Goodbye McDonald’s; hello to healthier eating

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McDonald’s is closing 700 stores this year due to poor performance. Although it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the more than 32,000 stores worldwide, flagging sales and closing stores are a sign of changing times — customers are opting for healthier food, such as that served by Chipotle and gourmet burger chains.

In response to falling sales, McDonald’s is investigating dumping antibiotic-laced chicken and rBST (hormone) milks, adding sirloin burgers, and even introducing kale smoothies and salads.

Although we still have a long way to go as a nation, consumer habits point to an increasing consciousness of healthier eating. No doubt many of the 36 percent of Americans who are obese would rather not be, and are cutting back on fast food consumption as a result.

New technology helping Americans live healthier

Health experts also point to the increased use of smart phone apps and the rising popularity of health tracking technology  such as the FitBit  for cajoling Americans to become more interested in their diets.

For instance, some apps let you use your smart phone to scan product bar codes for nutrition information. Other apps make logging your diet and exercise easy — awareness is fundamental to healthier habits.

Apps also can plug you into a community of others on the same path to make you more accountable, to seek and offer support, and to share victories. One app (Pact) even requires a financial commitment: If you don’t meet your goals you have to pay up, and if you do, you earn money from those who haven’t.

Eating and living healthier requires simple changes

Avoiding McDonald’s and eating more healthfully doesn’t have to be a burden. It just requires simple steps. Also, unless a chronic illness requires immediate remediation, lasting dietary and lifestyle changes are best taken on bit by bit.

With that said, here are some steps you can implement to join the growing ranks of healthy eaters.

Educate yourself

Why are you eating healthier? Do you understand how it will improve your health? Even a little bit of self-education is hugely empowering and motivating.

Plan your meals

Eating at McDonald’s is often a stressed-out, last-minute decision. Healthier eating requires advance planning, such as packing food or knowing where to eat out. For instance, it’s not as cheap, but health food stores such as Whole Foods can offer much healthier and still very quick meal options.

Make a grocery list

Take some time to think about your grocery list. Do some research, explore, try new things. It can make healthier eating fun.

Clear out the old temptations

Empty your house of all the junk foods so you don’t fall into bad habits. Find some new, healthier treats for those times you need a comfort food.

Cook in batches

Healthier eating requires more preparation and cooking. You can save time by chopping and storing veggies ahead of time, or cooking large meals and freezing serving sized portions for later.