Are you living by the philosophy that you are what you put into your body? Exercise is part of a healthy lifestyle, but healthy eating may just be the factor that tips the scales in your favor, literally.
It’s not just about losing weight. Healthy eating is responsible for maintaining your wellness inside and out. Your organs need specific vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to thrive. Without them, you’ll wind up with deficiencies that can compromise your health, leading to chronic and debilitating illnesses.
Fortunately, healthy eating isn’t as difficult as it sounds. Here are 22 tips that will help you transition into healthy eating and live a life full of wellness.
1. Make your plate like a rainbow
Think of healthy eating like an Instagram-worthy photo where your plate looks like a bright and cheerful painting. It’s easier to engage in healthy eating when it looks appealing, so do what it takes to plate it up pretty with foods that span the colors of the rainbow. The more colors you eat with each meal, the healthier you’ll be.
2. Go with the grains for energy
Some diets will lead you to believe that grains are bad. For healthy eating, grains are essential to give your muscles and organs the fuel they need. When choosing grains, you’ll want to look for whole-grain options. Inclusively, anything made with refined sugars and flours should be swapped for whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, and brown rice.
3. Keep it exciting
Healthy eating is extremely hard to do when you have the same green salad for lunch and dinner every day. Instead, think outside the box and combine new textures and flavors for something sensational. Try a different type of lettuce or mix spring greens and spinach for your base. Chop up fresh broccoli or asparagus tips. Add some brightly-colored bell peppers in red, orange, and yellow.
You can also add fruits, seeds, and nuts to your salads. Try blueberries and almond slivers. Or peach slices and walnuts. Pumpkin seeds add extra crunch too. Play around with flavors and textures for your salads, and you will never get tired of eating them.
4. Stick with fresh as often as you can
When engaging in healthy eating, the foods you choose should be as fresh as possible. Learn to look at where the food comes from that you buy. You’ll be surprised to see that many things in the produce section can come from thousands of miles away. Find a local grower or head to the farmers’ market. You’ll find fresher, more seasonal foods to work with that will taste so good, you’ll barely need to season them.
If you can’t find fresh, frozen is the next-best option for you. The nutrients for fruits and vegetables get locked in at the peak of freshness when they’re frozen. Canned fruits and vegetables aren’t the best choices since they usually contain too much sodium and preservatives, which negates their healthful benefit.
5. Add dairy to your diet
Dairy is another component of the diet that gives your body calcium and vitamin D. For well-rounded, healthy eating, and you should choose low-fat cheese, yogurt, and milk. Even if you go with a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, you can find dairy-free alternatives that will give you the same benefits. Be sure to read the labels; some brands can sneak in too much sugar to balance the taste.
6. Balance your meals
Every plate needs balance to it. Make sure that you’re getting protein, grains, fruit, and vegetables, so you get all your food groups as per healthy eating practices.
7. Watch your portions
Even when you’re eating the right foods, you can go overboard with your portions in the blink of an eye. We eat with our eyes first, and our brains don’t get the signal from our stomachs that we’re full until about 20 minutes later. Eating mindfully and plating your food first is important with healthy eating. It allows you to see and experience your food rather than gobbling it up too quickly.
Instead of putting out big bowls and plates of food on your table, take the time to create a plate. Use the first tip of making it look like a rainbow of beautiful colors. Keep your protein and grains servings smaller while loading up on those fresh vegetables instead.
8. Heap on the hydration
Part of healthy eating includes drinking enough water. Take a reusable bottle of it with you everywhere you go. Put it by your phone so that every time you check your notifications, you’ll remember to sip it up.
If you’re tired of all that water or you miss sugary drinks, get a water bottle with an infuser. You can add fresh fruits, herbs, and vegetables into it, which will give you loads of flavor and more vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants without any sugar or preservatives.
9. Never go grocery shopping hungry
When it’s time to stock your kitchen with the foods you need for healthy eating, you should make sure you eat a little something. Have a banana, top some berries on your yogurt, or munch a handful of nuts and seeds. It will be easier to stick to your shopping list of healthy foods when you don’t feel famished. Shopping for food while hungry will make you more likely to throw caution to the wind and grab unhealthy sale items as you pass by them in the aisles.
10. Prepare your food in healthier ways
Perhaps you’re choosing foods that fall into the healthy eating category. But maybe it’s how you’re preparing those foods that are doing you in. Baking, oven-roasting, and slow-cooking are all great ways to cook your meals without doing more harm than good.
Air fryers might seem healthier, but fried food is fried food. And when sauteing, watch how much oil you use. Even with olive oil, considered by health experts as among the healthiest option, you’re getting about 120 calories per tablespoon. Measure it out first, so you don’t coat an otherwise healthy dish with double or triple the calories from oil. Avocado oil and coconut oil are other healthy oil options to keep in your kitchen.
11. Forget ‘diet’ foods
When something says it’s low fat, reduced fat, or low calorie on the packaging, it’s a smart decision to put it back. Just because the fat has been reduced doesn’t make it healthier. In fact, to compensate for the lack of taste and texture, sugar and additives are added in to replace them. You’ll wind up eating more sugar and unhealthy ingredients that your body definitely doesn’t need.
12. Make your own popcorn for a snack
Healthy eating can involve some tasty treats too. Case in point: popcorn. The catch is that you’ll have to pop it yourself. Using those microwave bags of popcorn will only expose you to unnatural ingredients. Simply buy the popcorn kernels and air-pop them on the stovetop. You’ll get a healthy snack, as long as you watch your toppings. A great way to add flavor is to use an oil misting spray bottle of olive oil and a little sea salt.
13. Look to plant-based proteins to shake things up
Not every meal needs to have meat as a protein. In fact, research supports plant-based eating because it can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease while lowering cholesterol and blood pressure. It’s a great way to incorporate healthy change in your lifestyle.
There are so many ways to get protein without any meat on your plate. Beans and peas are a great way to fill up your plate and your belly without filling you out. Black beans, navy beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, and split peas are easy options to grab at the store. Be even kinder to your health and choose the dried variety. You’ll have to soak them first, but these come without added sodium.
Soy is another option that you’ll find in things like tofu and tempeh. You can also instantly add protein and crunch to any salad with some unsalted nuts or seeds. Plant-based proteins come in many forms that are easy to work into your daily life, and can easily complement your lean proteins or replace them.
14. Consider swapping over the elimination
Often, we make the mistake that we have to eliminate something completely rather than make a substitution. Reframing it in your mind makes it easier to live by your new code of healthy eating rather than feeling deprived. For example, instead of giving up chocolate completely, swap it for dark chocolate that’s over 70% cacao.
15. Don’t omit food groups
When you’re trying out meatless meals or are making a full transition, don’t make your plate look like it’s going without. If you’d usually have a piece of fish with rice and spinach, removing that fish and only eating rice and spinach isn’t ideal for healthy eating. You’ll want to replace that protein with something meatless like legumes, soy-based products, or even nuts and seeds.
16. Start with one meatless day a week
Because of the recent findings of plant-based proteins being better for heart health, it might be best to make at least one day of the week a meatless one, or at the very least, making one dinner that uses plant-based protein over an animal. It will help you incorporate more of the nutrients you need, plus it’s an excellent way to help tip the scales in your favor when trying to lose weight.
17. Cut red meat loose first
Some people engage in healthy eating by saying goodbye to red meat first. It can be especially difficult if you love steak, but ending your love affair with red meat can make a huge impact on your Health. Studies have found that eating just two servings of red meat as well as processed meat (like cured sandwich meats for example) increases the risk for heart disease.
You don’t have to do it forever, but try it for a month and see how you feel. Some people save that steak for a special occasion while others find they don’t miss it. Because red meat isn’t very heart-healthy, it would be wise to minimize how often you eat it or consider simply not eating it at all.
18. Make plant-based appealing in your way
The hardest part when turning to a more plant-based diet is trying to make these foods appealing. You’ll quickly lose interest when you’re eating nothing but rabbit food on top of a small mound of rice or a sandwich that has nothing in it. Think outside the box and use these plant-based ingredients in the ways you’d eat meat.
If you enjoyed a nice chicken salad sandwich for lunch, turn to chickpeas. You can mash them up with avocado for a creamy texture and add flavor with herbs and spices. Grilled tofu can easily take the place of your favorite BBQ meats, especially when you use a tasty sauce or dry rub.
When you use the same sauces and seasonings you’d typically use on animal-based proteins, your mind is tricked in the most pleasant of ways. You’ll find you won’t miss the meats because your mind is getting the flavors it likes regardless of the ingredients.
19. Look for new recipes to get you excited about healthy eating
Another great way to make a new healthy eating plan is to find new ways to enjoy these healthier foods. If your weekly meal menu wasn’t all that healthy, part of it would be using those flavors with healthier ingredients. And the other part will be trying new things.
There are tons of recipes that only call for whole and pure plant-based ingredients. Look for the ones that visually appeal to you, then seek out the ingredients. You’ll see things like poke bowls made from beets, exotic island bowls with black rice, and mountains of brightly-colored vegetables and beans, and curries that will have you so smitten that you’ll completely forget that you’ve made a fully meatless meal.
Trial and error is all a part of it. Some things won’t impress you, but others will become a weekly favorite from now on.
20. Change your dining habits
You don’t have to cook every night, but if you’re healthy eating, you’ll have to change the way you dine out or order takeout. If your old menu order standby at your favorite restaurant isn’t a healthy option, pull up the menu before you go and check it out. Most places will have healthier options available that you probably didn’t notice before.
See if there are ways to make healthy substitutions too. Some places offer fries as your side to everything, but if you ask, they might be willing to trade it for a salad or steamed vegetables instead. Dressings should be on the side too. You’ll have more control over how much is on there. Or you can ask for olive oil and vinegar on the side to keep from adding too many calories.
At most restaurants, portion sizes are at least double than you need in one sitting. If you can’t trust yourself to stop after eating half the dish, ask your server to box the rest up for you. Consider splitting a meal or choosing a couple of small plates instead. The latter option is even better because it gives you the illusion that you’re eating more and indulging because you’re getting a few different flavors.
21. Seek out restaurants that cater to meatless lifestyles
As you move forward into a lifestyle of healthy eating, you should explore new territory. Instead of choosing the steakhouse you loved before your mission for better health, look for a new vegan restaurant near you. This is especially important if you can’t seem to find any recipes you like. You’ll get to experience interesting flavors and textures that will have you a believer in being meatless, even if only for part of the time.
22. Don’t try to change all at once
And finally, the most important tip of all for healthy eating is to make small changes little by little. You can’t expect to build up a good habit when you shove yourself into it. Start by eliminating sodas and added sugar. Then add a new healthy food per week. Make one change here and there, then take the next step and you will find healthy eating ingrained into your new healthy lifestyle.