Everyone wants to eat healthy but sometimes we set unrealistic goals and take on an “all or nothing” attitude to make drastic lifestyle changes. That might make you end up feeling deprived or overwhelmed. There are plenty of ways to make a healthy diet do-able and not daunting and here 6 of my favorite strategies:
- Switch your thinking from ‘avoidance’ foods to ‘approachable’ foods. So that means, eat healthy foods that you like in place of unhealthy foods. Eat a small bowl of blueberries in place of the cupcake you were going to have for dessert instead.
- Eat your veggies first. If the vegetables on your plate are competing with another part of your meal that may look more desirable on your plate, try serving your vegetables first but by themselves. Or have your salad first, that way you will not only eat your veggies first, you will fill up a bit and not eat as much later in the meal.
- Integrate healthier food options a little at a time. I’m a big fan of whole grains which contain fiber, B vitamins, iron, potassium and calcium. I love to cook up some unusual grains like millet or amaranth but I find that my guests are less hesitant to try these grains if they are combined with a more familiar grain such as rice. Now if you you are just starting to explore the world of whole grains and you typically choose a white rice or a white pasta, I suggest that you start your venture by cooking up 1/2 white rice or pasta and 1/2 brown rice or whole grain pasta. If brown rice is something you typically avoid because of its longer cooking time, try using a parboiled brown rice which has the same nutritional value as regular brown rice.
- Try a meatless meal once a week. A 2016 study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that replacing animal protein with an equivalent amount of plant protein was associated with a lower risk of mortality—especially from heart disease. So swap your burger for a veggie pattie or make a bean chili so hearty that no one will miss the meat. Keep an eye on the sodium content of some of the meat substitutes found in your grocer’s freezer though.
- Avoid “anchor orders”. When eating out with others, decide on something nutritious before everyone else announces their choices. The first person to order sets the tone for the whole table. So if your friend orders the Super Bloomin Fried Onion, it gives everyone more permission to indulge. Stick to your first healthy choice.
- Most importantly, set S.M.A.R.T. healthy eating goals. This stands for: specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-framed. For example by being specific you may decide to eat 1/4 cup portion of almonds between meals instead of that higher calorie/sugar granola bar. A measurable goal might be to have at least three portions of fruit each day. To make your goals more achievable, set small goals and gradually build up to a main goal, such as switching to skim milk in your coffee. Your goals should always be relevant to you. You are the expert on what you like so choose goals that work for you. Set yourself a time frame to achieve your goals. If you are changing lifetime habits, allow yourself weeks, not days to achieve your goals.