greater physical performance and helps maintain an appropriate body weight for your frame.

  1. Stick to the walls in the grocery store. Think about what lines the walls of a typical supermarket: fruits, vegetables, milk, seafood, fresh cuts of meat and bread (whole wheat, please). The nasty, processed stuff all tends to be in the middle aisles of the store. Fill your cart with items from the perimeter, and you will have a healthier fridge and cupboard.
  2. Look for “radioactive” elements on the label. If you pick up a food that has the words “high fructose corn syrup” on it, throw it out. It is loaded with calories and provides almost no nutritional value. In other words, it is a incredibly effective way of getting fat quickly. You don’t want it.
  3. Eat things that spoil quickly. This means that it is natural and free of most preservatives. Yes, you will have to shop more often and monitor the sell by dates. However, fresh food equals good food.
  4. Shop for things grown by a _____ farmer. You have heard of a potato, poultry and dairy farmer. You have never, ever heard of a Twinkie farmer because there is no such thing. Shop for foods that are picked off a tree, out of the ground or raised on a farm.
  5. Eat foods without multiple “layers”. People add too much to basic food, and they ruin its nutritional value in the process. For example, eating potatoes (single layer) is fine. Eating one with butter, cheese, bacon bits and sour cream on it (5 layers) is not. Try to eat food as close to its natural state as possible. Lemon juice, salt, pepper and other spices do not count as extra layers, but they do add flavor.
  6. Measure your portions instead of guessing. How many calories does a 1/2 cup of cooked rice provide? 50? 100? Try 200. When is the last time you consider a half-cup of rice as a serving? Most of us severely underestimate how many calories we are eating due to improper portion control. Get a scale or measuring cup and do your homework.
  7. Learn about the law of thermodynamics. Instead of turning to an organic chemistry textbook, just remember that for the most part, weight gain/loss/maintenance is controlled simply by the ratio of calories in versus calories burned. Don’t over think it. Smarter people than us have been researching this for 200 years. Some foods are better and more efficient than others (think of the analogy of premium versus regular gasoline), but don’t let being worried about the details mask the adherence to this basic concept. You eat more calories than you burn whether they are from carbs, proteins or fats, you will gain weight. The opposite also is true.
  8. Pretty, flashy packages are hiding something. Ever see a flashy label on a bag of potatoes? How about a box of Cheez-Its? My point exactly.