7 simple steps to healthy eating
“Eating healthy” means different things to different people. Many popular diets involve hard and fast rules about eliminating entire food groups. Paleo, vegan, and gluten-free diets come to mind. But unless you have restrictions due to a medical condition, eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to make drastic lifestyle changes.
In fact, research shows that simply having nutritious options on hand is a good way to start liking those foods more. Here are some simple tips to get you on the right track.
Sometimes we grab a snack here and there and don’t pay too much attention to everything we’re eating. Try taking some notes over a few days on what you eat and when you eat it. This can help you better understand your habits – good and bad. Do you grab a sugary snack in the afternoon without really thinking about it? When you eat a big breakfast, are you more likely to skip those snacks? Notice the quantity and quality of the foods you eat.
It also helps to write down your excuses for not eating well. Doing this just might help you realize why you make those excuses. For instance, “not having the time to eat healthy” doesn’t make too much sense when you consider snacking on fresh fruit like a banana or apple is just as convenient as grabbing a bag of chips.
The busier you are, the more likely you may be to eat out or order in. But food you make at home tends to be lower in calories and gives you more control over portion size, making the extra time needed to prepare a healthy meal well worth it. Best of all, the recipes that are the simplest, with the fewest ingredients, are often the healthiest for you.
A fast, easy way to make a healthy change is to avoid soda, juice, and energy drinks, which are a major source of added sugar and calories in American diets. Instead, try drinking plain or sparkling water or any other unsweetened beverage. This way, you can save up your calories for solid foods. When you cut out high-calorie drinks entirely, you’re likely to see a big difference. Here’s another tip: Because water boosts your metabolism, drinking it before you eat can help you consume fewer calories during your meal.
Craving a snack? Put down the phone and get off the computer before you dig in. Focusing on eating, without other distractions, will allow you to eat slower, gain more control over how much you consume, and increase your satisfaction.
When you’re hungry, you tend to go for whatever is close by. So, it makes sense to make sure the food you see first is good for you. Put a bowl of fresh fruit on your countertop, and keep sensible snacks in easy-to-reach places.
Research has shown that lack of sleep may actually boost a signal in your brain that causes you to seek pleasure from eating, especially from salty, sugary, and fatty snacks. That means when you’re sleep-deprived, you may snack more and make unhealthy food choices. So, getting enough sleep is always a good idea, and this is just one more reason to make it a top priority.
When it comes to healthy eating, remember that you shouldn’t set the bar so high that it becomes something impossible to attain. You’re human and need to be free to indulge once in a while. Allowing yourself that extra slice of pie doesn’t make you a failure. Studies have shown that depriving yourself of something you love (like chocolate) will actually lead you to crave it more than usual and overeat. So, eating those “bad” foods in moderation can actually be good for you.
Eating well is so important, both for your body and your mind. But never turn it into an all-or-nothing, drastic quick-fix, or you could be setting yourself up for failure.
Remember, healthy eating is something that should work with your lifestyle, not against it. Make small changes over time for a big boost to your overall health.
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