Getting Your Nutrition Plan Off to a Great Start
In our culture where tempting, empty junk food lurks around every corner, it’s easy to wake up one day to find your eating way off track. Want to start getting your diet in check, but not sure where to begin? Feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of healthy eating advice out there?
Try these six simple tips for better eating every day. Some are attitude adjustments that may take a while to get used to, and some are tangible steps you can take today. Both are equally important when whipping your nutrition plan into shape and making the changes last, so get started now!
6 Simple Tips for Healthy Eating Every Day
1: Recognize that every time you eat, it’s an opportunity to nourish your body
When you fill up on junk, you are self-sabotaging by depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Instead of indulging your hunger or thirst with empty calories like pastries, muffins, and sodas, go for nutrient-rich meals and that give you the fuel you need to feel your best. Remember that the gratification from eating junk food only lasts a moment, while the reward for choosing healthy food lasts all day long. If you make healthy eating part of your lifestyle, the rewards will last a lifetime.
2: Learn the difference between emotional eating and physiological hunger
Many of us use food to soothe troubling emotions rather than getting to the root cause of what’s bothering us. Next time you feel a food craving, think of the F.L.A.B. acronym and check in with your emotions: are you feeling Frustrated, Lonely, Anxious, or Bored? These four emotions are often the cause of overeating or eating when you’re not actually hungry. There are many more productive ways to deal with emotions than overstuffing yourself to the point of a food coma. Try going for a walk, calling a friend, or writing in your journal instead of reaching for excess food.
3: Drink lots of water
Dehydration can make you feel hungry when you’ve actually had enough to eat. Drink water all day long, with meals and between meals. The first thing you should do when waking is drink your first glass of water for the day.
The eight 8 oz. glasses per day recommendation you’re used to hearing is the bare minimum. Go for twelve 8 oz. glasses for optimum health; more if it’s hot outside or if you’re exercising vigorously. During exercise, it helps to drink cold water due to more rapid gastric emptying. Your stomach clears the cold water faster, which means you won’t have to deal with uncomfortable sloshing when staying hydrated during workouts.
4: At every meal, make half your plate veggies and fruits
Fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients and fiber which add to your health in so many ways. Fiber aids in digestion and helps you feel full for longer so you won’t be as tempted to overeat at your next meal or reach for junk food when snacking. Eat your way through a rainbow of fruits and vegetables everyday to keep it fresh and interesting. Choose fresh, local, and seasonal, and organic whenever possible. Visit local farmers’ markets weekly to find the best local and seasonal choices.
Eat as many vegetables as you want, but don’t overdose on the fruit; your body treats excess fruit sugar similarly to any other type of sugar. Excess fruit sugar goes right into fat storage as well as increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes and other diseases and disorders. Berries and apples are great daily fruit choices, offering you the most nutrition for the least sugar.
5: Keep a food journal for a week
We are surrounded by unhealthy food and marketing messages trying to get us to eat it all day, making it easy to bend to the temptation to overeat or to make non-nutritious choices. Keeping a food journal for a week will help illuminate eating habits you may have been hiding from yourself. You might be surprised at what you find.
For seven days, write down absolutely everything that you consume. All meals, all beverages, all snacks, how many glasses of water, even those two candies you took from the bowl on your coworker’s desk. Everything. Don’t worry about analyzing any patterns until the end of the week; then, sit down and take a good, hard look to see where you stand.
6: Realize that changing habits takes time and energy; give yourself time and forgiveness
Flipping the script on your eating habits will not happen overnight. Slipping up is only natural. Forgive yourself if you aren’t a perfect eater right out of the gate. This doesn’t mean to let yourself off the hook completely.
Stay strong and determined to make healthy choices, but don’t beat yourself up for eating a cookie. If you want a cookie, eat a cookie! Just don’t eat cookies every day, or eat a whole box of cookies. I find it helpful to give myself a “treat day” once a week where I can indulge in whatever treat I want. If I’m craving a treat mid-week, I just remind myself, “Hey, it’s not treat day yet. You can wait a couple more days.” Substitute something healthy yet similar to the treat you’re craving. If you want French fries, try a baked potato with sea salt and Greek yogurt. If you’re craving sweets, reach for fruit instead.
I hope these six simple tips for healthy eating help you get your new nutrition plan off to a great start. To find many more great nutrition tips to help you understand nutrition and make good food choices for yourself and your family, visit our Nutrition Blog.