Wouldn't it be cool if being a healthy eater came naturally? It can, and your life can continue to be delicious. It comes down to making smart choices about how you get, prepare and eat your food. And here's a great place to start to get there with ease.
The Healthy Eating Playbook
It's all about moderation
Each one of us makes a decision about what we are going to eat 3 - 6 times every single day. That’s quite a bit. And each of those decisions has a short term and long term impact.
The individual decisions we make will influence how we feel just after a meal or a few hours later. Sometimes we’re fine feeling like crap for a few hours, so we eat football size burrito or a burger with a side of fries and onion rings. Sometimes we want to feel energized and healthy, so we go for the salad.
However, these decisions also add up over time. Opt for the burrito, the burger and fries to option, and over time we’ll likely notice a general sluggishness, some weight gain, and potentially disease. Over-index on salads and we’ll likely feel much more energized and youthful, fit, and healthy.
It’s not that choosing a burger and fries is bad, it’s that we want to understand our individual decisions in a larger context. A good rule of thumb is to make the healthy choice 80% of the time, or 4 in every 5 meals.
In order to incorporate healthy eating into your life, it’s important to build healthy habits. Here are five habits that can make healthy eating easy and automatic.
Simple, Smart Success Drivers
1. Cook for yourself
While the convenience of eating out or ordering delivery is tempting, it’s expensive and often unhealthy, making it a poor choice for your waistline and your bottom line (and your bottom’s line). Restaurants care about taste, not about health. And you know what makes food taste good? Fat and salt. Restaurants will add butter and oil to your meals in ways you never thought possible.
Learning to cook for yourself is one of the most powerful ways to improve your health. And if you approach it in a smart way, cooking can be quick and easy.
Start by learning a few staple dishes that you enjoy eating often. Once you have those down your confidence will grow and you can begin to explore new cuisines. It’s also great to have some quick healthy recipes in your back pocket so you can have a nourishing meal ready in minutes any time hunger comes along.
If you want some pre-made structure so you don’t even have to think about cooking, check out a meal-kit delivery service which gives you a recipe + all of the ingredients to cook a delicious meal.
2. Shop like a healthy person
Cooking for yourself doesn’t do much good if the only foods you have at home are crap. In order to create healthy food, you need healthy ingredients, which means you must shop with this goal in mind.
Avoid going to the store hungry and grabbing whatever catches your eye. Instead, go with a list of healthy ingredients you enjoy. If you need to make a quick trip and don’t have time for a list, avoid setbacks by sticking to the produce section and steering clear of the chip and candy aisles. Your last challenge comes at the checkout, where the snacks try to tempt you one last time. Look at the magazines instead, even if sensational gossip isn’t your thing.
Or, you can skip the grocery store altogether and get your groceries delivered straight to your house.
3. Eat more plant-based foods
Fruits and vegetables are the basis for a healthy diet. Plants are bursting with health-supporting compounds that work together to help your body perform at its best.
In fact, studies have shown that eating a plant-based diet is associated with a lower overall BMI, lower risk for diabetes, lower risk for heart disease, and lower blood pressure.1
We recommend trying to eat some plant foods with every meal, even breakfast. Vegetables for breakfast might not sound appealing, but give it a try and see how much better you feel all day. Add spices or your favorite sauces to bland veggies to make them taste better. Saute them in olive oil if you don’t like baked or steamed veggies.
In the end, if you focus on getting more plant-based foods in your diet, your intake of unhealthy foods will naturally be reduced as the fruits and vegetables take their place.
4. Drink more water
Water is crucial for proper body function, yet few people drink enough. In fact, up to 75% of Americans may be chronically under-hydrated.2
Properly hydrating helps to regulate hunger, increase energy, and improve your mood. Like with plant foods, get some water into your body as early as possible in the morning to notice benefits all day long. Replace one soda or juice drink per day with water. If that sounds too daunting, start by diluting your juice with water. This will lower your sugar intake while keeping your body hydrated.
We recommend starting every morning with a glass of ice water. It wakes you up, rehydrates you, and gets your metabolism going.
5. Eat mindfully
Sit down and enjoy each meal without distraction. Be aware of the process. Chew your food well and enjoy every bite. This allows you to eat less food but get much more enjoyment out of it.
It’s so easy to let our eating habits reflect the seemingly haphazard nature of our lives. We eat on the move, in the car, at our desks, and while watching television. When we don’t pay attention to what we put in our bodies, it’s easy to overeat. We open a bag of chips and reach in for a handful. When we reach down for what we think is our second handful we realize the bag is empty and we just mindlessly ate the whole bag.
However, if we can pay attention to what we are eating, we will not only have more control over what we will eat (mindful eating may be associated with healthy weight management3), but we’ll get more pleasure from what we do eat. We may only need a few pieces of chocolate instead of a full bar. A few french fries instead of a super-sized portion.
With mindful eating, we can have our cake and eat it too.
Summing it up
Cooking at home, strategic shopping, adding plant foods, drinking more water, and eating mindfully are five powerful habits that will support your healthy eating goals. By making these habits part of your daily routine, you will make proper nourishment automatic and won’t have to constantly fight the urge to eat damaging foods. You will also rediscover the pleasure that food can, and should, bring to your life.