Healthy eating is one way to reduce your risk of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and stroke and it’s one of the elements you need if you’re trying to lose weight. But the rules for healthy eating can seem intimidating even to the most determined of people
It’s much simpler than you think. The key is to focus on the base principles of a healthy diet, filter new information to those principles, and make healthy eating the more convenient choice for you.
Focus on the Basic Principles
The basic principle of a healthy diet is to eat more unprocessed, whole foods; this means eating more whole grains, minimizing saturated fat, getting your protein from lean sources, and eating loads of fruits and vegetables. Eating this way in moderate quantities will help you clean up your diet in no time and also provide you with a useful filter with which to evaluate the new information on what will help you lose weight, live longer, or live healthier.
Use the Basic Principles and Your Personal Tastes as a Filter
Once you understand the basic principles of a healthy diet, the next step is to compare what you should be doing with what you like to do. No matter how effective or healthy your diet is, you’re unlikely to do it if it goes against who you are.
For example, if you’re a person who loves your white rice, you might consider switching to brown rice to improve your diet and make it healthier. But if you can’t stand the taste of brown rice, a better way to eat healthier is to figure out how to build a healthy meal around a smaller quantity of white rice. You could do this by making rice the side dish and combine it with lean protein like beans and vegetables.
While this might sound permissive, forcing yourself to eat brown rice for the period of time you’re on a your diet is going to result in frustration and you’re likely to return to your old habits of eating large amounts of white rice. Plus you won’t have learned strategies to eat healthier in a way that works for you.
Changing your diet or eating healthier is not an excuse for you to ignore who you are or what you like. In fact, taking your personal tastes and preferences into account will increase the chances that you’ll stick to your diet for the long term rather than go back to your old ways of eating and regain the weight you worked so hard to lose.
Make Healthy Eating the More Convenient Choice for You
Waiting till you’re hungry to make a decision on what to eat will lead to more unhealthy choices than not. By the time you get hungry, your priority is to feed yourself rather than to make sure that your meal has the right balance of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats. To reduce the chance of choosing an unhealthy meal over one that’s better for you, you need to make healthy alternative the more convenient choice before hunger strikes and here are some practical tips for how to do this:
Have Go To Meals at Your Favorite Restaurants
There’s something to be said for a sense of adventure when it comes to trying new foods at restaurants, but having favorite go-to’s that you eat at the places that you go to the most often also has its merit. For one it means that no matter how fattening the go-to food at your favorite place is, you can plan for it. For example – If you like to eat butter chicken at an Indian restaurant, you can make your other meals light in comparison.
Always Have the Fixings On Hand
When it comes to eating at home, it starts in your kitchen. Making sure that you always have the ingredients to make a healthy meal on hand will increase the chance that you’ll choose to cook over ordering greasy chinese food or pizza. It’ll also save you money in the long run because cooking at home is always the cheaper alternative. A client of mine once asked how she could always have ingredients for healthy meals on hand and I wrote this piece answering that question; the article comes with a handy and customizable shopping list that you can use from one week to the next so make sure to sign up for my newsletter by giving your email address and your name to get your copy.
Have Healthy Go-Tos for Each Meal
Imagine you had a herd of elephants chasing after you and in that moment you had to decide an escape plan. Now imagine an alternate reality when you knew that there was a possibility that a herd of elephants would come after you; but in this scenario you had the time and resources to prepare a plan A, B, C, or however many plans it would take to get you away from the elephants and off to safety. Well that’s how hunger is. Waiting till you get hungry to decide what to cook, eat, or order will make it more likely that you’ll make unhealthy choices. This is why having a list of healthy go to meals that you can reach for when hunger strikes will make healthy eating the more convenient choice.
Pack Your Snacks (and Your Meals if Possible)
The elephant analogy applies here also. When you get hungry, it’s always good to have a handy snack to reach for rather than heading for the vending machine or going to the closest eatery for a meat pie. Also knowing that you have something to eat when hunger strikes reduces the chance that you’ll “eat in advance.” For those of you who are unfamiliar with eating in advance, its when you know that you won’t be around food for a while so you stock up by overeating now to keep you till the next time. Doing this often can result in your stomach getting used to being overfull and the end result of this will be the fact that it takes more food to fill you up on any given day. Even if you’re a healthy eater this will catch up with you in the way of added weight over time.
One of my favorite food researchers Brian Wansink found that we make over 200 decisions about food everyday. Imagine having to make 200 “consciously healthy” decisions about only one aspect of your life; you still have to worry about work, your family, and yourself. The bottom line is that healthy eating doesn’t just happen. You have to plan and prepare default choices that make eating healthy the easier option. Look to the tips above to help you get started.
On to you, how do you make healthy eating easier for you? Do you see yourself using any of the tips above to make it even easier?