Healthy eating may appear to be a chore because most of us enjoy living life the way we are used to. We visit the grocery store and purchase the same items every week and plan the same meals for each day of the week. We feel comfortable with our routine lives and this is exactly what makes change intimidating.
We have a habit of eating certain foods in a certain manner and most often, we don’t even think deeply about the foods and nutrients we are feeding our body and its internal systems.
So for starters…
You need to pay attention to what you have on your plate and what you put inside your body. Note that healthy eating is never supposed to be scary. In order to make sure the positive changes you bring into your lifestyle last for a long time, make small, gradual changes to your routine. Don’t expect perfection or too much too soon. It usually takes a week, a month or two months to transform a positive change to a new habit.
You want to do it, go ahead but don’t force yourself. Many individuals adopt healthy eating habits without counting calories. However, if you’ve just started eating healthy, tracking everything may help you gain some knowledge on how heavy, healthy and unhealthy certain foods are. For example, one small banana contains 90 calories therefore, even though we all know bananas are healthy and packed with potassium and fiber, it is possible to have too much because the truth is, bananas are calorie-dense fruits.
Similarly, it is important that you do not obsess over calorie counting too. One teaspoon of sugar contains approximately 16 calories. Does this mean sugar is healthy? Absolutely not. Avoid treating all calories the same way.
When you’re embracing a new habit, you need to take as many measures as possible to make it work. Therefore, in your healthy eating journey, it may help you keep track of what you eat as well. Maintain a food journal and write down everything that goes inside your mouth. This includes treats and drinks.
How will that help? Think about it, while going through your journal at the end of the week, if you notice you’ve had 10 cookies or three cans of soda, you might think twice about having junk food again the next week. It is often difficult to recognize an unhealthy pattern in the beginning stages, but it is important that you keep persevering until you can differentiate between healthy and unhealthy like night and day.
A balanced diet
Whether you’re losing weight, gaining muscle or gaining weight, most health experts will recommend a balanced, nutritious diet over a fad diet any day. Fad diets restrict calorie intake by encouraging users to abstain from certain macronutrients, such as carbohydrates or fats. It is important to understand that the human body is a complex system and requires all macros in varying amounts to function optimally.
If your aim is to eat healthy, make sure you include the following in your diet:
- Proteins from lean meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, beans (and their products such as tofu) and nuts
- Fats from animal/dairy products, whole grains, vegetable oils and nuts
- Carbohydrates from fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains
- Vitamins A, B, C, D, E and K
- Minerals such as iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium etc.
As a rule of thumb, try to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and split the other half between lean protein and whole grains.
Make sure you’re hydrated
Don’t follow the 8 glasses or 1 liter per day rule of drinking water. Drink as much as you like, whenever you like and don’t get thirsty. If you feel you haven’t developed the habit of drinking sufficient water, tracking how much you drink or using a water app on your cellphone might help.
Beverages such as 100% fruit and vegetable juices, tea and milk are counted as well. Make sure you avoid alcohol, fizzy drinks and drinks containing sugar. You can also add some flavor to your water with some lemon, ginger, mint or strawberries.
Don’t overwhelm yourself
Small changes bring people big rewards. Trying to make a drastic change may cause you to fall back to your old habits. If you want to make sure you continue eating healthy for a very long time (or hopefully, forever), consider taking baby steps. Don’t just cut back on foods you think are unhealthy, find suitable substitutes for them too so that you don’t feel the emptiness in your life. Just because you’re cutting back on sugar while maintaining healthy eating habits, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a good dessert — hello, yogurt and berries!
About the Author
Rod is the owner of The Clean and Lean Lifestyle and serial Clean Eater blogger. With countless years of experience in Nutrition and Physical Fitness, Rod loves motivating people to eat healthy and feel good about their body. He has written a step by step program on Clean Eating to help his many followers in achieving their weight loss goals.