My 20s were full of change and adventure. After college, I moved from a small town to New York City and worked at two magazines. Then I relocated to Chicago to be with my boyfriend-now-husband and begin a career as a freelance writer. It was a thrilling time, personally and professionally.
But it was a terrible time, nutritionally.
I was still clinging to the misguided notion of the 80s that any food labeled “fat free” had to be healthy. And I figured that as long as I could fit into my favorite pair of Levi’s, it didn’t matter much what I ate.
One wedding, two kids, a degree in nutrition, a whole bunch of living later, I’ve learned a lot–and I’ve changed a lot about what and how I eat. Here’s how I eat differently now:
1. I drink a daily smoothie. My breakfast was kind of a train wreck when I was in my 20s. Living in NYC, I often grabbed a giant bagel with cream cheese and a bottle of orange juice on my way to work. Now I start nearly every morning with a smoothie, either my favorite almond milk-peanut butter-banana combo or a green smoothie with spinach. I’ve found that starting the day with something light gives me energy and a clear head. Here are my favorites: My 5 Favorite Morning Smoothies
2. I eat salads for lunch. Big deli sandwiches or–I’m embarrassed to admit–bowls of instant ramen noodles were on the lunch menu in my 20s. But now I’ve found that a large salad with protein and healthy fats fills me up and doesn’t make me want to fall asleep at my desk at 2pm like my other lunches often did. Here’s the formula I use for building my salad: How To Build A Healthy Salad
3. I seek out filling foods. When I was in my 20s, the fat-free and low-fat craze was still going strong. I was focused on getting the most food for the fewest calories, so I ate things like Fat-Free Cool Whip and plain rice cakes–and wondered why I was frequently hungry. Now I reach for foods like nuts and avocado that keep me fuller longer. I still occasionally buy rice cakes, but they’re smeared with nut butter for a snack. And if I want whipped topping for a pie, I make my own using real cream. Here are 8 ways to eat avocados: My Avocado Toast Obsession
4. I aim for balance. Before I became a dietitian, I didn’t give much thought to balance. I ate big plates of pasta with a side of Italian bread. I still eat pasta, but I eat a smaller portion of it and make sure I have more protein and vegetables on my plate too. I also think about balance for the whole day: If I had a heavier lunch, I eat a lighter dinner. Staying in balance just makes me feel better overall. Here’s a recipe for Peanut Butter Noodles With Carrots & Broccoli
5. I only eat sweets once a day. Okay, I’m trying to only eat sweets once a day–and most days, I succeed. If you don’t have a sweet tooth like mine, this may not sound difficult. But readers of this blog know that I love desserts (and I love baking them). In my 20s, I also had a serious thing for candy, stopping at candy shops for my favorite sour gummies. But over the years, my tolerance for sweets has plummeted. Now too much sugar makes me sluggish and headachey and leads to even more cravings. So I try to limit myself to just one sweet treat a day, typically after dinner. Here’s the mind game I use for avoiding too many sweets: My Number-One Trick For Eating Right
6. I’ve ditched diet drinks. I was never a fan of diet soda, but I used to love low-calorie beverages like Crystal Light. Yet after learning more about artificial sweeteners–especially the way they may trigger more cravings for sweets–I’ve lost my taste for them. Here’s how to flavor water naturally: How to Make Fruit Infused Water
Do YOU eat differently now than you did when you were younger? Tell me how in the comments!