As a lifelong fitness enthusiast, I know the great importance of proper nutrition. Still being able to maintain a 30 inch waistline in my middle age, I think that I should have enough proven credibility to give you a few tips on how to build healthy eating habits and make them stick.
Physical activity is only 50% of the overall health equation. The other 50% is nutrition. And without healthy eating habits, one will not be able to achieve good health and fitness.
So it does depend on what you eat, and in this modern age of convenience and rushed daytime schedules, it’s easy to eat unhealthy. So here are some areas to consider that will help keep you on the right health track.
Educate Yourself On Food And Healthy Eating Habits
In order to eat healthy, you have to understand which foods are actually healthy and which ones are not. Learn from reading nutrition books and websites. Maybe even consult a dietician to get you started.
Quite often, convenient foods are laced with too much salt, sugar and other ingredients, which are not considered healthy. These ingredients can often be hidden, so it is important as part of your education to learn to read food labels while at the grocer.
Learn what ingredients to avoid, as major components are usually listed first in the food labels. Also verify and compare fat contents since many food items — which are promoted as ‘low fat’ or ‘low calorie’ — might very well still be quite high in fat. Being educated on what is contained within various types of food will help you weed out much of the unhealthy food you otherwise might end up eating.
Learn To Substitute Foods And Ingredients
In the old days, healthy eating meant a diet of bland-tasting food. I still remember that veggie burger that tasted like cardboard.
Those days are thankfully gone as food technology has improved significantly. Many of the lower fat versions of food items (like cheese and frozen yogurt) taste just as good as their standard “full-fat” versions.
One can also still cook great tasting food at home by simply substituting some of the ingredients. For example, use olive oil instead of butter for frying. Reduce salt by adding spices instead. Choose leaner cuts of meat and trim off visible fat before cooking. Something that I’ve done over the years is to drastically cut down on red meats at home and increase my intake of fish and poultry. By learning some great recipes with fish and poultry, I really don’t miss red meat all that much.
One of the big areas to substitute is in snacking. Instead of candy bars or potato chips (or other junk food), try nuts or fruit. During the hot summers, I keep a supply of frozen grapes and if I feel the urge to nibble on something, I just grab one or two frozen grapes. Not only are these healthy, they are also refreshing during hot temperatures.
Keep Related Goals In Mind
In order to help you stick to healthy eating habits once you plan them, I find that it helps to keep related goals in mind. For example, each time I look in the mirror I make a point of looking at the condition of my abs. I want to maintain a half decent physical shape so what I see in the mirror is a constant reminder that I have to keep eating well.
When I see other people around my age group or even younger than me who are out of shape, I always observe that they are not eating healthy. They usually eat foods that are high in fat. Keeping observant with this helps me even more to keep away from bad eating habits since I don’t want to end up like those poor folks who have let themselves go in that department.
Another goal that is more specific is that I want to be able to perform well on the ski slope during the winter and maintain my martial arts all year round. I can generally tie in my overall performance levels in these sports back to my diet as one of the elements required. See if there are any related activities that you want to do well that you can somehow relate back to nutrition. Then keeping this top of mind will help you steer clear of bad foods.
After all, you don’t want to blame poor performance in your favorite activities partly on bad diet.
Be Around Others Who Eat Healthy
This last point is related to having others help you in your goals. Sometimes it’s hard to eat right when all of your friends, family members and co-workers eat unhealthy. So make sure that you spend time with other people who already eat well. This will help inspire you to eat healthy as well. You’re basically using teamwork to help you achieve the goal of eating healthy.
There’s really no magic in how to build healthy eating habits and make them stick. Good health is long term and the only way to achieve it is through all the little successes that add up when you have another healthy meal and finish another workout.
Follow the above tips — as I do each and every day — during your meals and snack periods to ensure optimum health.
(Photo credit: Woman Feeding Fresh Vegetables to Kids via Shutterstock)