Mention healthy eating and there are images of green concoctions and complex recipes swirling in your head. It doesn’t have to be so hard and dull. Let’s break down the simplicity of achieving the balanced diet you want and need.
1. Clean out your kitchen cupboards
That stash of candy and bag of chips have to go. Anything with more than three artificial ingredients, heavily processed foods, anything that contains high amounts of sugar or sodium should be thrown out. Say goodbye to microwavable and packaged meals. Once you’re done cleaning your fridge and emptying your cupboard, check your pockets and bags. Perhaps there are snacks and candy, hidden or forgotten, that need be to chucked as well. Out of sight, out of mouth.
Choosing stems from having options so put yourself in the clear to ensure you’re making smarter choices.
2. Buy a water filter or a portable container
You’re probably sick of hearing this but it’s worth repeating. Your body needs water, your organs, your brain, your mouth, your stomach. Consider it electricity for the body. Every healthy, balanced diet starts with a proper amount of hydration. Aim for at least one liter of water a day, not including water from the foods you eat.
Having a water mug or container keeps you remain mindful of your required daily intake while a water filter saves you money as it limits the usage of plastic water bottles.
3. Learn the basics on Nutrition Facts
Those nutritional tables you see on the sides and back of nearly everything possess a lot of crucial information. It’s important to know the nutritional value of food. This will help you choose foods that effectively nourish your body with crucial, core nutrients. The Nutrition Facts table should inform you of calories, core nutrients (fat, sodium, protein, fibre..) and the daily value (%DV) of nutrients based on the amount of food. Knowing this will enable you to compare products in order to make better choices and will allow you to choose better products more easily, over time.
Not all foods have nutrition tables (fruits, meats, alcohol, bread); however discerning which items are healthy for you should be fairly easy.
4. Set a food budget
So the kitchen’s de-cluttered from unhealthy options, you’re drinking like a newborn fish to stay hydrated and avoid overeating, and you actually understand what those digits mean on the nutrition label. You’re on a roll and ready to buy super foods, anti-oxidant fruits and enough lemons to start your own grove.
But before you set out to the grocery store, excited to implement all these changes, do your wallet a favor and set a number for food purchases on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis. This will prevent you from overspending, which we sometimes do to compensate for other cravings, and avoid you from being overwhelmed with too many options.
5. Make a grocery list
This is the fun part. Budgets and lists are conjoined at the sexy hip of financial management and awareness. Try to diversify your shopping lists to include at least one item from the food pyramid. Stock up on fruits, vegetables and filling items like sweet potatoes, beans and nuts. If you have a sweet tooth, load up on sweet seasonal fruits like apples, mangos, kiwis and grapes. If chips are your weakness, try pistachios instead.
I asked a few friends for reasons why they resort to fast food and the most prevalent response was convenience. Jot down a few easy-to-make meals or go-to recipes to avoid that pitfall. My lazy dinners often involve a baked sweet potato (loaded with vitamin A), a fried egg (protein) and homemade tomato sauce I make in abundance prior to the week.
6. Get creative
Healthy eating boasts many benefits from noticeable energy increase to better moods and easier weight management. However as the day wears on or as you begin to settle into this new change, you might feel tempted to resort back to comfort foods.
It’s crucial to find a healthy medium between the foods you love and the foods your body needs. Find healthier substitutes for foods you cannot live without. If you despise drinking water all day, buy de-caffeinated green tea or hoard sliced watermelons, cucumbers and carrots. If ice cream is your guilty treat, reduce the amount of times you indulge and consider replacing your daily scoop with a bowl of unsweetened yogurt with sweet and crunchy granola bits. Next time you need something quick between meals, reach for natural oatmeal and slices of actual fruit (bananas, peaches and berries).
I cannot function without my daily dose of dark chocolate and on days where my sugar cravings are out of control, I reach for mango and peach smoothie popsicles.
7. Be patient
Don’t beat yourself up for the occasional slip. It’s okay to make mistakes as they help you adjust to what fits your lifestyle and discover what doesn’t work for you. Incremental changes in the betterment of your diet can be enjoyable, if you stay patient and curious. Sometimes persistent cravings despite all your efforts are signs of a nutrient deficiency. Do a little research.
Healthy eating is not about depriving yourself of the things you enjoy, it’s about finding the balance between the things you love to eat and the food your body needs to function at its best. Continue on that journey to find that balance for yourself.
Featured photo credit: Bruce Tuten via flickr.com