Hey friends! 23 Proven Habits To Eat Healthier, ya know?! It’s hard…like, really hard. But just like relationships, parenting, or if you want figuring out your new iPhone, it gets easier with time. ;-) And hopefully – you will start to like it too!
You all know me by now that I am not one for dieting. And after a few years of setting realistic, with small and measurable steps towards a healthier lifestyle, I strongly challenge you all to think of your diet as a lifestyle of healthy eating rather than a horrible torture you must go though for a short period of time, only to return to old bad habits.
I have written previously about making healthier choices and sticking to a healthy resolution both of which are focused on the idea that, by setting a few realistic baby steps – meaning making small changes towards a healthier lifestyle – it can become much easier to stick to good habits.
Healthy habits is NOT about strict diets or, even worse, depriving yourself of the foods you love. Eating healthy is all about eating smart. Feeling great. Having more energy. Having more time for your hobbies. Improving your health. Making your life much simpler and happier.
With that in mind, in my experience, and confirmed by so many influencers, here are 23 tips on how to transform your eating habits.
I. Take “baby steps” towards healthy habits
Changing everything at once most times leads to cheating or, even worse, giving up on your new eating-healthy plan. So therefore I am asking you to think about planning a healthy diet as a number of baby steps.
Example, you ask? Sure.
1. Add a salad to your diet every day, rather than one big drastic change.
2. A few months later, as your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices. For instance, start having breakfast every day. Or add a fruit to your every day diet. I have been having an apple a day for 8 years now.
3. Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and keep an eye on what goes into your food.
4. Make the right changes. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s VERY important to replace them with healthy alternatives.
Example, you ask? Sure. Switching fried chicken for grilled fish will make a positive difference to your overall health, which basically means replacing dangerous trans fats with healthy fats.
5. Simplify. Instead of being SO concerned with counting calories, think of your diet in terms of freshness, variety, and color. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opting for more fresh ingredients.
6. Read the labels. It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy like Müsli for breakfast found in most stores.
7. Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help you adopt healthy new habits and tastes. The more healthy food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, or tired.
8. Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.
II. Moderation is the answer
9. Key to any healthy diet is moderation. But what is moderation? Eating only as much food as your body needs; you should NOT feel stuffed at the end of a meal, rather satisfied. And being balanced, which basically means a balance of protein, fiber, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals to sustain a healthy body.
Example, you ask? Sure. Moderation doesn’t mean eliminating the foods you love. So, for example, if you enjoy chocolate on a daily basis, could be considered moderation if you have only a few squares a day (careful, I don’t mean half of chocolate here).
Another example, let’s say you have bacon with margarine for breakfast, please make sure you at least include one healthy meal for the day, NOT follow it with two slices of chocolate cake after lunch and salami pizza for dinner.
10. Try not to think of certain foods as “NEVER AGAIN”. When you restrict yourself from some certain foods (whichever you decide on being bad from now on), it’s in our human darn nature to want those foods even more than before, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. Which usually ends up in dropping the baby steps all together. NOT LIKE THIS!
Start by reducing portion sizes of unhealthy foods and not eating them as often. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
11. Think smaller portions. For instance, when dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, share a dish with a friend, and don’t order the extra large Burger. Oops, anything I meant to say. ;-) It does make sense that using a larger plate have us eating more than planned.
Take it step by step and switch to a smaller one – the medium one. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, please wait a few minutes until you decide to eat more. You might not need the extra portion.
12. Take your time. Stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.
13. Eat with others whenever possible. This allows you to model healthy eating habits for the loved ones as well as the emotional benefits.
14. Eat fruits and vegetables every single day. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. The brighter, deeper colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants—and different colors provide different benefits.
To increase your intake, add berries to breakfast cereals, eat fruit for dessert, swap your usual side dish for a salad, and snack on vegetables such as carrots, radish, or cherry tomatoes instead of processed snack foods.
15. Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, while eating small, healthy meals (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up.
Stop skipping breakfast, PLEASE! It is the most important meal of the day because it boosts your energy levels and maintain a constant body weight.
III. Cut back on sugar
In my opinion, the biggest problem with the modern Western diet is by far the amount of added sugar in our foods. You see, the problem isn’t that piece of cake you enjoy every now and then. The problem is also not so much the sugar in itself. The real problem is the massive amounts, tons and tons of “added sugar” that can be found in pretty much everything we eat and drink nowadays – from cola, candy bars, ketchup, beer, yoghurt, ready-made sauces, tv-dinners, etc.
That’s also nothing new and it’s definitely not a surprise to many of the companies that manufacture food. The biggest problem is that many of them companies disguise the sugar content in their food, so it’s not as apparent how much sugar you are consuming. Let’s face it, they are not in business to keep you healthy. They are in business to sell you as much of their convenient, ready-made sauce/meals/candies as they can.
Therefore, a few years ago I decided to cut down on sugar and start paying close attention to food labels and choosing lower sugar or, even better, sugar-free versions, just so I can keep the sugar level as low as possible.
And here I am, surely a FREAK when it comes to added sugar to my foods. Tips for reducing sugar in your diet too? My pleasure!
16. Slowly reduce the sugar in your diet a little at a time to give your taste buds time to adjust and wean yourself off the craving. We all have a sweet tooth, but there are so many lower sugar alternatives. For example, when I crave for something sweet, I grab a banana or a square or two of dark chocolate. I added dark chocolate with a cocoa content of 81-85%, which usually contains a lot less sugar than plain or milk chocolate.
17. Avoid sugary drinks. I said NO MORE EVERYDAY to soft drinks and other non-alcoholic beverages, which is perhaps the biggest source of added sugar in our diet. Most fizzy drinks are basically refined sugar with water and flavoring. Let’s do a little experiment: a regular can of cola contains 35g of sugar.
Do you know how much that is? Let’s get a kitchen scale and pour sugar on it until we hit the 35g mark. See that mountain of sugar? That’s about 10 teaspoons right there.
So therefore I drink water. In case I drink a fruit juice, I most of the times go for the FRUIT form, not juice form as I still want to load on fiber and all nutrients left behind in the squeezing process.
18. Don’t replace saturated fat with sugar. Although dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt contain lactose (milk sugar is a type of sugar that doesn’t damage our teeth), these foods also contain protein and calcium and are part of a healthy balanced diet. However, some diary products, like flavored milk, flavored yoghurts and so on, contain added sugar ( table sugar, fructose, concentrates fruit juice and glucose-fructose syrup).
Watch out for the sugar content in lower fat yogurts though. It kind of makes sense that when you remove the fat from a product, you also remove some of the flavor, so sugar is often added to improve the taste. So “low in fat” can still be high in sugar and calories. Often times it turns out that the plain version is healthier than its low-fat counterpart.
19. Avoid processed or packaged foods like canned soups, frozen dinners, or low-fat meals that often contain hidden sugar that quickly surpasses the recommended limit.
20. Be careful when eating and drinking out. Most dressings and sauces are also packed with salt and sugar, so ask for it to be either served on the side or on someone else’s plate (kidding! Just tell them to skip your plate).
Now about drinks, seriously cutting down on how much you drink can have a big effect in your sugar intake and your general health too. Did you know that gram for gram, alcohol contains more calories (7kcal/g) than carbohydrates or protein (4kcal/g)?!
Do you want a few tips on cutting down? Probably not, but I am still gonna go tell them: have a few alcohol-free days each week; try lower alcohol drinks; or have a small bottle of beer instead of a can. ;-)
21. Avoid pastries, biscuits, cakes and other cereal-based foods from the store (they are comforting but often high in sugar and trans-fat) and opted for rolled oats topped with natural yoghurt, berries, nuts and seeds. There are seriously many healthy options that will keep you feeling satisfied and full of energy throughout the day.
At the end of the day, you are in control. And if you are going to eat chocolate or something sweet, it should be because you made a conscious decision to do so occasionally, not because you HAD TO HAVE IT!
22. Prep and store. Even more important than shopping for healthy foods: actually eating them. So what I like to do in order to significantly reduce my time in the kitchen, is that every Sunday evening I make a batch of quinoa, lentils, chickpeas for the week or roasting a bunch of veggies to throw together for quick lunches. Besides, this way I make sure I eat healthy on a daily basis.
Studies show that spending more time on food prep is linked to better eating habits.
23. Drop the food guilt. If you think of eating as something enjoyable and something you do without guilt or without judging yourself, and you stay active, you’re less likely to overeat, have a better diet, and maintain any weight loss for the long haul. It’s true: feeling guilty about your food choices can undermine weight loss—and even pack on the pounds.
In order to improve your nutrition and boost your fat loss, you know that it’s important to make the best food choices possible the majority of the time.
What does seem to be important is consistency, and that is directly tied to finding an approach to which you can stick. In addition to consistency, two of the most important factors of a successful nutrition plan are food quality (mostly whole, minimally-processed foods) and food quantity (that matches your goals, needs, body type, and activity levels). In other words, food choices and portion sizes play a tremendous role in getting healthy and losing body fat.
Embrace a CAN-DO attitude, make one of these small changes today, and see what’s been stopping you from achieving your ideal, dream body!
Stay healthy and be happy!