By Courtney Wright, RDLD, CPT, CSN
Not sure where to get started on how to eat healthier? Ever feel trapped in the yes-no-maybe-why is nutrition advice so confusing? I get it…and I got you. The best nutrition advice will stand the test of time.
So, what exactly may that be? Simplicity. When in doubt, remember the basics. Here are five tips to add to your bucket list to start eating healthy.
Keep it simple
So, what exactly does this mean? Well, after browsing the web, you will soon have over ten tabs open on all the nutrition advice out there. You will also feel overwhelmed. If nutrition had a manual, there would only be one. There will always be someone out there promoting the latest craze with nutrition. Don’t believe it. If it seems too good to be true, it is.
My advice? Close the tabs and know there will never be one perfect diet. Keto, intermittent fasting, paleo, no eating after 7 pm, 1200 calorie deficit diets, etc. The best diet out there focuses on minimally processed foods, a lot of plants, and planning ahead. You can eliminate so many unhealthy choices by simply planning your menu for the next week.
Make your healthy food convenient
We live in a busy world. Time seems to run out very quickly. Sometimes it feels like we don’t have time to cook. I often tell clients to sit down on whatever day they have off (usually Sunday), and look at their upcoming schedule. Whatever days they are extra busy, put a “Q” (Quick dinner). on the menu.
Make these dinners 20 minutes or less. So yes, you still have to cook, but anyone can find 20 minutes to put something together. You can search “20-minute meals” online or opt for a quick salad, fish, pasta, or other quick dishes.
Another way to make healthy food more convenient is to do some snack prepping on your day off. This can be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. Washing off your fruit, cutting up some veggies, portioning out yogurt, or boiling some eggs. This encourages you to reach for a yogurt over junk food when you are hungry.
It’s okay to take a detour, but always come back
If you change your mindset, you can change your habits. Imagine a setback as a detour and not a dead end. We are all human and will not make perfect choices at each meal, every day, for the rest of our lives. Food is just food. It’s neither bad nor good, it simply provides us with nourishment or pleasure. It’s okay to have both.
A mixed green salad at lunch and an ice cream at night with your kids are both okay. We know that ice cream at each meal won’t make us feel physically well, and we know that salad at each meal is boring. Once you take the pressure off yourself for perfection, it creates more freedom in your food choices and less guilt in your mind.
Find enjoyment outside of food
When we begin a new journey to be healthy, sometimes we are hyper focused on food alone. This can get us into trouble when we have cravings for food that we really don’t want. We seem to eat out of default instead of an informed decision of actually wanting the food. Do you tend to crave junk food at night? Do you feel powerless at the 2 pm donuts in the board room at work? That’s totally normal, but ask yourself if you really want the food you are reaching for.
We tend to eat out of habit when we are bored or stressed. Find things to do that you’ve been wanting to do; listen to your favorite song, read a book, take a bath, journal, call a family member, etc. Once we focus our attention on activities outside of eating, processed food seems less appealing because we are finding pleasure outside of food.
Eat more plant based
Plant-based diets offer all the necessary protein, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals for optimal health, and are often higher in fiber and phytonutrients. It doesn’t mean you cannot eat meat or dairy; it just means to eat less of it. Research has consistently shown that the Mediterranean (plant-based) diet is effective in reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and overall mortality. It’s important to note, this diet is not a fad, rather it’s a journey to eat healthier options for optimal health. Here is a sample menu of what a plant-based diet looks like.
- Wrap–Fill a whole-wheat tortilla with scrambled egg, black beans, peppers, onions, Monterey jack cheese, and a splash of hot sauce or salsa.
- Oats with walnuts or almonds, banana, and cinnamon.
- Whole-wheat English muffin topped with fresh tomato and avocado slices, and blueberries.
- Vegetarian pizza topped with mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, broccoli, onions, peppers, and mushroom; fresh strawberries for dessert.
- Greek salad–Chopped mixed greens with fresh tomato, Kalamata olives, fresh parsley, crumbled feta cheese, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Whole-wheat pita on the side, fresh melon for dessert.
- Tomato basil soup, whole-grain crackers with tabbouleh, and an apple.
- Vegetarian chili with a spinach-orzo salad.
- Grilled vegetable kabobs with grilled tofu, and a quinoa and spinach salad.
- Whole-wheat pasta with white beans and peas, and a romaine salad with cherry tomatoes, dressed with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
So, there you have it, five ways to get started to becoming healthier. Always remember that it’s progress in your heating habits, not perfection. Simplicity and consistency will always persevere.
Tips for a Nutrition Bucket List