In an age of busy lifestyles, and an overabundance of convenience foods and drive-through options, the average American diet sorely leaves something to be desired. Obesity and a host of lifestyle-related health conditions are commonplace and the number of afflicted continue to climb at an alarming rate. We often underestimate the power of eating well because a ‘’balanced diet’’ just seems too simple a solution to improving our health; we look to magical supplements and fad diets instead. But, it is one of the most powerful tools available to you. If you are looking to shift your eating habits in favor of your health, here are some tips to help you do just that.
Get Your Mind Right
Your mind needs to be right if you want your diet to be right. Stress feeds unhealthy habits, like emotional eating. It makes you care less about your health and makes you feel less optimistic about making healthy changes. Get clear on your ‘’why.’’ What is prompting your desire to eat better? If you want to be healthier, why? If you want to lose weight, why? If you want to feel better about yourself, why? If you want to set a good example for your children, why? When you identify your core motivations, the path will be easier to travel—you will have an easier time making good decisions. You will reduce your tendencies to self-sabotage. Laziness will no longer win out.
One of the biggest problems people face in trying to change their unhealthy ways is attempting to do a full 180 from eating terribly to having a perfect diet within a few days. It can take awhile to break the bad habits and overhaul your diet. Start by setting smaller goals for yourself. Instead of eating a sweet treat for dessert every night, commit to three nights of fruit and low-fat whipped cream. Bring some trail mix to work instead of making your daily 3:00 trip to the vending machine. Try a new vegetable each night; work some healthier fats into your diet while phasing out the unhealthy ones—an avocado is one of my favorite breakfast foods, and it keeps me full until lunch.
Make a Plan
Stating an intention to eat better is all fine and good, but without a concrete plan, you will not get very far. You need to figure out how you are going to get from where you are now to where you want to be diet-wise. So, you say you want to start eating a healthy breakfast every day—how are you going to do that? Interested in cooking more healthy meals at home instead of relying on take-out and frozen dinners laden with processed foods and chemicals? You need to write out a list of meals, and go grocery shopping for the week. Is time an issue? You need to research quick and easy meals and snacks, and keep the recipes handy. For example, you can whip up a health and delicious Mediterranean pasta sauce in 10 minutes.
Go Easy on Yourself
When trying to adopt a healthier diet, one scenario is all too common—you slip up, berate yourself and just give up on the whole thing altogether. Remember that you are looking to make lasting changes to your lifestyle—we are talking about decades to come. You will likely have your moments when you fall off the healthy food bandwagon, and that is okay. Just regroup and start again. Also, it is important to remember that you do not need to give up sugar for life, or never eat a processed carbohydrate again. Sometimes you will want to eat something simply because it tastes good, and that is okay. In the long run, having a brownie every once in awhile is not going to doom you.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who enjoys blogging about nutrition; she is a fan of Hamilton Beach for their great selection of recipes.