If you have been waiting for a sign to finally start eating healthier:
THIS IS YOUR SIGN! LET'S GO!
Now that you've already started, let's go through what it takes to get you eating healthier.
Goals of Healthy Eating
If you’re looking for ways to eat a healthier diet, it can be difficult to know where exactly to start.
Hundreds of questions will probably rush through your mind:
Should I be cutting out all sugars?
What about carbs? Should I be cutting them out, too?
What foods even count as carbs?
Great, it's all the tasty ones...
Why is everything tasty have so many calories?
Wait... how many calories should I eat?
Oh gosh, do I have to count my calories now?
Let me Google "how to count calories"...
This. Is. So. Confusing...
Before you get overwhelmed by questions, read this:
Healthy eating is personal to you. It simply means taking what you're doing already, and making it a little bit better.
Before we get on with some actionable steps, I want you to consider your goals.
Why are you trying to eat healthier?
Is it to lose weight?
Do you want to stop yo-yo dieting once and for all?
Maybe you want to improve your relationship with food?
Or look healthy on the outside by being healthy on the inside?
Whichever one it is, you can take the following steps to get yourself to a healthy diet without dieting, calorie counting or spending hours inside a gym.
1. Keep a treat at home
A common first step when people want to start eating healthily is to rid their home of all temptations.
And this is actually a good piece of advice.
Most of the time, temptations will likely just distract you from following better eating habits.
So take a bag and put them all in there. That includes:
the vegan ice cream
the emergency chocolate
those really good gluten-free pretzels
the paleo energy bars
the sugar-free organic vegan no-palm-oil muffin mix
Yep. All of that - in the bag.
There' no need for a lecture on how many calories these all have, or how processed they are.
But it's important to note that many of these convenience & comfort foods are responsible for most people's daily cravings.
If you have a few biscuits after lunch, you'll likely be tempted to have some rice cakes when you finish work.
So, once all those foods are in the bag, plan on how you'll get rid of them.
I'm not saying throw them in the bin. Most of us were raised not to waste food, so we feel uneasy just throwing it in the bin.
(Note: That's also the reason why we tend to finish everything on our plate, even if we felt full halfway through...)
Instead, give them away. Post them to your relatives. Share some with your colleagues. Give the whole bag away to a food bank, or to a homeless person. Or show up at your neighbours' house with treats. It's up to you.
Now, here's the main point:
Keep only a few small portions of your favourite treat.
This is actually a very important step. Most of the people I coach are worried about this part because they believe they'll gain weight.
"Wait, Rado, I thought you said no treats?!
If I keep my favourite one, wouldn't I just eat all of it on the first day?"
By keeping their favourite treat around, most people feel the freedom to eat whatever they want, without self-imposed restrictions, while still eating healthy.
That way, you can be more consistent with your healthy food choices without the temptations and cravings that harsh diets carry.
2. Plan for healthier snacks
Next, it's time to plan for the tough times.
Ever heard of the 5P phrase? It goes like this:
If you’re worried about getting hungry, keep healthy snacks on hand.
Here are a few ideas:
carrot sticks & hummus
yoghurt & pear slices
mixed red berries
whole-wheat crackers & low-fat spread
banana slices with PB
frozen chocolate squares
homemade ice cream 'prep' freezer bags (i.e. pouches of chopped-up fruit, blended with yoghurt)
3. Understand the why's of healthy eating
Another great step to healthy eating, when you’re first starting the process, is to take a few moments to learn what foods are the healthiest for you and how they work within the body.
To start eating healthily we must begin by thinking healthily.
Most people understand that fruits, vegetables, and low-fat meats and dairy products are good for you, but few people understand why.
The key is learning about nutrients. When you understand how specific nutrients work and why you need them, it becomes more reasonable for you to make healthier choices for your body.
Knowledge really is power!
To learn more about healthy eating and good nutrition, I recommend the following pages:
4. The most important step: Prep
Preparation is a major key in trying to turn healthy eating into a habit.
Here's a list of the most common prep points:
You must consider your schedule for meals. If you often eat in a rushed hurry at odd times of day, you are probably more inclined to grab a rushed meal, which will probably do more harm than good. So plan ahead!
Next, prepare your food for the day. Instead of grabbing a fast-food lunch on the go (regardless of the health claims, even Leon and Pret fall in this category), bring your own lunch to work, complete with a healthy wrap and some fresh fruit and vegetables.
Prep easy dinners for the days you work until late. A simple plan to have a meal ready before you get home would be perfect, but in our fast-paced lifestyle, sometimes this just can’t be done. So, you can have some easy slow-cooker recipes for your late-nights, and leave the more hands-on recipes for days that you finish early on.
Plan your weekly meals in advance. This tends to have a hugely positive effect on most people. Plan out your evening meals for the week, and cook them on the days you finish earlier. Alternatively, you can batch-cook on your days off, perhaps just before you do your weekly shopping.
Talking about your weekly shopping, have your grocery list ready and never shop hungry. I know, common sense but unless it's planned, it's usually not followed.
Finally, prep for bad days by having a "progress over perfection" view. So often we rely on motivation to keep us going. But motivation is a really crappy tool. One day it's making you proud of yourself, and the next it doesn't show up. Instead of aiming for perfect 100% of the time, focus on progress. That way, if a day isn't going as planned, you can keep your sanity and just look for opportunities to make your meals just a little bit better.
Initially, it might be very difficult to make some of these necessary changes to healthier eating.
You may not feel too amazing right at the start. This is generally a normal response as your body is adjusting to your new and improved lifestyle and is cleansing itself from the harmful toxins built up from years of poor eating habits.
But this feeling will disappear after a couple of weeks, and you should start to feel much better than before.
So start with baby steps. Even if you only sit down to eat a burger at your desk, rather than in your lap or on-the-go, you are really improving your eating habits. If you eat pasta every day for lunch, try replacing that half of the time with more nutrient-rich foods.
By taking your time to learn about your eating habits and slowly replacing them with higher-quality meals, by taking the time to learn and understand why you should be doing that and making the necessary changes in an orderly fashion, you will feel much better within yourself physically, mentally and emotionally and well on the road to becoming as healthy as you can be