With obesity rates at an all time high in America, along with economic struggle, it can seem as though healthy eating is always just out of reach. With medical costs being expensive, healthy eating is something you can’t afford to not do. If you start early enough you’ll be able to set a great example for your children. Eating healthy doesn’t have to take a huge bite out of your budget, it just has to take a little bit of planning.
Another big challenge is the level of multi-tasking demanded of adults today! Between work, errands, getting the kids to their events, and a home life, eating can seem like a mountain of a task – let alone eating healthy. It’s just as challenging for college kids or high school kids who are as busy, but often limited in their choices and ability to get good food.
Most of us are lucky if we get one semester in high school or college where food is addressed. We’re shown the food pyramid, maybe discuss the benefits of food, and, if we’re lucky, lightly touch on the macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients. Calories, choices, and the cumulative effects of a bad diet along with the problems and disease it causes in the body are rarely touched upon – not that any high schooler is prepared to give up pizza and junk food. By the time we’re adults, poor (or almost-healthy) choices are more of a habit and a way of life, and creating healthy eating habits can easily become “just one more thing” on the to-do list.
Like anything, healthy eating habits begin by making a conscious choice to change how you approach food, your thoughts behind food, and your emotional connection concerning eating.
Habits take time to build. To help you get started, here are 22 easy healthy eating habits.
Know the difference between eating healthy and dieting
Just because you’re choosing to make healthier food choices, doesn’t mean you’re on a diet or restricting calories. It just means you’re reaching for an apple instead of a cookie. It’s often as simple as making a healthy swap.
Build your meals around protein first
Take a moment to find your favorite protein sources (think animal by-products, such as chicken, bison, fish, eggs) and when you get ready to decide on a meal, pick out your protein source and add veggies around it.
Switch to just your favorite snacks first
If changing all of your meals seems over-whelming at first, simply start with changing your snacks to your favorite healthy snacks.
Keep a protein bar in your purse or car for emergencies
When life throws you a curve-ball and you’re late for dinner, don’t sabotage all of your efforts by grabbing a candy bar or fast food because you’re so hungry you can’t think straight. Instead, keep an emergency stash in your purse or car. This could be a healthy protein bar, a small to-go serving of powdered protein, fruit, or a nut bar. One of these healthy alternatives will help get you through.
Avoid drinking too many of your calories
Yes, coffee is calorie free, but a latte, frappe, large soda, or even a pre-made juice drink can be high in sugar and calories. Your body doesn’t register liquid calories the same way it does food calories. They can easily be stored as fat, or encourage you to overeat.
Focus pushing out temptation by adding more of your favorites
Fries with your burger may be hard to resist, so instead of letting them come on the plate and battling the urge, substitute them with something healthier. If you’re in a big get together where you know there will be tempting junk food, make sure you bring a big platter of your new favorite snacks.
Throw away temptation
Don’t start your healthy choices thinking you’ll avoid the cookies, the cupcakes, or whatever you may be tempted with. Instead, go through your house and throw away all the awful food. Don’t give it to your kids or eat your way through it. Don’t sacrifice your health (or your kids) for even a moment.
Don’t let your work/class schedule dictate when you eat
Plan your meals into your schedule and make sure your meals are prepared. It’s easier to take a five minute break to grab a snack or a meal (and you’ll be more productive) if you have it scheduled in, and already have the food with you.
Stock your house with only healthy snacks
Get your entire family on board and stock the house with only healthy snacks. Keep in mind, “healthy” doesn’t necessarily mean “organic”! If your kids are used to eating sugary cereals and processed foods, this will take a little time, and can be a bit of a battle; however, it’ll be better for you and them in the long run. Think of their future.
Start your day with a big glass of water
Start out your morning first thing with a big 16oz glass of water. You’ve been fasting all night, so this first drink helps hydrate your cells, wake you up, and fill your belly while you make a healthy breakfast.
Stay full by sneaking protein into every meal or snack
Eggs are versatile. You can find away to sneak them into just about everything. Low fat cheese, even shredded chicken or beef, are great options. Find a way to sneak these into every meal or snack! Protein helps you maintain lean muscle mass and helps you to feel satiated longer.
Fill over half your plate with veggies you love
Once you have your protein picked out, try to fill over half your plate with veggies. Experiment with different ways to cook vegetables, including the ones you previously hated. You might be surprised with what you enjoy.
Experiment with making salads
Salads can be way more exciting than just salad and maybe some meat with dressing. Experiment with different styles (chunky veggies, shredded, cut, warm, cold, etc.) and different toppings from all the food groups. Even experiment with salads which don’t have any lettuce in them.
Don’t hang around places with open snack foods where you can mindlessly munch away
Avoid keeping a bowl of chocolate or candy on your desk because of the temptation. Try to avoid going places with open bowls of grab food. You could end up just mindlessly munching on whatever you can reach for no other reason than it’s there. If you have this issue, or have to enjoy an event, then keep a glass of water in your hand and every time you try to eat, take a drink instead, and walk away for ten minutes.
If the restaurant you’re eating at doesn’t have a healthy choice, make a request and build your own plate
Don’t be afraid to make a request at a restaurant. You’re paying them to make you a meal, so make sure it’s one you feel good about. Often making a swing from fries to veggies (or pasta to a small amount of rice) is a great decision and won’t affect the bill much.
Remember organic isn’t always a good choice since it can still be heavily processed
Macaroni and cheese (organic or not) can still be heavy in fat and carbs. Organic cookies are still cookies, high in sugar and not supportive of the healthy changes you’re trying to make. Keep in mind, just because something totes an organic label (or a natural label) it doesn’t always make it a healthier choice.
Prep for breakfast and teach yourself to eat something healthy within 90 minutes of waking up
Not everyone is ready for breakfast when they get up, but research has shown it is important to start the day off right. Not to mention, you’ll be more awake, clear-headed, and productive throughout the day if you start with a healthy decision. Your body will be primed for the day. Look for high protein, low sugar, and healthy fats to kick-start your day – preferably within 90 minutes of waking, in order to make sure you don’t dip into low blood sugar levels.
Look for Crock-pot recipes if you’re busy
Overnight oats, Crock-pot soups, and even roasts are great choices if you’re super busy. Just throw it in the night before and when you get up you’re ready to go with your meal.
Buy frozen if you don’t cook fresh veggies fast enough
If fresh veggies have a tendency to spoil before you get to them, don’t be afraid to pack your freezer full of a variety of different frozen veggies.
Add veggies to EVERYTHING
Whether its Ramen Noodle Soup or your eggs in the morning, add veggies to spice up the flavor, boost the nutrient values, and help you feel full longer.
Invest in reusable containers so you can take your food with you
Reusable containers make packing your lunch and snacks the night before incredibly easy. All you have to do is grab them from the fridge in the morning and you’re set for the day. Not to mention, you can portion it out if you want to, and still go enjoy lunch with your friends or co-workers.
Pack a lunch the night before
If you’re lunch is packed the night before then it’s one less thing to do in the morning when you’re rushing to get out the door.
Eating healthy is about deciding to make a positive change in your life, and then applying just a little bit of effort in order to make that change come true. Taking the time to plan your meals (just like you would plan your outfit for the next day), will go a long ways toward setting you up for success.
If changing your eating habits in one fell swoop feels too over-whelming, then focus on just changing one meal at a time. Start with working on a healthy breakfast for a few weeks, then add in a healthy snack. Make a little extra a dinner and have a game-plan for those moments when your day may go sideways and off kilter. Having a back-up plan will help you stay on track.
Healthy eating habits can be created with just a few small changes everyday. I’d love to hear from you and what eating habits or tricks you use.