You know you need to do it, but you don’t know where to start.
You probably are aware of the many benefits of a healthy diet, but I still wanted to mention them here:
-maintain a healthy weight
-prevent/manage a number of diseases (diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, cancer, etc.)
-improve gut health
-stronger bones and joints
-naturally smell better
When I don’t eat well (too much sugar or greasy foods especially) I feel a HUGE difference in my body and mood. I wake up more tired, anxious, and it feels like I’m in a fog. These effects often last for awhile and takes a toll on my work and work outs!
Our bodies are our home. They take care of us and try their best to do what they can to help us survive. However, they can only do so much. If you’re not providing it with the nutrients it needs, things go wrong.
Start taking the necessary steps TODAY for a healthier you!
A healthy diet IS NOT complicated. It just seems complicated because we are constantly bombarded with diets, supplements, and other weight loss tactics. There is a ton of information out there, many of which are conflicting.
Eat low carbs and high fat. Don’t eat too many fruits vs. eat fruits all day long. Count your calories vs. count your nutrients. And so on.
The important thing is that you educate yourself, specifically to your needs.
There are millions of videos, books, and articles that will help you on this journey. Just be sure the information is accurate and coming from a reliable source.
Consult your doctor before making any major changes, but honestly don’t trust everything your doctor has to say. Food is very powerful. To properly educate yourself, I suggest finding a certified nutritionist/dietician who is respectful of your goals and dietary preferences.
Watch your portion sizes
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH) portion sizes in America have doubled or TRIPLED within the last 20 years. Those large portion sizes contribute to obesity and many adverse health effects.
It’s so easy to lose control of how much you’re eating/drinking when many foods are packaged in “snack size” containers, yet actually have 2-4 servings in them.
Portioning out all of your food by using a food scale will make a huge difference in what you consume. It may sound tedious, but weighing your food doesn’t take that much time. Besides, after awhile you will start to be able to eye ball the correct portion sizes.
So how do you know how much food to portion?
All food has a nutrition label. If something doesn’t have it, Google it. At the top of the nutrition label you will find ‘Serving size’ followed by a number in ounces or grams. Depending on your weight, height, and goals, weigh out the food according to that value. For liquids you can use measuring cups or a convertor.
Revamp your kitchen
If your pantry and fridge is filled with chips, candy, soda, and other junk…you’re going to eat it. If you replace those things with veggies, dried fruits, and fresh juices you will consume those instead.
Give away or donate the bad foods and bring in the good stuff!
When you know something is in the house you are way more likely to eat it, especially if it’s visible.
Organize your healthy grains (oats, rice, quinoa, etc.) into cute clear containers and place chopped up fruits and veggies at the front of your fridge.
Take baby steps
Changing your lifestyle in anyway can be quite difficult. Going from a diet filled with processed foods to a completely whole food diet is near impossible.
Like I always say, baby steps are still steps. Start with meatless Mondays. Reduce your sugar intake daily by eliminating one extra cup of soda or coffee. Start eating one fresh veggie every day.
You don’t have to go from 0 to 100 when it comes to being healthy, you will likely fail.
A healthy diet really needs to become a LIFESTYLE. That means you are able to maintain it without going crazy.
Start getting active
Personally, I think regular exercise is easier to reach than a healthy diet. However, nutrition is more important.
Both are essential to a healthy life and mind. If you start getting active, it’s likely that you will crave healthier foods.
This is because unhealthy foods make you feel like crap, and you’ll start to feel it. Eating good food will give you more energy to get to the gym or go for a jog.
Again, start small. If you are very inactive, just get moving for 5 minutes a day and slowly increase the amount of time and intensity as days pass.
If you are looking to make exercise a habit, check out this post.
Experiment with healthy alternatives
If you’re a picky eater or you eat the same unhealthy thing everyday, you’re still in luck.
Your taste buds can change and I guarantee you, you can find a healthy alternative to most things.
Foods with a lot of ingredients you can’t pronounce, additives, added sugar, etc. should be avoided.
Look for foods with minimal (natural) ingredients and no sugar added.
Here’s a few examples:
Substitute granola bars/protein bars such as Nature Valley or Special K with minimal ingredient bars like Larabars, KIND bars, and Macrobars.
Instead of Lays chips, look for bean or veggie chips.
Replace regular pasta with lentil pasta, they’re usually 1-2 ingredients and high protein!
Instead of eating frozen or fast food french fries, bake them from scratch.
Switch from white breads to whole grain/seeded breads. Start buying canned food with no salt added. Look for sauces with less ingredients and no sugar added. Switch from soda to seltzer water.
The key is to find an alternative you actually like, and of course still keep an eye on portion sizes! I know it doesn’t taste the same, but I’m telling you over time you will get so used to the flavor.
I used to eat regular peanut butter, then I switched to natural peanut butter which I thought tasted plain and boring. Now I can’t stand regular peanut butter! It tastes too processed and sweet.
If your guilty pleasure is sweets or chocolate, you’ve got choices too!
First of all, switch to dark chocolate…it’ll grow on you.
Instead of candy, eat dried fruit. Dried apricots are 10x better than candy to me. Don’t knock it til’ you try it!
I could list tons of alternatives. The key is to read nutrition labels and ingredient lists!! Your best bet is to prepare your food from home!
Cook healthy meals you enjoy
Healthy foods don’t have to taste like cardboard ya know!?
Don’t torture yourself. Find recipes that are healthy but taste really good.
I love a good curry, homemade falafels, and flavorful nourish/Buddha bowls…all of which are very healthy!
I use Pinterest to find yummy recipes, and from there I have found my favorite food bloggers that I return to again and again for their recipes!
Drink more water instead of sugar and caffeine
Not drinking enough water throughout the day is easy to do. What makes it worse is many people drink coffee, soda, or juices that can dehydrate you and add on extra calories.
I only drink one cup of coffee a day, but I definitely use over 1-2 tbsp of vegan creamer which has a good bit of calories AND sugar. I did the math and I would be consuming about 12 POUNDS of sugar each year from my coffee alone. So I switched to a creamer with no sugar added.
Personally, I would rather not get my calories from drinks because they often don’t provide much nutritional value and they don’t fill me up.
Pay attention to the calories and sugar content of the drinks you consume daily. It really adds ups over time.
Our bodies also retain water when we don’t drink enough. So if you start drinking enough water (at least half your body weight in ounces) then you’ll probably notice your weight will drop a few pounds.
The best thing you can do is drink only water and tea.
Need tips on how to drink more water? Check out this post!
Increase your fruit and vegetable intake
According to the CDC, only 1 in 10 adults consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables (1.5-2 cups of fruit and 2-3 cups of vegetables). These foods are nature’s medicine!
Fruits and vegetables can help prevent and even treat many illnesses.
The key is to find the ones you love and then prepare and add them to all of your meals.
Each week, start adding in an additional serving of either. I don’t recommend eating canned fruits and veggies, but if that is the best you can do right now then do that!
You don’t need to torture yourself with eating salad all day, just add them to each meal.
Whatever you normally eat for breakfast, eat some fresh berries with it too.
Have a banana or apple as a snack.
Have a small side salad with lunch (diy your dressing!).
Snack on fresh bell peppers and carrots before dinner.
And then sauté some zucchini or spinach with dinner.
Vegetables are considered high volume foods. Meaning you can consume a lot of them, which will fill your stomach, but not crank up your calories. Plus you’ll benefit from the micronutrients and minerals of course.
Be aware of where your health stands
When is the last time you got an extensive blood test?
If you’re feeling fatigued, over emotional, or off in anyway, it’s worth it to take a trip to your doctor and get a blood test.
A few months ago I got vegan testing done which was really insightful and helpful in regards to what I need to start consuming more of.
If you find out you have prediabetes or other health concerns, your diet can actually completely turn those things around! That’s truly so amazing and without knowing where your health stands right now you may be too late. And hopefully any bad results will motivate you to start a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Also, when you know which vitamins or minerals your body is low on you can optimize your diet. For example, if you have low ferritin levels (which is how iron is stored in the body) you can increase your levels by adding vitamin C rich foods to iron rich foods. So you can add fresh squeezed lemon to spinach or lentils.
Avoid completely restricting yourself
As I said above, going from 0 to 100 is not sustainable. Of course it’s possible to eat a completely healthy diet, but if you’re anything like me you love some cookies or donuts from time to time.
A healthy diet is also about learning to eat in moderation. 80% healthy, 20% unhealthy is a great goal. If you want to go grab a couple donuts one weekend then go for it! Just make sure you’re eating healthy majority of the time!
If you completely restrict yourself from eating sweets or fries or whatever it is, then you’ll probably end up binge eating that food and losing control.
Meal planning and prepping is key
Meal prepping has changed my life, I even created a meal prep guide because I love it so much!
I’ve been meal prepping EVERY week since March of 2016. It takes me 1-2 hours every Sunday to prepare, cook, and clean ALL of my food for the week which saves me a ton of time and energy throughout the week.
I keep my meals simple, healthy, and tasty.
If meal prepping isn’t your thing, at least plan your meals out! Going to the grocery store without a list is a disaster waiting to happen. You’ll also waste time and money doing that. If you prefer to cook dinner every night, then be sure to cook extra so you have left overs for lunch!
Honestly I think this might be the most important thing of this whole list. By planning the exact food you’re going to eat, you take complete control of the week ahead.
Start a vitamin regimen
In addition to a healthy diet, supplementing with vitamins and minerals can be really important too. Of course you can get all of your daily vitamin requirements from food, but many of us don’t.
And because I am a vegan I know I don’t get much B12, vitamin D, or omega-3s, therefore I make sure to take my vitamins every day!
At the moment I take,
-vitamin C (every other day)
-extra vitamin D (once a week).
Don’t rely on supplements for essential vitamins, but taking them is a great habit to start. Be sure to do your research on the brands you are purchasing!
With all that being said, what can you do today to benefit your body? Make a plan, start now, and you’ll start feeling healthy in no time.