Change is hard.
Making small, gradual changes in your eating patterns is the best way to overhaul your diet. Some experts suggest making just one change each week, to give you time to get used to the new behaviour. Your ultimate goal is to establish new eating habits that can be sustained for a lifetime.
An excellent way to start is to stock your cupboards and refrigerator with healthy foods, and plan to prepare healthier meals at home. You will need to set aside time each week to make this happen — I personally take a few hours on a Sunday and one day mid week to cook up some healthy meals to have on hand in the fridge and freezer.
Here are a few tips that will help you eat healthy, feel good, and allow you to reach your goals as well.
- Guzzle More H2O
Most experts recommend eight glasses per day. The easiest way to do this is to spread out your water intake throughout the day and use containers that will help you keep track how much you drink. If you aren’t drinking much water currently, try easing into it. You can add one cup every few days until you reach 8 or more per day.
- Taste The Rainbow!
No I don’t mean eat a bag of skittles! I mean eat colorful fruits and veggies. It’s a known fact that the more colourful the food, the healthier it is.
It’s best to stick with fresh fruits and vegetables for the most nutrient rich meal. Eating fruit salad as a snack, or veggies sticks with hummus is an easy way to get your required daily servings of fruits and vegetables.
- Switch to Whole Grains
Go for the healthier whole grains in breads, pasta, tortillas, and cereals. Also eat brown rice instead of white. You’ll be taking in more beneficial fibre and gaining all the other benefits of whole, rather than processed, grains.
- Get Your Sweet Tooth Under Control
Start to slowly reduce the portion sizes and frequency of your intake of any sugared treats. Try switching to unsweetened breakfast cereals. Go from full-sized candy bars to bite-size. And, if you are accustomed to eating dessert after every meal, switch to fruit as a dessert a few times per week. The less you eat the sweets, the less you’ll crave over time (really!).
- Switch To Lean Meats
Avoid highly marbled beef, high fat pork ribs and chops, regular ground beef and other fatty cuts. Try substituting lean ground beef and turkey, pork tenderloin and flank steak, along with fish and shellfish.
- Find a Couple of Lower Fat Salad Dressings That You Enjoy
With all the vegetables you’ll be eating as part of your new eating style, a couple of healthier dressing options will go a long way toward making them more enjoyable. In addition to using on salads, you can use dressings for marinade, dips, sandwich spreads, and whenever you can use some extra flavour. One of my favourite brands is Walden Farms — with virtually 0 fat, carbs, sugar and calories and a full range of sauces, dips and marinades, healthy eating can is still yummy!
- Slowly Reduce Your Portion Sizes
Most people who are carrying some extra weight are probably eating too much food. By slowly reducing your portion sizes, you’ll feel less deprived as you make your way down to a portion size you feel comfortable and satisfied eating.
- Everything In Moderation
If you are trying to lose weight, don’t try a celebrity ‘fad’ diet. Fad diets are meant to help you lose weight quickly but they don’t help you sustain the weight you lost in the long run.
Here’s the best idea — instead of restricting yourself by going vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free, simply eat in moderation. Yes, you can still have a big bowl of spaghetti for lunch, but then have something small like a salad for dinner. Eating in moderation and more specifically eating when you are hungry (and not just bored) is the key to reaching your goals.
- Learn How to Read and Compare Nutrition Label Information
This will help avoid common mistakes made by people experimenting with healthier foods, such as overeating low fat items even though they contain as many calories as the full-fat varieties. Look at things like fibre, protein, carbohydrates, sodium and sugar content to help you understand what you’re feeding your body and how it makes you feel.
- Try Different Food Preparations
Up until a few years ago, I was convinced I didn’t much like cauliflower. That was until I discovered cauliflower mash (instead of steamed/boiled). Seriously, try it if you haven’t yet!
Instead of canned vegetables like mushy asparagus, which also contain chemicals and stabilizers, yuck, try fresh or frozen. Frozen vegetables are sometimes even better than fresh ones.
Kale chips are surprisingly similar-tasting to other, less nutritious chips.
Some people swear a juicer has transformed their relationship with vegetables, including ones they’ve previously hated. You can make fresh juice with a food processor too.
If veggies taste too intense to you, try the baby versions (e.g. baby carrots), whose flavors haven’t intensified yet.
You get the idea. Experiment with food options to find what works for you.
- Don’t Punish
Don’t be too hard on yourself when you fall off the wagon — everyone does. Anticipate that slip ups will happen, and when they do, just brush yourself off and get right back on track. Use your slip up to learn where you are vulnerable, and decide how you will handle the situation the next time without abandoning your diet completely.
My suggestion is try to do your best 80% of the time, and relax the rules and enjoy a few (small) treats the other 20% of the time. This might look like eating a favourite meal with dessert or a few glasses of wine once or twice a week. Eating some of your favourite foods will also help keep you sane and compliant to your changing eating habits.
- Track Your Meals
Successful losers know how important it is to document what and how much they eat. The simple act of writing it down is a powerful tool that can help keep you in control.
I believe this is one of the most powerful tools that helped me lose 20kg. Using a regular notebook, I recorded everything I ate and drank, how I was feeling in terms of energy and motivation, any cravings I was having and any slip ups. I also used it to record my weight on a weekly basis and any exercise.
Even though you may determine you want to make additional lifestyle changes, these basic healthy tips will give you a great start toward improved health. Take it at your own pace and make changes that fit into your lifestyle.
You don’t need to eat foods you don’t enjoy just because they are healthy. It would be better for you to experiment to find foods you do enjoy, so that you are motivated to keep eating them. Always keep in mind that you’re making these changes to become a healthier person that will live a longer, more active life!
I’d love you to share with me, which food swaps or re-inventions have made a difference in your life?