Eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated or restrictive. Often when we think of eating healthier we think of restricting ourselves. No more chocolate, no more cake and cookies, no more eating after 9pm, no snacks, no meat, no carbs. no sugar…The list of restrictions often intimidate and demotivate us from sticking to our goal to eat healthier.
So here is my list of things you CAN do to eat healthier, there are no restrictions just things that you can do to be healthier. I find that the healthier you eat the less likely you are to want the unhealthy foods. So lets start here with a few simple tips to incorporate into your daily life that will help you jump start your healthy eating lifestyle.
Start small. Pick one or two of these tips to develop into a habit for a few weeks before you start of the next ones:
Drink more water…
There are so many health benefits we can gain from increases our water intake. Most people do not drink enough water. While commonly we are told that we should drink roughly 8 (8 ounce) glasses of water or 2 litres of water a day, really that is just a guideline. Some of us may need way more that 8 glasses of water, some of us may need less. It depends on where we live, our size, whether we are breastfeeding or not, and countless other variables. The best way to tell if you are getting enough water is by checking out the color and smell of our pee.
Dehydration can affect so many aspects of our health from mood, concentration, headaches, brain function, physical performance, temporary increased metabolism, constipation, kidney stones, skin hydration, and even losing weight. Also we can often mistake thirst for hunger and reach for food when what our body really wants is water.
This is probably one of the easiest and most importance habit to form for a healthier lifestyle. One of the easiest ways I’ve found to build this habit into my day (if you are at home during the day is to keep a glass of water by the fridge and every time you go to get something out of the fridge or pass it by take a drink. You can go even further with this by making yourself drink a whole glass of water if you find yourself hovering in the fridge looking for something to snack on. Then close the fridge and walk away, if you are still hungry 10 minutes later than you can eat something.
Another thing I have found helpful is to keep a running tally on the fridge of how many glasses you have drunk in a day. Then you can see if you are on track or need to up your intake. If you aren’t at home most of the day, use a big litre water bottle and just aim to go through 2 of them in a day.
Eat real food…
It really is that simple, eat real food. But what is real food? Simple, its food found in its natural state–fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, whole grains, grass-fed meats and whole fat dairy products (if you can), honey, fish, beans, olive and coconut oils just to name a few. Don’t worry about the type of real food or the calories it contains. Just eat real food and enjoy it! It’s really about getting the purest, most nutrient dense foods into our bodies, which then leaves less room and craving for the processed and jarred convenience foods which have been chemically and genetically altered by food scientists. It’s about finding real substitutes for our favorite processed foods and gradually incorporating them into your diet. As you begin to eat more real foods than processed foods, your own palate will change. Those processed foods just won’t taste as good as they used to. My husband often complains that I have spoiled him and now when I’m away and he goes back to eating processed convenience foods he doesn’t like them at all. Little by little you can replace processed foods you eat for real ones and your health will significantly improve as well as your relationship with food. Food is good, in fact its amazing and we shouldn’t have to feel negative about it, just make sure its REAL.
Include protein with every meal…
Protein is important to have with every meal because it makes us feel more satisfied which helps us not feel the need to overeat and snack all the time. It is key if you are trying to lose weight and improve our appetite control. I find that breakfast can often be the most difficult meal to build protein into. Lunch isn’t as hard and most everyone includes protein in their dinner. But why wait until the last meal of the day to eat protein, your body needs it all day long. And unless we give it to our body in every meal we will never feel satisfied and having cravings that send us back to the fridge over and over again.
Take a look at your everyday meals and try to incorporate some protein rich foods into your meals that are lacking protein. Here is a list of some possible foods to use:
- Quinoa (can be used like oatmeal or porridge in a breakfast or a rice in a stir fry for lunch)
- Greek Yogurt
- Beef, Poultry, Seafood (grass-fed/organic/free range meats or wild caught seafood are always best, but I also know that it’s not always possible)
- Free range eggs
- Black Beans, Kidney Beans, Chickpeas or Lentils
- Hummus or other bean dips
Eat more veggies than you do already…
Ideally, we should be eating up to 10 servings of vegetables a day. If you look at the most national recommended vegetable requirements it’s usually between 5-6 servings, but most of society would be hard-pressed to even reach that many servings. If you think about it, most people don’t eat any vegetables for breakfast, maybe 1 serving at lunch, and maybe 2 servings at dinner. If you aren’t counting fruit, that’s only 3 servings of vegetables. We as a society are not eating nearly enough vegetables. No wonder we are always starving, and always struggling to feel satisfied, which then leads us to unhealthy snacking.
Take a look at the amount of vegetables you normally eat in a day and try to add 2 more servings a day.
One of the easiest ways I’ve found to get 2-3 servings of vegetables in quick is by making a Green Smoothie. Simply blend together a few handfuls of a leafy green (spinach and romaine are my favorites), juice of 1/2 a lemon (cuts the bitterness), frozen fruit (I use strawberries, pineapple, kiwi, and/or mango), and water or milk to the thickness you desire.
As with everything, start small and get into the habit of just a bit more than you already do and then slowly increase those amounts until you get to the desired level. Be daring, try new vegetables, eat a variety of different colors; sometimes cooked, sometimes raw.
Plan out & prep your meals and snacks…
This is another key step towards being successful in your healthy eating lifestyle. One of the biggest reasons we go for processed unhealthy foods is convenience. It’s not easy to eat real food if you don’t plan. Often we wait to eat until we are starving, we go to the fridge and while there might be lots of food in there, it’s all pieces of a meal. There is nothing quick we can eat right then and there, so we cave and pick something easy– a bag of crisps, tinned soup, freezer meal, crackers, biscuits, cereal, frozen pizza, etc.
Start first with a plan for your meals. If you have never meal planned before, start with where you need the most help. For example, if you always struggle eating healthy snack plan your snacks first. If you struggle eating healthy dinners, start your meal planning there. Once you’ve got the hang of it, I advise to plan out everything or at least have a variety of go to meals and snacks you regularly use and always keep ingredients in the cupboards.
Not only does meal planning help, but prepping ahead of time is also a big game changer. I love vegetables, but once I had kids I realized my vegetable intake had dropped significantly. Often I only had one hand free because I’d be holding my youngest or I just wouldn’t have much time to prepare any vegetables to eat. I began to prep my vegetables either the night before or weekly. For example, I’d make a huge salad, homemade dressing and hardboiled eggs one night. All I had to do the next few days for lunch (and sometimes breakfast because it really was that good) was to empty out some salad, pour on some dressing, and slice the egg onto it. Easy peasy!
Start slowly, these actions are more likely to develop into habits if you build one on top of another rather than trying to do everything all at once. Think about the last fad diet you started which made you jump in head first to a very restrictive diet. I’m sure there are very few of us that were able to completely change our eating habits for good going all in right away. Unless you build slowly, it’s very difficult to make these little practices become habits that eventually form into a healthy lifestyle.
Join me in applying these simple tips and make healthy eating a lifestyle rather than just a fleeting phase. You can do it, just simplify!