The point of eating healthy is not to develop a strict dietary regimen that cuts out all of the food we love the most to keep us thin and unhealthy. Quite the contrary, a healthy diet is aimed at achieving a sense of wellbeing and vitality, as well as gaining an abundance of energy and improving overall health.
All of these benefits can be obtained by being aware of and following the rules of healthy eating. A key prerequisite for a SMART diet plan is knowing that it is not only WHAT we eat that matters, but also HOW we eat. With that in mind, let us get to it.
Healthy Diet, Step 1 – Prepare for Success
When it comes to eating healthy, you should look at it as a series of small steps that eventually lead to success. Perceiving it as a drastic transformation that completely upturns your life rhythm may come naturally, but that way of thinking is completely wide of the mark. If you start introducing these positive changes gradually, one step at a time, but you manage to stick with it, you will get IN SHAPE sooner than you hope for.
- Make your life easier – Instead of poring over your calorie intake and serving sizes, start observing food through a spectrum of color, variety and freshness – looking at it like that will make it easier to make healthier food choices. Stick to the food you like, but make the effort to look up simple recipes that will complement those basic favorites with fresh and nutritious ingredients. Your diet will gradually get healthier, but it will also taste better.
- Start slow and take your time – By trying to change eating habits overnight you are only setting yourself up for failure. More often than not, this headstrong approach will lead to disappointment once you realize that your rigorous and ambitious regime is ultimately unsustainable. What you should do instead is introduce small changes, such as eating a multi-colored salad with your lunch or replacing processed seed oils with unprocessed olive oil. Once that first small step turns into a habit, it is time to make another, equally UNASSUMING, small step.
- Every change for the better makes a difference, no matter how small – Nobody expects you to be perfect and cross the food that makes you happy off the menu completely. Remember that your long-term goal is not to get super skinny at all costs. No, you want to keep yourself full of energy, bursting with health and, most importantly, happy with yourself. Sweeping and abrupt changes are an unnecessary shock to your body. Be conservative when it comes to switching up your routine and celebrate every healthy new habit that you manage to stick with.
Healthy Diet, Step 2 – Curb Your Goal-Setting Enthusiasm
People often think that healthy diet is an “all or nothing” type ultimatum, asking you to steer clear of certain types of food completely. The truth is quite different and it boils down to moderation. Whatever the newest “flavor of the month” diet may claim, we all need carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. Without a sufficient daily intake of those nutrients, we risk undermining our health.
- Do not be hasty to deprive yourself of specific food items – When certain food is off the menu altogether, it is natural for you to crave it even more. And if you should stumble and reach for your comfort food (which will inevitably happen), you will end up feeling disappointed. Whether you are drawn towards sugary foods, salty foods or junk food in general, instead of banning yourself from it completely, you should start by eating smaller serving sizes and indulging in those types of food less regularly. In time, especially with lower intake, the craving for those types of food will whittle down on its own.
- Take smaller portions – In recent years, serving sizes have gotten bigger for no good reason. You can especially see it when you look at “Super Size” menu options in fast food restaurants. Eating healthy implies smaller portions and that is something you should keep in mind at all times. When eating out, opt for an entrée instead of the main course, split your meal with a friend or eat half at the restaurant and ask the staff to wrap the rest up to bring home (don’t be embarrassed to ask for a doggy bag). When you’re home, use smaller dishes (for example salad plates) and don’t overload the plate.
Healthy Diet, Step 3 – Create Healthy Habits
Creating healthy habits is one of the most important steps. Realizing that food matters and giving it the attention it deserves is thereby crucial. A meal is not something to help pass the time between meetings or when we’re waiting for somebody. Meals are an integral part of our day.
- Whenever possible, try to eat in company. Avoid eating in front of the TV or computer screen, since by doing so you might find yourself unwittingly overeating.
- Chew the food thoroughly and enjoy the taste – we often tend to rush our meals because we’re late and short on time. We neglect to SAVOR the different flavors and deprive ourselves of GRATIFYING sensations.
- Listen to your body – ask yourself if you really are hungry before you go and get lunch. Sometimes you will realize that you are in fact thirsty and that what you really need is a glass of water. Other times you might find that you are actually quite full. In that case, the best thing to do is to have lunch later or eat a smaller portion.
- Eat your breakfast and follow it up with smaller meals throughout the day – A healthy breakfast is the best way to kick-start your metabolism. Several small meals (instead of the conventional 3 meals a day) will help speed up the metabolism and keep your energy levels at a steady constant all day.
Healthy Diet, Step 4 – Step up Your Menu Game with Colorful Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables form the basis of healthy eating, precisely due to their low-calorie count paired with a high nutritive value (abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants…). Fruits and vegetables should become a staple of every meal we have. If you are just looking to have a snack (instead of a proper meal), fruits and vegetables should once again be your first choice. The large quantities of antioxidants will keep you safe from a long list of potential diseases, in addition to making you feel and look younger, if that counts for anything.
Experts recommend eating produce in all colors of the rainbow.
- The leafy greens – lettuce, corn salad, arugula, kale, leek, broccoli – these vegetables are brimming with calcium, magnesium, iron and vitamins A, C, E, K… In short, green vegetables are indispensable and you should eat them as much as possible.
- Sweet vegetables such as carrot, corn, sweet potato and peppers will help you counter some of that craving for sweets and keep you full over long distances.
- Colorful fruit is a source of vitamins, fiber and antioxidants. For vitamin C, look to oranges and mango. Apples are rich in fiber, while forest fruit and berries such as raspberries, blueberries and blackberries are a particularly good source of antioxidants.
Water accounts for approx. 75% of our body weight and plays a key role when it comes to ridding our body of harmful toxins and other unwanted waste. Many people neglect the importance of water and go about their daily activities dehydrated, which makes them feel fatigued, low on energy and causes migraines. According to most guidelines, the average person should drink on average 8 cups of water a day.