Once you’ve decided to take the first steps in healthy eating, creating a plan to guide you will help you in your efforts. Eating healthier can start with small changes at first and you can progress from there, but creating goals for yourself in advance will help you stay focused and measure your progress.
Make Realistic Goals
If losing weight is what you hope to accomplish with your new healthy eating habits, set reasonable goals for yourself in terms of how much weight you’d like to lose. For some, gaining weight, lowering cholesterol, or building muscle may be the goal. Regardless of what you’re working towards, making goals that aren’t too easy or too impossible is a great way to stay motivated.
Stay Away From Convenience Foods
Not in every case, but quite often, packaged foods that are ready to eat are much less healthy than something home cooked. Cooking healthy meals from fresh meats, vegetables, and whole grains allows you to see what you’re putting into your meal and cut down on the excess fats and sugars you don’t need. You’re also potentially cutting out quite a bit of preservatives and toxins by eating this way.
Don’t Be Afraid To Snack
Sticking to a healthy eating plan doesn’t mean you need to cut snacks out of your day. Switching up your snack choices to a healthier alternative will allow you to fulfill your cravings while helping you to feel full and satisfied all day. Have a snack alternative option ready for every different craving you have, such as sweet, salty, hot, cold, or crunchy. Eat a piece of fruit in place of a candy bar or have a handful of nuts rather than a bag of chips.
Making too many drastic changes at once could be discouraging if you become overwhelmed with denying yourself all the foods you’re used to. Start by reducing your portions on your regular meals and cutting out the little things like that bag of chips you wolfed down on the way home and didn’t really taste. Once you’ve become accustomed to paying more attention to your diet, add a few more healthy eating habits in one at a time and soon you’ll notice your whole routine has changed for the better.
Too often people eat to make themselves feel better rather than to satisfy their hunger. When you eat for this reason, the foods you crave are usually those loaded with sugar or fat rather than healthy fruits and veggies. In order to develop healthy eating habits, the reliance on comfort foods needs to be reduced or eliminated completely.
Reflect On Why You Eat
Before reaching for a candy bar when you’re in line at the grocery store, ask yourself if you really need some chocolate and why. If you’ve had a stressful day at work or you’ve been under emotional strain, put the candy back and try to find a healthier way to make yourself feel better. Replacing exercise with eating will not only maximize any weight loss goals, it will increase your endorphins and give you a huge self esteem boost.
Healthy Eating For Dessert
A delicious dessert at the end of a hard day can be the highlight of the evening for a lot of people. Rather than eating a piece of cake or bowl of ice cream, have a fresh bowl fruit salad or some low-fat frozen yogurt. Substituting your high calorie desserts for something a little healthier can be a guilt free way to finish your day.
Clear Out Your Cupboards
Keeping chips and cookies in the cupboards is too tempting for most people, especially after a rough day. Throw out all your junk food and when a craving hits you, you won’t be tempted by fatty snack foods and you’ll be more likely to munch on something much better for you. Willpower can only take you so far in your healthy eating goals, so avoid the candy aisles and don’t even look in the vending machines you walk past until you’ve trained yourself to resist your junk food cravings.
It’s easy to talk yourself into having just one piece of cake or thinking that because you’ve had a rough day you deserve it. After eating that one piece it’s pretty likely that you’ll feel guilty for doing so and you may end up feeling worse than you did before. By just being strict and laying down the law, you’ll probably feel much prouder of yourself for choosing the apple instead of the cookie.
Weight loss isn’t the only reason to lead a healthier lifestyle. By building healthy eating habits, you’ll be lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes while making your body feel stronger and more alert. Many people have a naturally high metabolism and don’t need to watch their weight, but this doesn’t mean they should live off chips, cookies, and chocolate milk every day.
Thin people can be at risk for heart disease as well. Just because you don’t have a spare tire around your midsection doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry about health issues such as diabetes and high cholesterol. Especially if you don’t get any exercise, healthy eating is something that should be kept in mind for people of all shapes, weights, and sizes.
Healthy eating habits aren’t just good for your body, they’re good for your brain as well. Eating properly will help you to be more alert while giving you increased mental and physical energy. Not only will you have a clearer mind, getting the proper nutrition will help your mood as well. Healthy eating can fight depression and will prevent you from suffering from insomnia and irregular sleep patterns.
Skin, Hair, and Nails
Being properly hydrated and getting the vitamins and minerals your body needs will help to give your skin a healthy glow and will strengthen your hair and nails. Even if eating healthy is something you do for aesthetic purposes only, your weight still isn’t the only appearance orientated factor it can affect.
By eating healthy and getting the proper grains and fiber, you’re ensuring your digestive system stays in proper working order. A clean digestive system will allow you to absorb nutrients properly and will lower your risks of diseases such as colon cancer.
Healthy eating affects every aspect of your body, not just your waistline. If you’re one of the naturally thinner people out there, keep in mind that fuelling your body with trans fats and refined sugars will catch up with you down the road. You may not always see the effects junk food can have on your body, but once you start practicing healthy eating habits, you’ll notice the difference and your organs will thank you later.
Sticking to your healthy eating plan when your fridge is filled with vegetables and there’s no temptation in sight can be much easier than sitting two feet away from a buffet table loaded with gingerbread cookies and eggnog every night for a week. Once the holidays come around, you’ve got food filled parties and get-togethers to attend every night so it’s important to have a strategy to avoid binging until January rolls around.
Having a healthy breakfast that morning and filling up on fruit and veggies before you head to your next Christmas party will reduce your cravings for all the cakes and cookies you’ll be faced with. Once you do decide to grab a plateful from the buffet table, load it with the leaner meats, vegetables, and whole wheat crackers. If you still need a sweet fix after that, limit yourself to just one then position yourself further away from that table.
Alcoholic drinks can be loaded with hidden calories so be aware that what you’re drinking could be sabotaging you. Choose a lower calorie beer or mix spirits with a sugar free type of mix. Alternating alcoholic beverages with a glass of water or low calorie juice can greatly reduce the amount of extra calories you’re consuming.
If having eggnog and hot chocolate is a tradition you just can’t give up, limit yourself to just one of those types of drinks. These beverages are loaded with fat and sugar, so drinking too much of them too many nights in a row can destroy the benefits of all the other healthy eating habits you’ve been practicing. Another option could be watering these beverages down with some skim milk to cut out a bit of the extra fat.
Bring Healthy Options
A lot of get-togethers around the holidays tend to be potluck style parties. Especially if you know your friends aren’t the type to bring healthier options, be sure that what you bring is geared towards healthy eating. You may even find that quite a few other people will enjoy the healthier options you’ve provided them.
Sticking to any workout regimen you currently have can be great incentive to stick to your healthy eating routine as well. If you throw in the towel over the holidays you’ll probably be wracked with guilt throughout the entire month of January. Forgetting about healthy eating is a slippery slope, so telling yourself you’re still doing a good job will help motivate you to stay at least somewhat strict in front of that cookie platter.