Healthy eating is about feeling great. It’s not a chore to become thinner or faster or depriving yourself of great food, but rather a mode of helping people feel and look their best. As more scientists and nutritionists are studying the science of health and nutrition, it’s becoming clear that being healthy plays a critical role in being happy. The human body needs certain nutrients and exercise; a healthy diet leads to a more active immune system, clearer skin, brighter eyes, trimmer physique, and a happy you. This guide is designed to help a reader who legitimately wants to eat healthier for life, not as a crash diet to lose ten pounds in one week.
When you first embark on a lifestyle change as big as eating habits, it helps to start slow and make small changes along the way. When people change too much too fast, they often find their diet hard to stick to and revert back to their old habits. Another common mistake people make in the first few weeks is they put too much emphasis on their slip-ups; it’s completely okay to mess up once in a while. Healthy eating is for life, not just one day. Try to picture your new diet in the long-term sense of the word, not something you must perfect each and every day. As you begin your journey to a healthy diet, start making small changes:
- Drink more water. Carry around a water bottle and aim to empty it twice a day. Herbal teas count, diet sodas and coffee do not. See more about the benefits of water.
- Avoid thinking certain foods are off-limits. If you know you’re going to the best cheesecake place in town, make an effort to eat healthy beforehand, order a healthy dinner, and consider sharing a slice of cheesecake with a friend.
- Think smaller portions. Instead of polishing off your plate of meatloaf and asparagus, see if you can’t save enough for lunch tomorrow. Studies show that even one bite is often enough to curb cravings, so try not to think you need an entire chocolate bar instead of two chocolate kisses.
- Cut back on alcoholic beverages. Alcohol has many, many more calories than people remember. As opposed to downing beers, try ordering these lower calorie drinks.
At the Supermarket
- Never go to the grocery store when you are hungry.
- Do not buy food you do not like simply because it is healthy. If you do not like spinach, there are plenty of other different green vegetables that can give you similar benefits. There’s no point in having spinach rotting away in your refrigerator.
- Stock up on high-fiber and high-protein products. Fiber, from celery and whole grains, and protein, from meat and beans, keep you fuller longer. While carbohydrates are also healthy in moderation, by adding half a cup of fiber cereal to your bowl in the morning or eating a salad with chicken on top, you’re ensuring that you won’t be craving more food in an hour.
- Find fruit and vegetables that you enjoy eating. Fruit and vegetables are a great, low-calorie, and delicious way to get your vitamins. If you find your choice of fruits and vegetables is small, don’t be afraid to try new ones and sneak them in in new ways. Put strawberries in your salad, green beans in your pasta, or mushrooms on your sandwich.
Preparing your own food is the easiest way to control exactly what goes into them. Thankfully, with the number of healthy recipes available on the internet, you don’t have to be an expert chef in order to concoct a healthy and savory meal. Here are a few resources to help you get started:
- The Food Network provides a Healthy Eating section on their website that contains a vast collection of healthy recipes. You can even browse by special diets, such as “Diabetic Friendly”, “Gluten Free”, or “Heart Healthy”.
- Mayo Clinic also offers a collection of healthy recipes on their website.
- Eating Well contains not only recipes, but also various tips and resources on cooking, dieting, and general health.
Eating out can be one of the most stressful parts of beginning a healthier diet. Whether the people you’re eating with know you’re trying to eat healthier or not, you can feel uncomfortable when everyone orders a mega deluxe cheeseburger with all the trimmings and you order a grilled chicken sandwich. It’s up to you how you want to deal with your friends and family, but eating out does not have to be stressful.
- Know what the menu means.
- breaded, battered, and tempura foods = Fried
- butter sauces, béarnaise, Mornay, and sauces described as creamy = high calorie
- grilled, broiled and flame-cooked = healthfully prepared
- steamed, poached, roasted, or baked = cooked in own juices instead of butter
- Eat something before your meal. If you’re not starving, you’ll make more rational decisions about your order. Thirty minutes before, eat a piece of fruit or have a glass of water with lemon.
- Skip parts of the meal you like less. Try not to eat food simply because it is there. You can eat tortilla chips or rolls anytime. You do not have to clear your plate.
Exercise and Fitness
Exercise is an incredibly important component of feeling good. While the physical benefits of exercise have been well documented, the emotional benefits of exercise are not nearly discussed enough. People who exercise regularly often experience a reduced risk of depression and anxiety, a significant improvement in their psychological well-being, and enhanced work performance. To help you get started, here are some tips from the BlueCross on exercise.
- Talk to your doctor first. If it has been years since you engaged in moderate exercise, talking with your doctor is an excellent first step.
- Make exercise fun. Do not start going for runs if you hate running. Find a zumba class, sign up for yoga, go rock-climbing, learn salsa dancing, get a personal trainer, join a community soccer team. There are plenty of activities that are fun and physical.
- Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes it can take a while for you to feel the benefits of exercise. If you get tired of one activity, switch to a new one. Start exercising in the evening instead of the morning. Get a workout buddy. But don’t let yourself get down.
*Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons