12 ways to eat healthy in 2012

A dozen strategies some common sense and some unconventional for better eating in the new year.

Story by Joe Stumpe

1. Eat Fast

Yes, as in fast food. Most fast food is still high in fat and calories, but some of the big chains have actually made steps to offer a few healthy items, such as McDonald's with its oatmeal and yogurt parfaits and Subway with its line of sandwiches containing six grams of fat or less. When you're in a rush, these are good bets.

2. Eat Convenient

The same goes with convenience stores, many of which have begun to carry fresh fruit, nutritional shakes and more healthy options. It's time for more office vending machines to follow suit.

3. Eat Early

You've heard it your whole life, but that doesn't make it any less true: breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It gives you energy and makes between-meal food cravings less intense, and your body has all day to burn off the calories you consume. Make sure it includes some protein, in the form of an egg, yogurt or some other dairy product (as opposed to bacon or sausage).

4. Eat Often

Another seemingly odd piece of advice, but this strategy is recommended by many experts. The idea is to eat many healthy small meals or snacks during the day  such as an apple or small handful of nuts -- to keep hunger pains from growing and leading to nutritional disasters at mealtime.

5. Eat Different

Smoothies and energy bars can often supply the protein and other nutrients your body needs without the excessive calories and fat many conventional meals contain. Try replacing a meal per day with one of these.

6. Eat Local

Because food grown locally does not have to be shipped great distances, it's likely to reach you in better shape (and without any preservatives) than food that's not. It's also healthy for the economy of the local people growing it!

7. Eat Healthy

More people are discovering that their long-standing health problems are due to undiagnosed intolerances to lactose and gluten. A positive diagnosis doesn't mean suffering; restaurants like the Wichita Pizza Co. now offer gluten-free pizza.

8. Eat With Your Family

Childhood obesity is a growing concern. One way to fight it is to make healthy dinners a regular feature of your family's routine. Kids will be less likely to snack all night and it's a great time to catch up with other family members.

9. Eat Smart

Some foods carry a big caloric and/or fat wallop in a small package. Heavy cream, butter and oil-based dressings are some of the biggest culprits. They can make things like a cup of coffee, a slice of whole-wheat toast or green salad a whole lot unhealthier in a hurry.

10. Eat New Stuff

Responding to consumer demand, supermarkets are carrying more healthy foods, from bigger varieties of fruits and vegetables to low- and non-fat versions of many foods to whole new categories of whole-grain products. This goes for the snack aisle, too, where a new generation of snack foods makes late-night munching less of a no-no.

11. Eat Super

You've probably heard of super foods, a dozen or so foods that experts recommend for their nutritional make-up. They're foods like salmon, walnuts and blueberries  not hard to find nor particularly expensive. Make it a goal to eat at least one of these a day.

12. Eat Fewer Carbs

Carbohydrate-heavy foods such as bread and pasta are easy to overindulge in because they're relatively low in calories and usually nearly fat-free on their own (although often combined with less healthful ingredients). But unless you're a long-distance runner, you're probably consuming more than you need.

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