With warmer days just around the corner, many people are looking for ways to spring clean their diet. How can you change your diet around and stick with your new, healthy diet? It may be easy to quit the brownies and ice cream for a couple of days, but after a while you’ll get that nagging sugar craving in the back of your brain again. So many fad diets fail because of a lack of proper nutrients or restriction from favorite foods, so it’s important to learn how to start eating healthy by learning proper moderation. Yes, this means you can still have your brownies every once in a while! It’s simply about replacing many of your sugary snacks with healthy, delicious foods that won’t make you gain any weight.
Slow and Steady
You can’t wake up one morning and magically revamp your entire diet (if you can, I’m extremely impressed). It’s important not to lose hope if you accidentally eat cookies instead of salad for lunch, or sneak some chocolate right before bedtime. You’re not perfect, and that’s okay! No one is, and not everyone can follow a strict diet all of the time. This is why it’s important to slowly make changes, one by one, that you know you can stick to.
Big Batches on Sunday
I’ve heard a lot of people complain that eating healthy is simply too much work. Chopping veggies, cooking grains – it can be time consuming. When you have some free time on the weekend, cook a lot of food that you can use in various recipes throughout the week. If you cook a big pot of quinoa on Sunday afternoon, you can refrigerate what you don’t eat and use it in a ton of different recipes throughout the week. If you roast a bunch of vegetables while you’re making the quinoa, you can save those as well! Chopping up veggies and placing them in the freezer for a few days is another way to easily add them into meals without a lot of prep time.
Alright, we all know that eating healthy does not include eating a ton of sugary snacks throughout the day. But you may be consuming a lot more sugar than you mean to without even realizing it! Think about your beverage in the morning. Do you tend to wake up and brew a pot of coffee or tea? Do you add in any creamer, sugar, or honey to either of them? If so, you’re taking in more calories and sugar than you’re aware of. Drinking coffee black can save you tons of calories, and sweetening tea with a natural sweetener such as stevia is a much healthier alternative than white sugar.
If you’re a huge fan of mashed potatoes or you can’t seem to give up your pancakes in the morning, the internet is full of many different resources that will help you find alternatives to ingredients that aren’t doing anything good for your health. Did you know that vegans use nutritional yeast to add a cheesy flavor into many dishes? Or that you can swap out half of the rice or potatoes in a recipe with cauliflower and end up with almost the same result in the end? Pancakes can be made with bananas, eggs and a handful of spices, while frozen bananas can also be processed into a delicious ice cream when mixed with cacao nibs or other delicious ingredients. Healthy chocolate? Yes, it can be done.
Are you stuck in the rut of frying everything you eat? Roasting meat, vegetables, and fries creates a delicious, full-flavored crispy outside and soft inside, yet requires significantly less oil than frying. With a small amount of your favorite oil and a handful of delicious spices, you can roast just about anything that you usually fry. You won’t be disappointed!
If you can’t bear to give up your meat, try cutting out meat completely at least one day a week. It doesn’t have to be Monday, but choose a day that you know you’ll stick with. Focus on trying foods that you don’t usually eat. Have you been avoiding brussels sprouts your entire life? You’d be surprised how delicious roasted brussels sprouts are when made right. Take this one day a week to introduce yourself to new vegetables and grains. Are you already a vegetarian? Try eating vegan one day a week.
Read the Ingredients
I don’t want to get you too hung up on reading every single label in the grocery store, but it’s important to know what you’re putting in your body. A quick tip: the list of ingredients is created from most to least – meaning that if the first ingredient on the list is high fructose corn syrup, there is more of that than any other ingredient in that food and you should drop that package and run as far away from it as you can. Another important tip: if you have no clue what over 50% of the ingredients are and the list of ingredients seems to never end, you should put it down and find something else.
… And the Serving Size
You may take a look at a package and think “hey! this only has 50 calories per serving!”, and not realize that a ‘serving’ is a tablespoon. This is especially important if you’re picking out dressings and dips. It may not seem like it has that many calories, but how much veggie dip do you really use in one sitting? If you’re anything like me, it’s a lot more than just one serving size.
A Word on Alcohol (and Other Beverages)
You go out for the night, ready to have a blast with a bunch of your friends. While you’re out, you order 5 different margaritas. Sure, it’s liquid, but do you have any idea how many calories you are consuming?! It’s important to note that sugary juice drinks and sodas aren’t good beverage choices, but you’d be surprised how many extra calories your night out at the bar is packing in. A standard shot of rum has approximately 90 calories (not including anything you might mix it with), while a standard glass of wine has approximately 123 calories. If you get a fancy margarita with a bunch of flavored syrups, you could be drinking hundreds of calories per drink!!
Eat Your Veggies First
If you have a plate full of vegetables, meat, and grains, eat your vegetables first. This way, if you get full before you eat all of your food, you’ve eaten tons of vitamins and nutrients first. If you get full off of regular white pasta before eating any of your veggies, you’re just eating processed carbs! Try filling at least half of your plate with vegetables.
Drink More Water!!!
When you wake up in the morning, drink a full glass of water before anything else. Before you eat a meal or a snack, drink another full glass of water. If you simply can’t stand plain water, spruce it up with lime, lemon or your favorite fresh herb. It hydrates you, it helps jump start your metabolism, and it fills up part of your stomach before you can eat too many snacks. If you’re ever feeling hungry when it isn’t time to eat yet, drink a glass of (naturally) flavored water, wait 20 minutes, and then see how you feel.
It’s All About You
Eating healthy is all about simple everyday choices that you can make to increase your amount of nutrients and decrease the amount of processed ingredients you consume. Drink more water, eat more veggies, use smaller plates, and prepare some of your meals at the beginning of the week. Combining your new healthy diet with regular exercise will result in a happier, healthier you! If you don’t know where to start, Udemy has a great healthy eating course that has helped hundreds of students get on the right track.