Healthy eating doesn’t have to be over-complicated, yet there’s a myriad of conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there. If you feel overwhelmed by the advice on what to eat and what not to eat, you’re not alone, I’ve personally been there as well.
Eating a healthy diet is not about strict limitations or depriving yourself of the things you love. What it is, is feeling great, having more energy, improving your mood and enhancing your overall health.
The cornerstone of a healthy diet should be to minimise processed foods whenever possible, swapping it out for nutritious ‘whole foods’ – fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds and dairy. This, along with drinking water, lets you cut through the confusion and not only create, but stick to, a tasty, varied and nutritious diet that’s good for your mind and body. Here are some tips on how I’ve incorporated healthy eating into my lifestyle.
8 ways to encourage healthy eating
1. Eat breakfast
Getting into the habit of starting each day with a nutritious breakfast lays the foundation for healthy eating throughout the day. Eating breakfast also kick starts your metabolism, helping you to burn calories throughout the day.
A healthy breakfast is a perfect way to replenish the stores of energy and nutrients in the body after a good night’s sleep. If you don’t have breakfast, you might find you feel a bit sluggish and struggle to focus on things. This is because your body hasn’t received the energy (glucose) it needs to get going.
The right breakfast foods are rich in key nutrients such as folate, calcium, iron, B vitamins and fibre – think Greek yoghurt and fruit, eggs, oatmeal or whole-wheat toast with avocado.
2. Snack on whole foods
Snack foods can be some of the most highly processed foods you can eat, unless you’re eating whole foods. Unlike chocolate bars, chips, doughnuts or a convenience store sausage roll, whole foods are packed with goodness that will keep you feeling satisfied between meals.
Snacking on whole foods doesn’t have to mean cutting out on your favourites completely. For every common snack, there’s usually a healthy whole food alternative that won’t take ages to prepare and won’t leave you feeling deprived.
For example, instead of a muesli bar or granola bar, you can instead eat a handful of nuts and seeds. Instead of potato chips, you can eat home popped corn. Instead of pretzels, you can eat roasted kale or seaweed chips. Craving a chocolate mousse? Eat chia seed pudding instead!
3. Put money down
It pays to invest in your success and when you put money into your commitment to eating healthy, it holds you accountable. Hire a personal trainer or nutritionist. Study natural health and nutrition. Do a big shop at your local farmers market. You can’t feel guilty about investing in good food, healthy eating knowledge or fitness – it’s a gift to your long-term wellbeing.
4. Plan ahead
Just as you would plan your work meetings or an appointment with your GP, schedule yourself time for eating healthy. This might mean putting time in your calendar to create a meal plan. It might mean blocking out Sunday afternoons for meal prep. It could mean taking an extra five minutes at lunchtime to seek out a healthy alternative to the meat pie from the bakery next to your office. Planning ahead and scheduling time helps you to stick to your nutritional goals.
5. Set specific and realistic goals
Staying accountable when you have a vague plan can be tricky. You’re far more likely to stay motivated if you set specific, realistic and measurable goals. Instead of saying “I’m going to eat healthier from now on”, I’d tell myself that I’m going to start each day with a healthy breakfast.
Instead of giving up on everything sweet, I’d tell myself“I’m going to eat dessert three nights a week instead of seven.” If weight loss is part of your nutrition goals, set a goal to lose a certain amount by a certain date. But be realistic!
6. Reward your success
The good thing about setting realistic and specific goals is that you can reward yourself when you achieve them. Eat a healthy breakfast every day and reward yourself by going for a walk and a coffee at the end of the week. Skip dessert four nights out of seven and buy yourself a new nail polish. These types of rewards provide an incentive to keep going – just be sure that they’re not a food-related treat.
7. Keep a food journal
Writing down what you eat in a week helps you to look back on what you’ve been achieving. This allows you to make improvements where needed. You may notice that there’s a particular time of day when bad eating habits strike, so think about what you could do differently to support healthy eating at that time.
If you want to take your food journal to the next level, consider joining an online support group. Sharing your food journal with others brings in a level of competitiveness and accountability that will help you stay motivated to your healthy eating goal.
8. Try new things
One of the main reasons why people stray from a healthy eating diet is boredom – a result of eating the same foods day after day. To prevent boredom, mix it up by introducing a new food into every meal plan. Introduce yourself and your family to a new vegetable, fruit, grain or bean each week and don’t just eat it – learn about it! Discuss the food’s history, talk about its health benefits, and identify its cultural origin.
Managing ‘off’ days
Everyone has ‘off’ days when it comes to healthy eating, and that’s okay. Eating healthy might not be possible ALL the time, and it doesn’t have to be. What you do 80-90% of the time is what counts, so if you have the odd slice of pavlova or you can’t look past that chocolate croissant on a Sunday morning, then don’t be too hard on yourself.
You’re entitled to enjoy life to the fullest and if your enjoyment comes from indulging in something yummy as an odd treat, then do it! Tomorrow is a brand new day and another opportunity for you to eat well.