So you want to start eating healthy but feel like you don’t have the time, don’t know where to start or feel like you lack the discipline to stick with it?
It’s really easy just to say ‘eat more real food’ or ‘eat less junk food’. But what does this mean for a normal person in terms of simple practical action steps?
First off, you do not need to feel shame for eating that pizza or ice cream!
I’m not promoting these foods, but thinking like you need to restrict yourself or force yourself to follow a diet to eat healthy is wrong.
Restricting yourself makes you feeling miserable which is not healthy and totally unacceptable.
However, conversely, eating an excess of these foods will leave you feeling miserable as well.
So you need to find a balance by increasing the amount of healthy foods but also allowing yourself to sometimes eat more unhealthy foods that you give you joy and feel you can’t live without.
So what is healthy eating;
- Protein such as beans and lentils;
- Fruits and vegetables;
- Healthy carbohydrates like rice and sweet potato; and
- Healthy fats like almonds and pumpkin seeds; and
- Herbs and spices such as turmeric and parsley.
Variety is key when it comes to eating healthy. You can do this by starting small and building the foundations. So what are the foundations?
- Drink more water between meals
Lack of water is a big reason for headaches, a lack of energy or feeling hungry.
Before you reach for a sugary snack make sure to top up your H2O levels.
Our bodies are up to 60% water. Our brain is 73% water. Without water, we struggle to function.
These are just a few reasons to keep a water bottle to hand and increase your intake.
Aim for at least 3 litres of water a day between meals (not during as this may impact digestion) and a lot more if you are active.
2. Address nutrient deficiencies
Many of us are deficient in key nutrients. When you’re deficient in key nutrients, your body doesn’t function properly. And when your body doesn’t work as it should, you feel horrible.
Energy levels, appetite and mood all rely on getting enough key nutrients.
That’s why you can eat clean, lower your sugar or carb intake or count calories and still feel low in energy.
The most common deficiencies are;
- water (that’s why drinking more water is the first step!);
- vitamins and minerals;
- fiber; and
- essential fatty acids (especially omega-3’s).
One of the first things I do with new clients is to get them to record a food diary. Then I help them introduce more variety of fruits and vegetables, fiber and healthy fats that they prefer.
You can record your own food diary yourself for free on Cronometer. It takes a few minutes to input your food intake and it highlights where you might be deficient.
3. Eat slowly until 80% full
How you eat has a significant impact on things such as how much you eat, weight gain and also how well your body digests food.
A common phrase that ‘you are what you eat’. However, a better phrase is that ‘you are what you absorb’.
A significant amount of energy is used to digest and absorb nutrients from the food we eat.
The faster we eat the harder the body has to work to be able to absorb these nutrients.
How full you feel is controlled by your hormones. These hormones send a signal to your brain whether you’re hungry or full.
However, it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive these messages.
Therefore, simply by eating slower and chewing more often, you can eat more healthy.
Try taking a few deep breaths before you start eating each meal as this will help put you in a relaxed state.
4. Eat balanced meals
We are all far too busy to count calories or track macros.
A much more minimalist and effective approach is to try and ensure most meals contain four elements;
- A protein source i.e. lentils, beans, tofu, hemp, protein powder;
- Different coloured fruit and vegetables i.e. berries, citrus fruits, apples, bananas, leafy greens, carrots, peppers, mushrooms;
- A healthy carbohydrate i.e. sweet potato, oats, brown rice; and
- A healthy fat source i.e. nuts, seeds, avocado, olives, chia, flaxseed
Additionally, measure your portion sizes by using just your hand;
- 1 palm = a serving of protein.
- 1 fist = a portion of fruit or vegetables.
- 1 cupped hand = a portion of carbs.
- 1 thumb = a portions of fat.
A good approximate place to start is 4-6 portions a day for women and 6-8 portions a day for men of protein, vegetables, healthy carbohydrates and healthy fat respectively.
However, this will vary depending on your goals.
5. Always shop with a grocery list
It will be more likely to stick with eating healthy if you create an environment that is more conducive to eating healthy.
The best way to do this is to keep unhealthy foods out of the house.
And the best way to do this is to make your shopping list ahead of time and don’t go to the store feeling hungry!
Whilst we like to think we are rational and logical beings, we can actually be quite irrational and emotional with our choices.
This is especially the case with food and supermarkets and food manufacturers know this!
Not knowing what food you want to buy makes room for emotional buying, while hunger can further exacerbate this.
Used what you learnt from step 4 above to plan your meals ahead of time and write down a grocery list.
By doing this and sticking to your list, you will not only buy healthier items but also save money and have healthier foods around the house.
What one action are you going to take today?
If you can implement these steps then great! However, don’t feel like you have to master all of these steps straight away. Pick one action and commit to it.
Most people won’t take action. Don’t be one of those people.
If you have any questions, please comment below or contact me and I will do my best to help.