There’s no question about it: eating healthy 100% of the time can seem like a near impossible goal—especially if you’re not used to eating that way on a regular basis.
But along with consistent exercise, healthy eating is what’s really going to help you reach your goals. It can be the difference between finally achieving the body of your dreams and never quite getting there. Plus, it’ll make you feel better, give you more energy, and help you perform better in your workouts.
And the great thing about it? Healthy eating doesn’t have to be that difficult.
Because when you know what you should be focusing on and how to structure your meals around your busy days, eating healthy can actually be enjoyable—and surprisingly effortless.
Here are five tricks to make healthy eating easy:
1. Eat a protein-packed breakfast every morning
Protein is what keeps you full, fuels your muscles, and helps you keep a strong and lean physique. Starting your day out with around 30 grams of protein will not only help get you through the morning without feeling hunger pains, it will also help you feel less snacky and get less cravings for sugar and carbs later in the day.
As a bonus, since protein is harder for your body to break down than carbohydrates, a high-protein meal can actually increase your metabolism by up to 30% for as long as 12 hours at a time.
2. Carry healthy snacks with you everywhere
I don’t know about you, but if I don’t get food on a regular basis, I become what can only be described as “hangry.”
This used to be hard on my family and friends, because they would never know when I would get too hungry and “turn on them.” And as a result, I would usually be forced to get something unhealthy to snack on such a muffin or a bagel, both poor choices to fuel your body throughout the day without packing on the pounds.
But preventing “hangry” moments or unhealthy snacking when out and about is easy—as long as you do a little planning ahead of time. Doing so will not only help you avoid unhealthy foods, it will keep you from being hungry constantly and make the people around you very, very happy.
Here are a few ideas of easy, healthy snacks you can carry with you at all times:
- Almonds and other nuts (but avoid sugary trail mixes)
- Hard boiled eggs
- Protein powder (just mix with water for a quick and easy protein shake)
- Apples, oranges, grapes and other fresh fruit
- Protein bars (just avoid ones with high amounts of sugar or added ingredients)
3. Make veggies a main part of every meal
If you’re not a big fan of vegetables, I’m going to take a wild guess and assume you’ve just never had them cooked right.
Because canned, over-sauced or flavorless veggies aren’t on anyone’s list of favorite foods. But fresh, just ripened, in-season veggies? There are so many good ones to choose from—broccoli, kale, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, peppers, and more—you’re bound to find at least a couple you like.
And once you find a few that you love (or at least can tolerate), start making them a main part of every meal. Add them to omelets, toss them in salads, make stir fries with them, and even include them in smoothies. Aim to make them at least two thirds of your plate as often as possible.
Before you know it, you’ll not only find that you might actually start to like vegetables, your body will start to crave them because of how good they make you feel after eating them.
And when you fill up on veggies, you’re much less likely to gorge yourself with junk food later on.
4. Eat whole foods whenever possible
One of the easiest ways to eat healthier without trying too hard is to simply focus on avoiding processed foods and include as many whole foods as possible in your diet.
So what exactly are whole foods?
Whole foods are foods that have been processed or refined as little as possible and are free from additives or other artificial substances. They typically don’t come in a box, can, or container, contain little to no added ingredients, and unlike their processed counterparts, are packed with complex micronutrients and dietary fiber.
Eating whole foods mean you’ll frequent your local farmer’s market instead of the canned foods isle, choose whole grains over refined ones, and eat fresh local fish over highly processed TV dinners.
It may take a little getting used to, but once you discover how food is supposed to taste, eating healthy will become much more natural to you.
5. Don’t deny yourself your favorite foods
Do you dream about chocolate chip cookies? Love a good burger once in a while? Crave pumpkin pie on a crisp fall day?
Good. Don’t stop eating those foods. Limit them, yes, but don’t cut them out of your diet altogether.
Why? Because while it may seem counterintuitive, when you cut all of your favorite foods out of your diet completely, not only will it cause to you feel deprived and bitter about eating healthy, more often than not it also leads to a binge eating session of those very same foods when you’re at a moment of willpower weakness.
And the truth is that if you’re working out and keeping active on a regular basis, allowing yourself a few small treats every once in a while will not only make you happier about eating healthy the majority of the time, it will also make it more likely that you’ll stick with healthy eating in the long run.
But just remember, while having your favorite not-so-healthy foods here and there is a perfectly acceptable part of any healthy diet, don’t forget to treat them as they are—special treats.