Have you ever had the intention to eat better, start off strong, but eventually give up. When this happens, people often revert back to their old eating habits, thinking "this is too hard, why bother trying?". There's no denying that changing your eating habits can be difficult. Try these 8 healthy eating tips to make it easier and more enjoyable to eat better.
The key to a healthy diet is to find what works for you and makes you feel your best both mentally and physically.
It is also important to keep in mind that there is no universal definition of healthy eating. So, healthy eating can (and should) look different for everyone! This may be good news or bad news, depending on who you ask. Many people prefer black and white rules. However, if these rules are too restrictive, they can causes people to give up on their new healthier habits. I encourage my clients to "live in the gray" meaning, there are no black and white rules.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to eating healthy. It's important to find what works for you, your health history, your lifestyle, and your food preferences. This will be different for everybody.
Even though everybody’s definition of healthy eating will be different, you can follow the below 8 tips for healthy eating to guide you on how to eat better starting today!
8 Tips for Healthy Eating
1. Don’t skip meals
In general, the two most common reasons that people skip meals are because they are trying to lose weight or because they are busy. While these are understandable reasons to skip a meal, doing this will not help you in the long run. In fact, one of the first areas I work on with my clients is to eat consistently throughout the day and not skip meals.
The habit of skipping meals, whether it's because you want to lose weight or because you live a busy lifestyle, can result in unhealthy eating habits. You are more likely to overeat later in the day to make up for the calories you lost OR you are more likely to get overly hungry. I call getting overly hungry, "hangry". When this happens, you tend to grab whatever is quick and easy, not caring so much about eating healthy balanced meals. You are also more likely to eat quickly, which often times results in overeating - the exact opposite of what you want to do when trying to lose weight.
If you're trying to save calories by skipping meals, don't do it. Your hunger will catch yp with you and you'll most likely end up eating even more calories than if you just ate your regular meals.
When you skip meals due to busyness, remember that we make time for the things that we value. Therefore, if we understand the importance of eating regular meals, we are more likely to do so. It may not always be the perfect meal, but that's okay. I would much rather you have a granola bar and a piece of fruit than have nothing at all and grab fast food on the way home from work.
If you need help figuring out how to prioritize healthy eating into your life, click here to learn more about my personalized nutrition coaching services.
2. Think about what you can add instead of what to take away
When trying to eat better, nobody wants to think about a long list of foods they can't have. Instead, think of all the foods that you are going to add to your diet.
The idea of not being able to eat something that you enjoy can make you feel deprived and this can lead to binge eating.
The truth is, there is no single food that you can never eat again when you are trying to eat healthier. When you tell yourself that you can never eat something again, once you do allow yourself to eat it, you will probably overeat on it. This is what I call opportunistic eating. When you eat the food because you have the opportunity (i.e. going out to eat, being on vacation, attending a birthday party, somebody bringing treats at work, etc.) rather than simply eating it when it sounds good, you are not listening to your hunger cues. Instead, you have to "seize the opportunity" and you will likely overeat that food.
Breaking this mindset can be extremely difficult. When trying to break this habit, working with a professional can be helpful. My nutrition coaching services can help you change your mindset about food and learn how all foods can fit into a healthy diet. Click here to learn more.
- Increase your fiber
Only about 50% of Americans consume the recommended amount of fiber each day!
Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fiber supplements. A healthy gut microbiome is formed by good bacteria in your gut that can affect everything pretty much everything including your mental health, cholesterol, blood sugar, weight, hormones, etc.
Additionally, fiber aids in weight management by helping you stay full and slowing down digestion.
To read my complete guide to fiber and download my high fiber food list, click here.
4. Set realistic goals
When you make healthy eating changes, setting realistic goals can help you stay motivated.
If your goals are unrealistic (i.e. losing 10 pounds per week or never eating pizza again), you may feel discouraged and want to give up after a while.
Even if your realistic goal is a very small goal, start there! Once you consistently reach this goal, you will start to believe in yourself and your ability to reach your goals. This will give you the momentum you need to keep moving forward.
Everybody’s realistic goals will vary but below are some ideas to get you started:
- Drinking one extra glass of water each day
- Drink a full glass of water before having coffee
- Include a piece of fruit with breakfast
- Go for a 10 minute walk twice a week
- Instead of eating out at lunch 5 days this week, eat out for lunch 4 days this week
- Add 1 additional vegetable to your salad at lunch
- Instead of skipping breakfast everyday, eat breakfast at least twice this week
- Include at least 1 vegetable at lunch and dinner
- Plan for flexibility
Like I mentioned earlier, everybody’s definition of a healthy diet will vary. However, my definition of healthy eating includes flexibility. I recommend going so far as to plan for flexibility. Instead of meal prepping or planning for 7 dinners at home each week, plan for 4-5 at home and 2-3 out. When you go ahead and factor this flexibility into your diet, you will feel less like you messed up when you do go out to eat.
Flexibility includes being able to eat something that may otherwise be deemed “unhealthy” every now and then. Again, when you plan for this you will avoid feeling like you messed up.
Being too rigid with your nutrition plan can take the enjoyment out of eating and make it ever more difficult to stick with your goals to eat better.
6. Try different recipes - get some inspiration!
A lot of times people think eating healthy is boring but, it doesn’t have to be! I recommend getting on Pinterest or Instagram, and getting cook books, to find new recipe ideas. I find that being able to see a picture of the food always helps to get me more excited about a recipe that might otherwise seem like something you wouldn't enjoy eating.
Avoid getting in a rut of eating the same thing everyday and continue to find new recipes and experiment in the kitchen!
7. Cook more at home
In my opinion, one of the number one ways to eat healthier is to cook more at home.
Think about your favorite meal that you would get out to eat. Now think about if you made that meal yourself (or at least a similar variation) at home. I can guarantee you that when you make this at home, you will use less added oils/fats and choose higher quality ingredients than a lot of restaurants would use.
One tip for cooking more at home WITHOUT having to spend hours in the kitchen is to take some shortcuts:
- Use pre-cooked rice or quinoa
- Get an Instant pot to quickly make soups, grains, and proteins
- Freeze leftovers for a homemade meal at another time
- Cook once and repurpose the food throughout the week (i.e. make a large batch of roasted vegetables and use them in several dishes throughout the week)
8. Include a fruit or vegetable with every meal
Last but not least, try to include a fruit or vegetable with every meal. Even if you change nothing else about the foods that you are eating, but you add a fruit or vegetable to your meal, you will be significantly improving your health (and feeding your gut microbiome). Bonus points if you can work up to 50% of your meals being fruits or vegetables.
Once you get in the habit of including a fruit or vegetable in every meal, you can move on to making some healthier swaps. Here are some examples:
- Instead of chips with your sandwich, have carrots and hummus
- Instead of adding sugar to your oatmeal, add frozen berries
- Instead of having jam on your PB&J, try adding mashed berries
- Instead of using 100% rice in a dish, try using half cauliflower rice
- Instead of having rice as the base of your Chipotle or poke bowl, ask for half rice and half greens
Hopefully these tips will help you on your journey to eating better. Like I mentioned earlier, sometimes it helps to have guidance and support from a professional while you are trying to make these lifestyle changes and I would love to be that person! Click below to learn more about my nutrition serivces: