While fast-food restaurants are rushing to the forefront to provide healthier eating options, we are still bombarded with a multitude of easy choices that are packed with calories and fat. What’s the attraction? They’re fast, they taste good and they’re inexpensive. Most of us are in the habit of diving into a bag of potato chips instead of grabbing a crisp red apple. Taking a hard look at what you eat and how much of it, can give you an accurate idea of your overall eating I.Q. Making a few small, but meaningful, changes in your eating habits can help you trim the fat.

Start with Smart Shopping

Spend your food dollar wisely. Eating healthier foods is more expensive, but if you eliminate junk food and spend less time at the fast food counter, you’ll have money left over for more nourishing items. Select most of your foods from the supermarket perimeter where fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and whole grain breads are sold. Avoid those inside aisles that are packed with prepared foods, snacks and other high-calorie products.

Eat wholesome, planned, home-cooked meals, rather than the on-the-go variety. Get in the habit of eating healthier, more well-balanced, and lower-calorie foods at home. Wholesome meals are more satisfying and often curtail the urge for between-meal snacking.

Smart food shopping and carefully planned meals are essential, but it’s also necessary to consume fewer calories and to rev up your metabolic engine with regular exercise, so that you’ll burn more calories. Though it may be getting colder outside, fight the urge to stay inside by the fireplace — get out and get active.

Keep on Moving!

Walk while you talk. In this day of portable and cellular phones, there’s no reason to stay in one place while talking on the phone. Get up and get moving. Whether it’s around the house, around the office or around the mall, you’ll find walking not only helps burn calories, it also helps you to relax and has a positive impact on your emotions. Don’t just sit watching TV and munching – get up, get out, get going and get fit.

Discover Healthy Responses to Stress

Stress can lead to emotional overeating. Walking and other exercise can alleviate stress and reduce the need to use comfort foods to soothe personal anxiety, sadness or dissatisfaction. If you are an emotional eater, awareness can help you counter these unconscious eating habits and replace them with healthier alternatives. The best antidote is exercise, which raises the serotonin levels in your body, so you feel better, happier and more at ease. If you’ve ever had the blues and then played a fast-fire game of tennis, suddenly, the blues turn rosy. If you’re not into tennis, a nice walk or jog will do just fine.

Practice Portion Control

Use the serving size on food packages as your guide. For example, a serving size of ice cream is one small fist-sized scoop about a half cup and a serving size of cheese is two cubes about the size of two dice. If you ignore the serving size on packages, you may be consuming more calories than you bargained for. And beware of food that looks like it’s packaged as a single serving; it may contain two or more servings!

Slow Down!

While your walking should be fast-paced, your eating should be closer to a snail’s pace. Not only will you savor your food more, you’ll actually eat less if you eat slower. Our on-the-go lifestyles have made fast eaters of us all. So, we need to make the time to enjoy our food at a less frenzied pace.

Ask for a Doggy Bag

Be conscious of other bad eating habits like having to clean your plate. If you do have this tendency, put smaller portions on your plate and, when eating out, order half portions or have half your meal wrapped to go and then enjoy it for lunch or dinner the next day. When eating out, instead of ordering a greasy appetizer, you’ll find that a salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing is a great way to start any meal.

The bottom-line is awareness. You can stop feeding your bad eating habits and create a whole new you by preparing healthy meals you can savor, watching calorie intake and getting plenty of exercise each day. Here’s to your health!