How To Start Eating Healthier On The Right Foot

You have understood that nutrition matters and decided to take action and eat better. Then you have learned about healthy nutrition essentials and built your weekly meal plan. Finally, you have become smarter with your grocery shopping, deciphering food labels to buy healthy foods.

So, you are ready to start eating better for real now.

But how can you kick off your healthy eating life in the right way?

This article delves into the 7 most important things to consider to start eating better on the right foot:

  1. Start With The Right Attitude
  2. Set Realistic Expectations
  3. Identify Your Triggers
  4. Cook More At Home
  5. Embrace Mindful Eating
  6. Practice Portion Control
  7. Don’t Be Afraid To Treat Yourself

1. Start With The Right Attitude

Learn how to embark on your healthy eating journey on the right foot

Embark on your healthy eating journey with a positive mindset, embracing the joy of nourishing your body with wholesome, delicious food.

Remember, healthy eating is not about deprivation or restriction. Conversely, it’s about expanding your culinary horizons and discovering the abundance of flavors that nature has to offer.

Picture yourself feeling energized, your mind sharp and focused, and your body radiating health and vitality. This is the transformative power of healthy eating that awaits you.

As you embark on this journey, focus on the long-term benefits, such as:

  • Enhanced Energy Levels: Healthy eating provides your body with the nutrients it needs to function optimally, leading to sustained energy levels throughout the day.
  • Improved Cognitive Function: A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats nourishes your brain, enhancing focus, memory, and overall cognitive performance. [1][2][3][4][5][6]
  • Reduced Risk of Chronic Diseases: Healthy eating habits can significantly reduce your risk of developing chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. [7]

Healthy eating is not about deprivation; it’s about exploration. So, view it as an adventure, a chance to discover new flavors, textures, and culinary possibilities. Explore a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins, and let your creativity run wild in the kitchen.

Find your motivation to start eating better:


2. Set Realistic Expectations

Which diet is best for health?

Healthy eating is a lifelong journey, not a quick fix or a temporary diet. It’s about making sustainable changes that you can maintain over time, not about drastic overhauls that are unsustainable in the long run. So, embrace the process of gradual improvement, allowing your body and mind to adjust to new habits seamlessly.

In any case, don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. In fact, healthy eating is not about scale numbers or fleeting trends; it’s rather about nurturing your body with the right fuel for long-term well-being. Focus on the overall improvement in your energy levels, mood, and overall health, rather than getting fixated on short-term changes.

Avoid the temptation to overhaul your entire diet overnight. This approach is often overwhelming and leads to feelings of failure when you inevitably slip up. Instead, embrace the gradual approach. Rather than trying to overhaul your entire diet overnight, focus on making small, sustainable changes that you can realistically incorporate into your daily routine and maintain over time.

Gradual Progress, Lasting Results

Start by adding a few healthy meals to your weekly routine. Then, as you get comfortable with these changes, gradually incorporate more wholesome options into your daily life.

For instance, begin by adding a piece of fruit to your breakfast or swapping out sugary drinks for water. Once these changes feel effortless, gradually introduce more wholesome options, such as preparing more meals at home, incorporating more vegetables into your diet, or choosing whole-grain alternatives to refined grains.

Remember, consistency is key. Making small changes consistently is far more effective than attempting drastic overhauls that are difficult to maintain over time. Hence, celebrate each milestone, no matter how insignificant it may seem. Indeed, these small victories will fuel your motivation and keep you moving forward on your healthy eating journey.

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3. Identify Your Triggers

Culture, upbringing and personal preferences affect what you eat

Unhealthy eating habits are often triggered by specific situations or emotions. So, understanding your triggers is crucial to adopting a sustainable healthy eating routine.

By recognizing the factors that lead you to make unhealthy choices, you can develop strategies to avoid or manage them effectively.

Here are some common triggers for unhealthy eating:

Emotions:

  • Stress: Stress can lead to emotional eating as a way to cope with negative emotions.
  • Anxiety: Anxiety can trigger cravings for comfort foods, providing temporary relief from anxious feelings.
  • Boredom: Boredom can lead to mindless snacking, often on unhealthy options.
  • Sadness: Sadness can trigger cravings for sugary or fatty foods, providing a temporary mood boost.
  • Loneliness: Loneliness can lead to overeating or emotional eating as a way to feel comforted or connected.

Situations:

  • Grocery shopping: Temptations abound in the supermarket, from sugary snacks to processed foods.
  • Social gatherings: Parties, potlucks, and meals with friends or family can involve unhealthy options, making it challenging to maintain healthy choices.
  • Stressful work environment: Long hours, demanding tasks, and a hectic work environment can lead to unhealthy eating as a stress reliever.
  • Late-night cravings: Late-night hunger can lead to unhealthy snacking, often due to lack of preparation or alternative options.

Once you’ve identified your triggers, you can develop strategies to manage them:

Emotional triggers:

  • Practice stress management techniques: Engage in activities like yoga, meditation, or deep breathing to manage stress levels.
  • Engage in physical activity: Physical activity releases endorphins, which improve mood and reduce stress.
  • Find non-food coping mechanisms: Replace unhealthy eating with alternative activities like reading, listening to music, or spending time in nature.

Situational triggers:

  • Plan ahead: Make a grocery list and stick to it to avoid impulse purchases.
  • Choose healthy options: Opt for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins at social gatherings and work events.
  • Set boundaries: Set limits on your portion sizes and avoid late-night snacking.
  • Keep healthy snacks on hand: Always have healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, or yogurt to satisfy cravings instead of unhealthy options.

By identifying your triggers and developing effective strategies to manage them, you can take control of your eating habits and embark on a sustainable journey towards healthier choices.

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4. Cook More At Home

Enjoy cooking your healthy and tasty meals

Cooking at home is a cornerstone of a healthy eating lifestyle. In fact, by preparing your meals yourself, you gain complete control over the ingredients, ensuring that you are consuming wholesome, minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods free from unhealthy additives and preservatives. Additionally, home-cooked meals often cost less than restaurant meals, making them a budget-friendly option. Moreover, cooking at home can be a therapeutic and enjoyable experience, allowing you to express your creativity and connect with your loved ones over a shared meal.

Control Over Ingredients:

When you cook at home, you have the power to choose the freshest, highest-quality ingredients. Indeed you can select organic produce, lean proteins, and whole grains, ensuring that your meals are packed with nutrients and devoid of artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives.

On the other hand, this level of control is often lacking in restaurant meals, where convenience and profit often take precedence over nutritional value.

Increased Savings:

Cooking at home is a cost-effective way to nourish your body. Restaurants often charge premium prices for their food, including hefty markups for ingredients, labor, and ambiance.

On the contrary, preparing your meals at home eliminates these costs, allowing you to enjoy delicious and nutritious meals without breaking the bank.

Therapeutic Experience:

Cooking can be a relaxing and enjoyable activity, offering a break from the daily grind. In addition, it allows you to express your creativity, experiment with new flavors, and connect with your senses. Moreover, sharing a home-cooked meal with loved ones can foster a sense of connection and camaraderie, creating lasting memories.

Simple Steps to Start Cooking at Home:

  1. Plan Your Meals: Plan your meals for the week and create a grocery list. This will help you avoid impulse purchases and ensure that you have all the ingredients you need on hand.
  2. Simplify Your Recipes: Start with simple recipes that use a limited number of ingredients. Then, as you gain confidence, you can gradually experiment with more complex dishes.
  3. Embrace Cooking Equipment: Invest in basic cooking equipment such as a cutting board, knives, pots, pans, and measuring cups. Equip your kitchen with healthy cooking appliances, such as a steamer or an air frier. These tools will make your cooking experience more efficient and enjoyable.
  4. Enjoy the Process: Cooking should be a fun and rewarding experience. So, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and try new things.

By embracing home-cooking, you can take control of your meals, nourish your body with wholesome foods, and save money while enjoying the therapeutic and creative aspects of culinary exploration.

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5. Embrace Mindful Eating

Empower Yourself: Take Control of Your Health and Well-being

Mindful eating is a transformative approach to food that involves paying attention to the present moment, the sensations of eating, and the thoughts and emotions that arise during the eating experience. It is about connecting with your body and aligning your eating behavior with its natural signals of hunger and fullness.

Benefits of Mindful Eating:

  • Enhanced Satiety: Mindful eating can help you feel more satisfied with smaller portions, reducing the likelihood of overeating.
  • Reduced Emotional Eating: By paying attention to your emotions, you can identify triggers that lead to emotional eating and develop healthier coping mechanisms.
  • Improved Food Enjoyment: Mindful eating allows you to savor the taste and experience of food, enhancing overall dining satisfaction.
  • Weight Management: Mindful eating can support weight management by helping you make conscious food choices and avoid mindless eating.

Practicing Mindful Eating:

  1. Set the Stage: Create a calm and distraction-free eating environment. Turn off your phone, TV, and any other electronic devices.
  2. Focus on the Present Moment: Bring your attention to the food in front of you. Observe its overall appearance, smell, and texture.
  3. Engage All Your Senses: Slow down and savor each bite. Notice the flavors, textures, and temperatures of the food.
  4. Listen to Your Body: Tune into your body’s hunger and fullness cues. Stop eating when you feel satisfied, not when you’re full.
  5. Avoid Multitasking: Avoid eating while watching TV, working, or engaging in other activities. Dedicate your full attention to the eating experience.
  6. Practice Regularly: Mindful eating is a skill that requires practice. Start slowly and gradually incorporate mindful eating techniques into your daily routine.

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6. Practice Portion Control

Bean tempeh sauerkraut kombucha

Portion control is a crucial aspect of healthy eating, as even healthy foods can contribute to weight gain if consumed in excessive amounts. By understanding portion sizes and making conscious choices about how much we eat, we can ensure that we are consuming the right amount of calories to support our overall health and well-being.

Strategies for Effective Portion Control:

  1. Plate Your Meal and Stick to It: Plate your entire meal and place it on the table before you start eating. This visual representation of your food will help you stay mindful of the amount you’re consuming and avoid overeating.
  2. Use Smaller Plates and Bowls: Using smaller plates and bowls can help you visually manage your portions and reduce the amount of food you consume. The smaller plate size creates a sense of abundance and makes even a smaller amount of food seem more satisfying.
  3. Pay Attention to Labels: Read food labels carefully and pay attention to serving sizes. Many packaged foods contain multiple servings, and it’s easy to overeat if you’re not aware of the actual portion sizes.
  4. Use Measuring Cups and Spoons: When measuring dry ingredients, use measuring cups and spoons to ensure accurate portion control. This is particularly important for ingredients like nuts, seeds, and grains, which can easily be overconsumed.
  5. Slow Down and Savor Your Food: When you eat quickly, your body doesn’t have enough time to register fullness cues. Slow down your eating pace, chew each bite thoroughly, and savor the flavors of your food. This will help you feel more satisfied with smaller portions.
  6. Put Your Fork Down Between Bites: Take breaks between bites of food to give your body a chance to catch up with your stomach. This will help prevent overeating and allow you to recognize when you’re truly full.

Limiting Hidden Calories:

Hidden calories, or calories that are not easily noticed in our food, can easily contribute to weight gain over time. Here are some tips for limiting hidden calories:

  1. Minimize Condiments: Condiments like salad dressings, sauces, and dips can be calorie-dense and can quickly add up in a meal. Opt for healthier alternatives like lemon juice, vinegar, or plain yogurt for dressings.
  2. Cook with Less Oil: Use minimal amounts of oil when cooking. Consider cooking with methods like baking or steaming that require less oil.
  3. Choose Lean Protein Sources: Opt for lean protein sources like grilled chicken, fish, or tofu, which are lower in fat and calories than fatty meats.
  4. Watch Your Snacking: Many snacks are high in hidden calories, such as chips, candy, and pastries. Choose healthier snacks like fruits, vegetables, nuts, or yogurt.

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7. Relish Your Meals: Make Healthy Eating Intrinsically Rewarding

Eating healthy means eating tasty!

Healthy eating shouldn’t be a battle between deprivation and indulgence. Instead, it can be a journey of culinary exploration and self-discovery, where every meal is an opportunity to delight your taste buds and nourish your body.

Ditch the notion of ‘diet mentality,’ where healthy eating is viewed as a temporary sacrifice. Instead, embrace a holistic approach that celebrates the abundance of delicious and nutritious foods available. Let your taste buds embark on a flavorful adventure, savoring the vibrant textures and tantalizing aromas of wholesome ingredients.

Every bite should be a moment of pure satisfaction, not a prelude to a future indulgence.

Instead of framing healthy eating as a means to an end, make every meal a celebration of nourishment and well-being. Savor the fresh flavors of fruits, the creamy richness of avocados, or the indulgent delight of dark chocolate; all packed with nutrients that support your body and mind.

While occasional indulgences aren’t off-limits, don’t treat them as rewards for healthy eating. Instead, integrate them naturally into your lifestyle, enjoying them for their intrinsic pleasures rather than as a reward for adhering to strict dietary rules.

Healthy eating is not about deprivation or punishment; it’s about cultivating a lifelong relationship with food that is both enjoyable and nourishing.

Embark on a culinary adventure, discover the vast array of wholesome, delicious foods, and make every meal an opportunity to savor the flavors and nutrients that your body craves.

Examples of Healthy Savory Treats:

  • Air-popped popcorn: Air-popped popcorn is a whole grain snack that’s low in calories and packed with fiber. Top it with your favorite healthy toppings, such as nutritional yeast, herbs, or spices.
  • Roasted chickpeas: Roasted chickpeas are a protein-rich and satisfying snack that’s also packed with fiber. Toss them with olive oil, spices, and a touch of salt for a flavorful and healthy treat.
  • Hummus and vegetable sticks: Hummus is a protein-rich and nutritious dip that’s made from chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. Pair it with fresh vegetable sticks for a healthy and satisfying snack or appetizer.
  • Guacamole with whole-grain crackers: Guacamole is a delicious and nutritious dip made from avocados, tomatoes, onions, and lime juice. Serve it with whole-grain crackers for a satisfying and healthy snack or appetizer.

Examples of Healthy Sweet Treats:

  • Berries: Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries, are packed with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and they make for a refreshing and guilt-free sweet treat.
  • Fruit popsicles: Made with pureed fruits and a touch of honey or maple syrup, fruit popsicles are a fun and healthy way to cool down on a hot day.
  • Homemade trail mix: Create a flavorful and nutritious trail mix by combining nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and dark chocolate chips.
  • Baked apple chips: Thinly sliced apples, coated in cinnamon and baked until crispy, offer a satisfying and healthy snack alternative to chips or cookies.
  • Fruit and yogurt parfait: This refreshing and wholesome parfait combines layers of yogurt, fresh fruits, and crunchy granola. Choose yogurt with minimal added sugars and opt for granola with nuts and seeds for added nutrients.
  • Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate with high cocoa content (over 70%) is rich in antioxidants and beneficial compounds that can support heart health, cognitive function, and mood.

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References

[1] Nutritional psychiatry: Your brain on food – Harvard Health

[2] Gut feelings: How food affects your mood – Harvard Health

[3] Diet and depression – Harvard Health

[4] Ultra-processed foods linked to poorer brain health | News | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

[5] Ultra-processed foods may increase risk of depression | News | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

[6] Foods linked to better brainpower – Harvard Health

[7] Disease Prevention | The Nutrition Source | Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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Learn how to embark on your healthy eating journey on the right foot