A lot of people aim to “eat healthy”, but most of the time they have no idea what eating healthy is all about. It’s no wonder, considering the way our foods are packaged and marketed to us.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed but want to improve your diet, then don’t panic. Just implement the tips mentioned here and you’ll be on the right track on your journey to eat healthier.
Tip 1: Up Your Fruit and Vegetable Intake
Fruits and vegetables are the very best foods to put into your body, so focus your meals around them.
Instead of snacking on sweets and carbohydrates, replace snacks with fruit slices or vegetable sticks. If you find that difficult because of your cravings, add some flavor to your snacks by combining your apple slices with a bit of peanut butter or your carrot sticks with some hummus.
As for main meals, practice the half-quarter-quarter rule; fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, a quarter with protein, and another quarter with carbohydrates.
However, be picky when it comes to fruits. Eating too many fruits of the wrong kind can put many excess calories into your diet and result in weight gain. Examples of fruits you should limit are bananas, mangos, and other overly sweet fruits. Try to eat more berries and fibrous fruits like apples instead.
Tip 2: Limit Processed Foods and Sugar in Your Diet
Processed foods are often the preference of many people because they taste good and are usually ready-to-eat and convenient. However, these foods are the very causes of weight gain and health problems.
Some foods claim to be all-natural but are in fact heavily processed, so it’s important that you learn to read labels before putting items in your grocery cart.
As a general rule, most of your grocery shopping should be concentrated in the fresh produce section of the supermarket, and less in the center of the supermarket where all the processed foods are.
Do note that processed foods and sugar come in many foods that you would not expect. Even things like tomato ketchup, peanut butter, granola bars, “healthy” cereals, bread, and so on contain concentrated forms of sugar. If unsure about whether a food is processed heavily or not, check the label and look out for ingredients like sugar, high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and so on.
If this is your first time trying to reduce processed foods, then do it gradually as otherwise you may feel have a bad case of withdrawal that may send you into a binging frenzy.
Tip 3: Cook Your Own Food
Everyone is busy these days and thus it is no surprise that many people find it easier to buy food than to cook it. However, eating out (or ordering in, or taking away) often will only jeopardize your healthy eating efforts simply because you lack control in what goes into your food. Even salads and healthy offerings in restaurants usually contain a high amount of calories because of the amount of oil, dressings, sauces, and so on that the cooks put into the food to make it taste good.
So, your best bet would be to cook food at home yourself whenever you can. This way, you can control the amount of salt, sugar, oil, and so on that goes into the food that you are later going to put in your mouth. Cooking doesn’t always have to take hours; there are many recipes online that only take less than half an hour to prepare.
Tip 4: Protein is King
After fruits and vegetables, the next best food group is protein. Protein helps keep you full for longer, and it is great muscle food. Protein comes from various food sources including meat, eggs, dairy, soy, and
so on. During your main meals, include at least one good source of protein, for example eggs or chicken breasts.
As mentioned earlier, at least a quarter of your plate should be occupied by a protein-rich food. Before or after workouts, you can down a protein shake to give your body a protein boost so that it does not sacrifice muscle when you burn calories.
Tip 5: A Little Bit of Fat is Fine
Fat has gotten a bad reputation over the years, but the fact is that our body needs a little bit of fat to continue working properly. Fat is also a food group that helps you feel satisfied more quickly during meals. So, don’t be afraid to add a dash of olive oil into your salad, throw in some avocados on your plate, or sprinkle on some cheese.
However, be sure to choose the right fat source. Avoid trans-fats as much as you can and limit saturated fats that could be harmful to your cardiac health. Instead, eat more unsaturated or “healthy” fats. Do remember though to control your portions strictly when it comes to fat as fatty foods usually contain a lot of calories.
Tip 6: Drink a Lot of Water
Most of us don't drink enough water, so we're constantly thirsty and we mistake this for hunger. If you make a real effort to drink plenty of water every day, you'll curb that thirst and you'll actually fill yourself up. It'll help prevent you snacking too much and it's also simply good for your health to stay hydrated!
If you don't like water, and regularly drink soda etc., then you're going to have to wean yourself off. You can try herbal teas instead of plain water if that helps (they're free from calories).
Tip 7: Never Deprive Yourself
Eating healthily - and losing weight especially - is not about depriving yourself! You still need to eat decent portions at every meal. In fact, experts recommend you eat a fill 5-9 portions of fruit and vegetables experts recommend you eat a full 5-9 portions of fruit and vegetables every day, which most of us never do. It's more about eating the right things, rather than eating less in general. Eating vegetables instead of snacking on chips, for example, will not only give you the benefit of all those nutrients, but the fiber will keep you fuller and help prevent overeating.
However, you should never ban chips outright if they're your favorite foods! When certain foods are "off limits" it can lead to bad rebounds, and can reduce the chances that you'll ever go back to your healthy eating habits. Everything in moderation!
Tip 8: Stock Up on Healthy Foods
One of the reasons why many of us snack on unhealthy foods is down to convenience. It's super easy to grab a bag of chips or cookies and munch through them, but it seems a lot more difficult to put together something quick and healthy. This is why you need to think about the food you buy and start stocking up on food that's both healthy and convenient.
Some examples include pre-cut vegetables if it's the preparation that makes you avoid them, or pre cooked brown rice, ready chopped vegetables and a healthy dip, dried fruits and nuts and so on. Yes you might have to think about it at first, but it'll soon become second nature for you to reach for the healthier snacks.
Tip 9: Understand When You're Truly Hungry
If you're trying to lose weight, think carefully about the hunger signals your body is sending you. Many of us feel "hungry" when we're not. It could be because we're just thirsty (so drinking plenty of water will help), or it could be because we're bored or emotional. Remember, if
you're not truly hungry, eating food is not going to make that feeling go away!
Instead, start learning about when you're really hungry. Stop giving into every single hunger pang, and get in the habit of giving your body time to digest meals and snacks before moving onto the next one.
Tip 10: Never Forget Exercise!
Healthy eating is absolutely essential for giving us all the nutrients we need, keeping us at a healthy weight, and fighting off a number of health conditions. Things like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer are all due in part to the diet we maintain. However, diet on its own is not enough to reach your perfect weight or level of fitness. You need to exercise too!
Even small efforts can make a lot of difference. Start walking to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a 15 minute walk on your lunch break - anything you can do to bring more movement into your day will help. Most of us sit around for hours on end, and this simply isn't good for us no matter how perfect our diet may be.