Melissa’s Rap: A co-worker recently asked me how I stay on track with healthy eating. My response was that due to food allergies and sensitivities, I just feel better when I eat healthier, so that is my driving force. But, after our conversation, his question stuck with me. I realized that there are some things that I do consistently to stay on track. I struggled with improving my dietary choices for decades, and while my reaction to some foods definitely forced me to eat healthier, there are certain things I’ve implemented that have kept me going. If you are on a mission to eat healthier, this post is for you.
Read The Ingredients
If you aren’t a label reader, you need to become one. Avoid foods with added sugar, hydrogenated oils, artificial colors and flavors, corn syrup (especially the high fructose variety), “modified“ anything, and words you can’t pronounce or have to look up. Case in point: if your maple syrup has anything other than maple syrup in it, you need another brand. Also, make sure you are checking for ingredients you know you react to and that you are aware of the different terms for them. For example, if you can’t eat dairy, you shouldn’t eat anything with whey in it. These days you don’t necessarily have to sacrifice taste for healthier options.
Be Willing To Spend A Little More
It’s true, eating healthier costs more. However, the health benefits you will receive from cutting out some of the crappy ingredients I mentioned above, will also benefit your wallet long-term. Trips to the doctor, medications, and missed work are all more likely when you aren’t taking care of your body. Think of healthy food as preventative medicine.
Don’t Bring It In The House
If you are a soda drinker, cookie lover, or processed food junkie, the best recommendation I can make is: don’t bring it home. If it is in your house, you are going to eat it. While you are transitioning to a healthier diet, only consuming soda and sweet treats at restaurants will be a stepping stone to eliminating them entirely.
Listen, I hate to cook. My sister got the Betty Crocker gene in our family. There are a million other things I’d rather be doing than standing in the kitchen for hours cooking. BUT! If you want to eat healthy, food cooked fresh is the way to go. As a full-time leader, mom, and business owner, I don’t have a lot of extra time. Pre-packaged foods are convenient and easy, but they also lack nutrients and have a lot of preservatives that are counterintuitive to your mission to get healthy. I started with a few easy meals that didn’t take long to make and added to that as I got used to cooking more. You may even be surprised to find you actually enjoy cooking!
It’s good to have goals! What are you up to? Do you want to lose weight? Feel better? Gain more energy? All of the above? Write it down and then break it down into smaller actionable steps to help get you there. For example, if your goal is to feel better, cutting out inflammation-causing foods like sugar, dairy, and wheat can make a big difference for you. Some actions you could take would be to substitute honey or pure maple syrup for sugar in your baked goods, make your eggs or sandwich without cheese, and do a lettuce wrap instead of a bun on your burger. By taking these steps, you will likely find that you will also lose weight, sleep better, and experience increased energy. Bonus!
Once you know what your goals are, determine how you will keep track. I prefer internal gauges to standing on a scale each day. It’s ok to track your weight loss, but I am more interested in how the changes are making me feel. Another great way to track your progress is to take a picture before and after.
Ask a friend of family member to be an accountability partner. Ask them to check in daily or weekly to help you stay accountable to your goals. Perhaps you will inspire them and you can go on this journey together!
Go Easy On Yourself (But Not Too Easy)
If you are like me, one small setback can spiral into falling off the wagon and it dragging you behind it. If you slip up and eat something you shouldn’t, or you don’t hit one of your goals, it’s ok. Tomorrow is a new day. Pick yourself back up and keep going. However, if you find that you are giving yourself a pass daily or even weekly (depending on what it is), that’s a pattern and you may be off the wagon but pretending everything is just fine. I don’t know about you, but I can justify just about anything to myself. Get your accountability partner involved and get back on track.
Those pre-packaged foods sure are convenient, aren’t they? I know it is easier to grab and go. But, it isn’t going to help you achieve your goal of eating healthier. So, plan ahead! What will you be taking to work for lunch tomorrow so you won’t go out and consume foods you will regret? You may plan to bring leftovers, or while you are cooking dinner, have a separate dish going that you can split into a few containers and eat for lunch the next couple of days. Will you be out for a few hours? What healthy snack can you take that will keep you on track? Try some fresh fruit or a bag of almonds. These are still easy choices, you just have to think ahead and make sure you remember to take them with you (and prior to that, picking them up at the store). If you are used to grabbing something while you are out, this step will be an adjustment, but the more you practice it, it will become second nature before you know it. If you are headed to a special event, planning ahead may mean eating before you go or bringing a healthy dish to share.
Choose Whole Foods
When you are shopping for meals and snacks, choose fresh meat, fresh vegetables, and fresh fruit. Key word: Fresh! Shop the outer path of your grocery store more than the inner aisles. You should find yourself in the meat and produce departments more than the pre-packaged food aisles. And when you are shopping those inner aisles, remember to read those ingredient labels and choose healthy ingredients over those you would need to look up to translate.
Drink Mostly Water
This was a big step for me. I still drink coffee and other beverages, but about 90% of what I drink during any given day is water. It is what our body needs most! It is an adjustment, but once you get into the habit, you will crave it instead of dread it!
Listen to your body
This has been hands down the most important thing that’s kept me eating healthy. I feel pretty crappy when I eat poorly. It’s just not worth it. After each meal, snack, and beverage, take some time to tune into your body and see how it made you feel. If your response isn’t a positive one, consider eliminating that particular food or beverage or at least cut back on it considerably.
Be Patient and Build Habits
When I gave up dairy and cut back drastically on wheat and sugar, I mourned all of my
favorite foods: pizza, mac n’ cheese, cheese and crackers, dessert, and so many more. It was tough. But, I kept listening to my body, reading labels, and making hard choices again and again until they became habits. Now I prefer eating healthier. I am not perfect at it, but 95% of the time, I’m pretty consistent. Be patient. This will take time. You will get there if you keep making the healthier choice again and again.
You Can Do This
I grew up eating sugary cereal with sugar sprinkled on top and soda and milk as my beverages of choice. If I can do this, so can you. Follow the steps above and you will be well on your way to a healthier lifestyle. Let me know how it goes! I would love to hear your success and help you through those inevitable road bumps!
Have you transitioned from the classic American diet to a healthier diet? How did you do it? What tips do you recommend? We would love to hear from you! Contact us here.