We all know how much of an insurmountable task healthy eating can appear to be at times. And too few Americans are getting the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. But eating healthy is a great investment in both short-term and long-term health outcomes. Developing good habits when it comes to food choices doesn’t have to feel like something that’s out of your reach. Shifting the way you approach food could be as easy as taking a few small steps, consistently of course. And we’ve rounded up some suggestions that will have you exercising new healthy eating habits in no time.
1. Sneak in your veggies
Veggies are the obvious choice when it comes to healthy eating. They’re jam-packed with vitamins and full of fiber. But the average person eats only a fraction of the amount of vegetables they should. An easy way to turn this around is to sneak them in! Toss them into soups and smoothies. Swap out spaghetti for for spaghetti squash. Or make a satisfying cauli-mash instead of mashed potatoes. You’ll reduce calories while upping your nutrition game.
2. Curb cravings with protein
Do your hunger pangs strike in the mid-afternoon, even after you’ve had a full lunch? Nip those cravings in the bud by making healthy and satisfying food choices earlier in the day. Rather than running for the vending machine, reach for some protein. Protein fills You up and boosts satiety longer than carbs. Need a few ideas? How about some Greek yogurt, a hard-boiled egg, some almond butter, or a small turkey bowl.
3. Leave low-fat for full-fat
Have you heard the news? Full fat is okay! And it may even be better for your health than it’s low-fat counterpart. Why? Low-fat foods are usually lower in fat but loaded with sugar and many other artificial sweeteners and ingredients that can wreak havoc on your health. And including a moderate amount of whole dairy products in your diet can actually help to lower your risk of obesity. So there’s no need to deprive yourself of whole milk or full fat yogurt just because you think “low-fat” is better. Moderation is the key, of course.
4. Add more beans to the mix
Beans pack a powerful punch of protein while also being a great value at the grocery store. Substitute beans for poultry, steak or seafood throughout the week. You can never get bored adding beans into your diet with the variety of choices available. They can be batch-cooked and stored in the freezer for weeks to save time on those busy mid-week nights when you just don’t have time (or desire) to cook.
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5. Prioritize portions
It’s not always how hungry you are that determines how much you eat, or subsequently how many calories you consume. When you are served food in a larger container or on a larger plate, you’re simply more likely to consume more (or all) of it just because it’s there. So a great habit to develop is eating food on a plate that is more proprotional to a regular meal size. This ensures that your portions don’t escalate out of control leaving you feeling like you overdid it.
6. Log your meals
It’s no secret that keeping a record can help you to stay on track with your goals. When your goal is to develop healthy eating habits, one key tool is keeping a food log. Logging your food can greatly increase your chances of staying on track as you’ll be more mindful about what you’re eating when you have a “record” of your food choices. It’s a neutral way to simply keep a record and use that record to inform your future choices. If you want to develop and stick to a healthy diet, start logging your food with a journal or an app. People who log their meals are more likely to be successful with weight loss than those who don’t.
7. Unfollow food blogs
How many of those obscene speed-cooking videos have popped up in your Facebook feed this week? Or how many food blogs do you visit every day? If you’re drooling over what you see on the screen, chances are you’re subconsciously making food choices based on those videos and posts long after you’ve closed the browser. Give your healthy eating habits a fighting chance by limiting your consumption of food-related media. Those images are putting your ghrelin (the hunger hormone) into overdrive.
8. Switch your meals around
Wanna do something crazy! Eat dinner for breakfast. Have a snack at lunchtime, and then eat lunch later. There’s no rule that says your heaviest meal has to be eaten at dinner-time. There’s no rule saying you have to eat a heavy meal at all! Get a jump start on eating veggies by having them with breakfast. And have something “lighter” for lunch or dinner like a green smoothie. Listen to your body and what it craves. Fuel your body with the foods that help you to feel your best.
9. Shop, then chop (right away)
When you come home from grocery shopping, what happens to the fruit and vegetables you purchased? Do they wind up being tossed in the crisper drawer to emerge a week or two later as an unrecognizable blob-in-a-bag? Instead of putting them in their final resting place, why not wash and chop them right away! Portion them into grab-and-go snack containers so you’ll always have a healthy snack handy throughout the day and week. Taking a few minutes to slice and dice will ensure that you’re saving (or not wasting, rather) your grocery budget and that you your hunger cravings don’t lead you down the hall to the vending machine. Don’t like to prep vegetables? Buy the pre-cup ones at the store. But the key is to eat them!
10. Plan meals in advance
When is the best time to figure out what’s for dinner? It’s definitely not when you’re hungry and tired after a long, exhausting day. Avoid the take-out restaurant by making a plan and planning to succeed with your healthy eating habits. Planning your meals in advance is a surefire way to guarantee you will have something healthy on standby no matter how drained you are at the end of the day. Pre-cut and season your chicken breasts and pre-chop your veggies (yes, I’m mentioning this again) for a quick stir-fry chicken and veggies. Make enough that it lasts a few days. Cook once and eat twice, or thrice!
11. Have fun with food
Forming new habits can be fun! Rather than focusing on what you “can’t” eat and swearing off of junk food, make your healthy habits all about your new, exciting food adventures. Look for ways to re-make your favorite recipes into a healthier version. Research new ingredients that you’d like to try, and try them! Go to the farmer’s market and explore the fresh, seasonal produce that’s available in your local area. You’ll be more likely to stick to healthy changes when you focus on all the possibilities rather than what you’re cutting out.
12. Partner up
Studies show that having accountability is key for sustained habit change. If your progress has been hit or miss, you just might benefit from having a partner on your team. Do you have a friend who has similar goals? Recruit them as your ally in working on healthy eating. Or consider joining a group or program if you like the idea of being part of a community of people working towards the same goals. You can do this virtually or through a program in your community. Your insurance company may even have this as a benefit, so check.