Most people know what foods they need to eat in order to achieve weight loss success or enjoy fitness on any level, yet diet is still an area where a lot of us struggle. It seems like it should be so very easy (just eat fruits, veggies, lean proteins and complex carbs), but it’s actually deceivingly complex.
Well, it’s time to take the struggle out of choosing to eat nutritious foods and set yourself up for success. How? Here are eight simple tips that will make improving your diet seem so simple that you’ll wonder why you didn’t do them years ago:
Tip #1: Remove your triggers
Although this may seem like a no-brainer, it’s amazing how many people neglect this tip completely. They buy lots of junk food (often reasoning that it’s for the other people in the house) and then wonder why they don’t have the self-control to not eat it. But, you wouldn’t set a bottle of liquor in front of an alcoholic and expect him or her not to drink it, right? Then why would you have the same expectations for you and your trigger foods?
It’s as simple as this: If there’s a food that causes you trouble because you have a hard time limiting your portions, don’t buy it. Don’t keep it in the house so that you have unlimited access to it. Now, that doesn’t mean that you’re swearing it off forever. It just means that you’re not going to make it easy to overindulge.
Admittedly, this can be hard if you have a spouse or little ones in the house who like their treats. And, you don’t want to always deprive yourself because that’s no way to live life either. But, there are solutions to this problem that can allow you to essentially have your cake and eat it too (metaphorically and literally).
If you want to keep goodies in the house, choose ones that aren’t an issue for you. If you buy treats that you could take or leave, at least you’re giving yourself a fighting chance of being able to walk away from them without scarfing down the whole bag or box.
Or, you could choose to keep all of the unhealthy snacks out of the house completely and make it a point to go out once a week as a family and each purchase a serving size of something that you would truly enjoy. That way you can satisfy your desire without having to feel guilty about it because you’re eating according to plan – not according to impulse.
Tip #2: Have healthy options handy
It’s not good enough to just purchase healthy food. You also want to make it easy to grab and eat. How many times have you went to the grocery store and stocked up on fruits and veggies only to throw them out a week or two later because they’ve spoiled?
That’s why you need to make it a point to cut up those good, nutritious foods and make them accessible for when you need them most. When you get home from grocery shopping, make it a habit to do this one little task and you’ll find that the amount of food you throw out will decrease, and so will your weight.
Tip #3: Eat foods that taste good
Now, you’re probably wondering why this even has to be said, but it does. Why? Because a lot of people try to force themselves to eat nutritious foods that they don’t particularly like just because they’re “good for them”. Well, if you don’t like the taste of these foods, then you’re not going to stick with them long-term, making this a phase as opposed to a lifestyle. That means that your results will be temporary versus long-term.
So, eat foods that you enjoy, whether it’s due to their taste, texture or both. And, don’t be afraid to try new things. You may end up pleasantly surprised to find something that you truly enjoy and want to include in your menu more often.
Tip #4: Don’t be afraid of seasonings
You don’t have to eat bland to be healthy. In fact, the more you enjoy your meals, the less you’ll likely eat because you’ll be satisfied with the taste and not feel like you’re depriving yourself.
One of the easiest ways to dress up any food is to add fresh herbs and seasonings to it. It can take your meal from just okay to absolutely phenomenal which will satisfy your taste buds and squelch your urge to eat because you’ll be completely and totally content.
Experiment with different combinations to find ones you like. Lemon and pepper are great on fish and veggies. Onion and garlic are great with chicken. (Try to stick with the sodium free seasonings as they’re better for you.)
Tip #5: Pay attention to how foods make you feel
If you truly pay attention to how you feel after eating certain foods, you may just be surprised. Even though high fat and high calorie foods seem to taste better, they also often create fatigue and tiredness. And, although a lot of caffeine may give you an initial rush, give it a little bit of time and you’ll feel the adrenaline dump which leaves you irritable and unable to focus.
On the flip side, if you monitor your body’s response to healthy foods, you’ll probably see a more positive outcome. Veggies and fruit, lean proteins and complex carbohydrates will all give you energy and make you feel more ready-to-go. They put more pep in your step and help you get through your day without feeling like you’re dragging.
Just noticing what effect foods have on you might help you look forward to the nutritious foods that leave you feeling ready to conquer the world, versus the unhealthy foods that make you want to go to sleep for a few days. You’ll start to crave healthy foods because they make life more pleasurable and easier to navigate.
Tip #6: Try to think outside the box
One of the biggest deterrents for a healthy diet is boredom. If you limit yourself to eating nothing more than plain chicken breasts and dressing-free salads, you’ll likely feel unsatisfied after your meals. This can quickly lead you into eating unhealthy foods just to get a little excitement for your taste buds.
You can squelch this issue completely by thinking outside the box. Experiment with new recipes that have bold flavors. Try foods that you’ve never had before to let your tongue experience new textures and tastes. Become a culinary adventurer and you’ll find it much easier to eat foods that are good for you because they’ll taste good as well.
Tip #7: Don’t restrict yourself
The minute you tell yourself that you can’t have something you’re going to want it even more. You’ll become obsessed by it and it will consume your every thought. Your mouth will water just thinking of it, until eventually you decide to give in and eat as much of it as you can.
Not only is this counterproductive, it’s also unnecessary. Instead of telling yourself that you can’t have something, try to come up with lower calorie alternatives that will satisfy the same need.
For example, if you absolutely love strawberry shortcake, there are a number of things you can do to make a lighter version. You can put less sugar in the strawberries, use biscuit mix that is low-fat, eat only half of a biscuit, choose light whipped topping over the full-fat version, and on and on.
Yes, you may still add a couple extra calories to your diet, but it’s better to do it this way than to eat twenty other foods in an attempt to squelch your urge, only to end up eating the very thing you wanted in the end because you just weren’t satisfied. Besides, healthy living isn’t about restriction, it’s about moderation.
Tip #8: Keep a positive outlook
If you walk around upset that you have to watch what you eat and hating the fact that you can’t have the foods you enjoy with complete abandon, of course you’re not going to enjoy the process (or subsequently stick with it). You’ve already told yourself that it’s no fun, so ultimately you end up making it that way.
However, healthy eating isn’t something that you have to do; it’s something that you choose to do. There’s a big difference. You can go about your life and eat what you want, when you want, as often as you want. Sure, you might have some negative consequences to deal with as a result, but you certainly can do that if you choose.
The fact that you’re trying to eat healthy is a choice. You’re doing it because you care about yourself and realize that the best way to ensure a long healthy life is to do things that are beneficial to your body. You’re doing it because you want the positive consequences instead of the negative.
So, the next time you find yourself saying that you “can’t” have something, change that response. The truth is that you’re choosing not to have it because you value your long-term health more than your short term satisfaction.
If you create an environment for success, then success is inevitable. Follow these eight tips and you’re well on your way to healthy eating that lasts.