Think about the foods you eat in a week. Would you say that you are a healthy eater? If you’re like most individuals, you probably think that you could be eating at least a little healthier than you are now.
The eating habits you have might seem like second nature, but they were something you practiced and learned throughout your life. Just like any other habit, you can change them and begin eating healthy. Here’s everything you need to know to develop healthy eating habits and stick with them.
Making the Change
Your eating habits are a part of and revolve around your lifestyle, which is what makes changing them so difficult for many. In order to make this a successful journey, you’ll need to examine yourself and your life to make a realistic decision about what you can change. The three aspects to place under a magnifying glass are your physical state, your level of social support, and your home and work environments.
Your physical state refers to your fitness level, how much you weigh, and your overall health. This is usually the motivating factor for anyone who wants to eat healthier, with weight loss being the number one goal. Regardless of why you want to eat healthy, the first step is to address your physical state.
Start by checking your health with a visit to the doctor. You might want to get a physical and some blood work to rule out any possible health complications before changing your diet.
Next up are some key measurements that you’ll need in order to measure your success. Using a body fat measuring kit, preferably with skin calipers, figure out where you stand. Even if weight loss isn’t your primary goal, this measurement will help you to know that your eating habits are making a difference.
If weight loss is your end goal, measure different areas of your body like you would when buying a suit or dress. Your waist, hips, thighs, and upper arms will see the most change as time goes on. You should also record you resting and working heart rate.
Skip the scale. Obsessing over that number is only going to discourage you. Instead, take a few photos of yourself for a monthly comparison. Now that you know what your current physical state is, you can start taking better care to put yourself in tip-top shape.
Home and Work
These two aspects of your life are either helping or hindering your ability to eat healthily. It is easier to change your home environment than work, so start there.
Head over to your pantry and refrigerator. What’s inside? Are they full of processed junk foods, soda, and other not-so-healthy food items? If so, it’s time to clean house.
Your home environment should be filled with the healthy foods you will be eating from here on out. Don’t go hiding junk food around your home or telling yourself that one box of Little Debbie’s isn’t going to hurt. Get rid of anything that will tempt you to break your diet, and anything you know isn’t healthy.
Some people find that their partners contribute to their poor diet. For instance, maybe you and your significant other ritualistically eat pizza every Friday. They might bring home fried chicken or fast food on a regular basis.
Have a conversation with them, letting them know about your new healthy eating lifestyle. Ask them for their support, and you’ll be well on your way to success.
As for work, the best thing you can do is pack your lunch. The breakroom might have a box of donuts that call out your name, a co-worker could have a jar of sugary junk food, or you might find that your commute leads to more fast-food stops than you’d like to admit. A lunch packed with healthy foods is your only hope of eliminating the cravings for these no-go items on your new diet.
Eat an apple in the car to curb your hunger during the commute. Pack some almonds or pecans to munch on when those cravings strike, too. Always have a healthy alternative and a filling lunch to help you cut back on those tempting treats.
Going it alone on your healthy eating journey is a recipe for disaster. Why? It’s tough to change your eating habits when everyone else is being unsupportive.
If your coworkers and partner already have healthy habits, or would be willing to join you on your journey, then this battle is already won. Unfortunately, things rarely work out this way.
The individuals in your life might continuously surround you with chances to eat junk food, your family might think your new diet is nuts compared to how they’ve always eaten, or everyone might constantly try to pull you away from your new habits. They’re probably not doing anything to hurt your efforts intentionally, but it’s something that people who change their eating habits face.
Ask the people you see on a daily and weekly basis for support while you make the change. Maybe they could keep their snacks away from you for a while, or just understand that you won’t be able to grab wings on the weekends with them. Asking them to make minor changes that will help you out shouldn’t be a big deal.
What to Eat
Now that you’ve covered the groundwork for your new diet, you might be wondering what eating healthy actually involves. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to starve yourself in order to get in better shape. All you have to do is eat the right foods.
There are all sorts of options out there, allowing plenty of customization for your diet. Here’s how to eat healthy by adding in and cutting out different food choices.
Start With Starch
Starchy carbohydrates contain fiber, and fiber makes you feel fuller for longer. This is key to avoiding the cravings you usually have, as well as feeling satisfied with the meals you eat. Potatoes, bread, rice, and pasta are all excellent choices.
You should include at least one starchy carb in each meal, but be careful about adding fat to your dishes. Oils, butter, and creamy sauces are only going to hinder your progress. Make sure to stick with wholegrain varieties, too.
Fruits and Veggies
You’ve probably heard this since grade school, but eating fruits and vegetables is the key to a healthy diet. The larger the variety, the healthier your meals will be. Darker green vegetables contain the most nutrients, while any fruit will do.
You could chop up a banana and place it in your cereal, eat an apple on the ride to work, or include some berries in a healthy salad. Unsweetened fruit juice and smoothies are also an excellent way to get your daily fill of fruits while placing a pile of vegetables on every plate will ensure you’re eating enough of the good stuff.
Fish and Oily Fish
If you enjoy fish, then include at least two portions every week in your diet. This gives you an excellent source of proteins, vitamins, and minerals, including omega-3 fats. There are two different types of fish in the dieting world, though.
There are non-oily and oily types, both of which are incredibly healthy for you. The oily variety tends to include more omega-3s than their non-oily counterparts, so eat a mix of both. Oily fish include:
- Fresh tuna
- And Pilchards
Cod, tuna, and other kinds of white fish are considered non-oily. While they contain less omega-3, these fish still have the nutrients and protein you need.
Believe it or not, fat is healthy. You just need to eat the right kind of fat. There are saturated and unsaturated fats, with saturated usually found in processed and unhealthy foods such as pies or cheeses.
Ideally, you should cut down your saturated intake to a mere 20g a day. Replacing butter with olive oil is a great place to start, but you’ll also need to avoid fat in meat as well as nearly every type of cheese.
Sugar and Salt
Cutting out sugar might seem easy. Just don’t eat junk food or drink soda, right? Well, not exactly.
Did you know that alcohol contains a significant amount of sugars that contribute to weight gain? Your breakfast cereal could contain more sugar than an entire liter of soda, too.
This is where you’ll have to start reading nutrition labels. Keep an eye out for added sugar and base sugar content. Ideally, the foods you eat should have no more than 5g of total sugars or less for every 100g on the label.
Salt is just as sneaky, which makes nutrition information key to cutting back. If anything you eat reads more than 1.5g of salt per 100g, then get rid of it. The average adult should only consume up to 6g of salt, about a teaspoon, in a day.
Feature image via 24 Life