If you have ever felt confused or even intimidated by how to start eating healthy, you are not alone. There are thousands of articles, books, and infinite resources of information on the topic—all of which can be overwhelming off the bat! However, the reality is: Eating healthy is simple, easy, and approachable. All you need to do is stay consistent with daily habits, make informed decisions, and manage your self-control.
Take the first steps towards this positive lifestyle change by implementing the following strategies to make eating healthy easier over time:
Throw out junk food
The first step to take on a healthy eating journey is to throw out all the junk food in your home. By doing this, you eradicate the temptation of giving into a craving. Did you know that some studies have suggested that junk food alters the brain in obesity-prone animals and humans in a way that is similar to what occurs in addiction? Processed food is purposely manufactured that way to encourage you to keep buying it (think added sugar and salt)!
Be realistic and specific to your goals
Ask yourself what goals you personally want to accomplish; is it reducing the consumption of red meat, learning how to count calories to lose a certain amount of weight, improving your current physical condition, or something else? Be realistic about how you plan to make every goal a reality. Even accomplishing short-term goals are a milestone—don’t discredit them. Start small by replacing all your drinks with water as opposed to soda. Or begin eating vegetables with every meal for one week. Short-term goals act as the foundation for your long-term ones. Lifestyle changes don’t happen overnight—they take time and are never instantly gratified.
Prepare a grocery list ahead of time
Never go to the grocery store when you’re hungry or lacking a prepared list. Doing so makes you more prone to buying things impulsively and spending money on unhealthy items. Before you make your next trip, have a healthy food list ready in your pocket and stick to the corners and edges of the grocery store—that’s where the produce and raw proteins are sold. Everything else in middle aisles is mainly comprised of processed and canned foods and snacks with too much sugar. Save yourself the trouble by completely avoiding this whole area.
Meal prepping helps you establish and solidify what your diet plan will look like for the week, which removes the factor of feeling inclined to grab take-out during a work break or buying a meal on a whim. Moreover, meal prepping saves you time and money! Dedicate a day to cooking an entire week’s worth of meals. You never have to come home worrying about what to eat for dinner again or feel tight on time when there’s always a delicious and wholesome meal waiting for you in the fridge. To take meal prepping one step further, always pre-chop fruits and vegetables once they’re taken home from the grocery store and package them in containers.
Be mindful of how you prepare food
Just because a type of food is healthy, such as green beans or piece of salmon, does not mean it stays nutritional if prepared in an unhealthy way. Avoid frying your food in oil, deep-frying them, or heavily salting them. These elements add excess amounts of sodium and fat to your foods, which automatically counters their nutritional value. Instead, sauté, bake, or grill meals with cooking spray. Additionally, healthy meals don’t need to be bland and dreadful to eat. There are numerous spice combinations you can use on food that is even more delicious than salt and actually have beneficial properties. For example, ginger is a common spice in Asian cuisine that is considered by some to be anti-inflammatory as well as being used as a treatment for nausea.
Simplify your meal recipes
A recipe, like healthy eating, does not have to be complicated. The best basic rule to follow is to eat a plate comprised only of vegetables, whole grains, a healthy protein, and fruits—according to studies illustrated on a chart from Harvard’s School of Public Health. For example, a meal that satisfies this recommendation is a plate of grilled chicken, steamed vegetables, white rice, and a small fruit bowl and glass of water on the side.
Snack healthy throughout the day
To keep your appetite at bay and raise you up from moments of low energy, eat healthy snacks throughout the day. If you’re a diabetic, snacking is especially beneficial since it helps to regulate your blood sugar level. What’s more is that snacking prevents large spikes in blood sugar levels from occurring, thus reducing your likelihood of developing cardiovascular issues, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes in the long run.
Practice the healthy eating mindset
A healthy eating mindset is defined by being mindful of your eating habits and decisions. Take the time to read nutrition labels when you see them and analyze a food’s ingredients. Here you can see whether or not something has been processed with chemicals as opposed to being prepared organically or sustainably. Furthermore, having a healthy mindset includes practicing self-control in the face of junk food and understanding why it’s better to make a healthy decision rather than an unhealthy one.
Satisfy your cravings with wholesome alternatives
Whenever you crave something salty or sweet, seek out healthy alternatives. For example, if you have the urge to eat a pack of cookies, opt for eating fruit instead. If you have savory cravings, a burger or any other greasy food may emotionally satisfy them but don’t give in because filling up on those foods often ends up making you feel worse. Dip carrot sticks in homemade chickpea spread to satisfy the craving and get a fiber bonus. Try olive spread smeared on whole grain crackers to calm a craving for salty food. Be creative, but always choose fresh, whole foods over highly processed foods with added salt or sugar.
Exercise in conjunction with eating healthy
Last but not least, add exercise to a healthy diet habit to reap the full benefits of a wholesome lifestyle. Daily exercise can also help maintain your weight and reduce your chances of developing chronic diseases. It also boosts mood since it kickstarts the production of endorphins and improves your overall emotional and physical well-being. Exercising also increases your self-awareness of how food affects you over time, which is another factor that impacts potential food choices.
Once you have the right strategies in mind to tackle healthy eating and take action to follow them, staying healthy will become easier over time. Don’t give up on trying to live a healthy lifestyle. If mistakes happen along the way, remember that it’s normal and don’t be discouraged. What really matters at the end of the day is being intentional with this lifestyle change to improve your well-being and overall quality of life. In conclusion, stay consistent with healthy eating habits and remember that a positive and dedicated attitude towards healthy living is just important as eating clean.