How To Start Eating Healthier The Easy Way
Have you ever noticed that food is everywhere in our culture? And I don’t just mean in the grocery stores and restaurants around us.
Food is often what brings us together. We celebrate holidays with big meals and family gatherings. We get together with friends over food or coffee. We even find self-expression through the kind of food we cook and eat.
Whether we realize it or not, food is pretty central in our lives.
Unfortunately, it’s not always central in a good way. We are surrounded with food that’s convenient and quick to eat- also known as processed junk food. A lot of us are waking up to the fact that the standard American diet (also known as SAD) isn’t so great.
But changing how and what we eat is stressful! It’s not easy to do a complete 180 and start eating a healthier diet overnight.
Here’s some good news: changing your diet doesn’t actually have to be stressful.
It’s all in how you go about it. The all-or-nothing approach often leaves people with the ‘nothing.’ So here’s how to start eating healthier and feeling better without the stress.
Start With Baby Steps
The major problem with completely changing your diet overnight is that it’s hard to sustain. Some people can do it. But for most people the thought of such a big change is overwhelming.
Depending on where your starting point is, eating healthier can be a lot of work. It takes researching, planning, shopping, preparing, and cooking. And, of course, eating. That’s a lot to take on.
I’ve found that the best way to go about it is to take baby steps. Make small changes instead of large ones. Adding or changing just one new thing at a time will keep you from being overwhelmed. It won’t take long for one small change to became part of your routine. Then, you can move on to the next one.
So what does that look like in practice? It depends on what your health goals are, but here are some examples.
It could mean adding in one serving of fruits or veggies each day. It could mean drinking two extra glasses of water every day. Or it could mean cutting out something: one less cup of coffee or spoonful of sugar or whatever.
Start small and build on your success by eating healthier a little at a time.
A great way to start with small changes is by substituting. Take something in your diet that you know isn’t good for you and substitute it with something similar but better for you.
What I mean by this is that you don’t have to start out by eating carrots instead of chocolate cake. If your taste buds are expecting chocolate and get carrots instead, that’s a pretty big disappointment. (At least, I think so.)
Instead, try substituting a dessert that still tastes good but has less sugar, processed ingredients, etc. That way, you won’t be so disappointed that you’re tempted to quit.
You can keep substituting until you have something much healthier than what you started with.
Make It Taste Good!
If I could pick only one rule to start eating healthier without stressing, this would be it. There is a myth floating around that eating healthy means eating bland and boring food all the time. This is absolutely not true!
The worst way to adjust to a healthier diet is to eat tasteless (or at least unseasoned) vegetables all the time. This will almost guarantee that healthy eating is stressful and something you will never stick with.
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When it comes to diet change, flavor is your friend!
It’s true that transitioning from a highly processed, sugar filled diet to a whole foods diet will be an adjustment to your taste buds. Many processed foods are designed to be addicting.
But that just makes it even more important to learn how to make healthy food taste good. Salt (in moderation), herbs, and spices not only add flavor to food, but are also good for you.
I especially like the strong flavors of Asian seasonings, and I also frequently use essential oils for flavoring. Experiment to see what you like best.
Just remember that if the food tastes good, you are much more likely to keep eating it!
Try Out The 80-20 Rule
I don’t really adhere to any specific diet or plan, but I do really like the 80-20 rule. Basically, this rule means that if you are eating healthy 80% of the time, don’t worry about the other 20%. This way of doing it can help you start eating healthier without giving up foods you really like.
I think this is really important for making healthy eating sustainable because it lets us still enjoy food that’s not so healthy. There is absolutely no point in making yourself miserable with a strict diet. The chances are, you won’t stick with it.
Knowing how much of your diet is 80% is a little bit of guesswork. But the main point is to eat healthy most of the time, so that you can occasionally eat those unhealthy foods that taste good without sabotaging your health.
This works really well for things like eating out and holidays. If you make sure your 80% is happening, you can enjoy the other 20% without feeling guilty. And healthy eating becomes much less stressful.
Eating Healthy Is A Lifestyle
It all really comes down to the fact that eating healthy is a lifestyle, not a ‘diet.’ Here’s a quick summary of how to eat better without stressing:
- Make small changes instead of big ones. Once something becomes a habit, make another small change.
- Switch out something unhealthy for a healthier but similar tasting substitute.
- Use seasoning to make healthy food taste good! Eating healthier doesn’t mean bland food.
- Use the 80-20 rule. If 80% of your diet is healthy, eat what you want for the other 20%.
Our bodies are only going to function well if the raw material we put into them is good stuff. Changing what and how we eat is definitely a process.
Hopefully, it now seems like a much less stressful process than it did before!
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