I’ve tried countless diets, fasting and fads to keep me on my path, but when it comes down to it, it just has to be a mindset that is integrated into your daily life over time.
You can’t expect to be perfect at once, and there isn’t a magic bullet for anyone.
That being said, there are a lot of simple steps that you can take that, when combined, create a solid foundation for you to work from. You can stay more on track when you focus on lots of little changes.
Don’t be overwhelmed, and just keep these in mind. Make it a point to read the list every week to keep them fresh in your mind. Soon you’ll be on your way to healthy.
44 Ways to Make Healthy Eating a Habit
- Keep a food journal detailing everything you eat during the day. Take pictures to help remind yourself. Use a blogging platform like Tumblr to help keep you honest. You can also use this as a weight loss journal.
- Create a set of rules for your fridge that dictate what can and can’t go in. (i.e.: No processed food, no refined sugars or grains, no alcohol, no dairy, no gluten, etc.)
- Try to view food as a vehicle towards better health and longevity, rather than comfort and emotional support. Which one are you going for with each meal?
- When you get hungry, ask yourself, “Would eating an apple and drinking a glass of water satisfy me?” If you answer yes, you’re hungry. If no, then you’re just craving.
- Flip the typical “Dieting” thought pattern on its head. When you see a junk food you want to eat, instead of thinking “I can’t eat that,” which sets you up for disappointment, instead train yourself to think, “I don’t want to eat that,” which sets you up for feelings of reward and pride.
- Use a classic mantra from the book Eat to Live: “The Salad is the Main Dish.” When you consider eating a meal, base it around vegetables and salad rather than a protein, starch or carbohydrate.
- Begin to redefine your idea of portion size. Eat massively larger portions, but make them of all your favorite vegetables and beans. This way you will get much fuller by eating much less calories.
- Use your typical side dishes as the main dish (think Brussels sprouts and Caesar salad) – and eat lots of it!
- Put a positive motivational message in a frame in the kitchen somewhere in your line of sight or on the refrigerator. Something that will make you feel good and happy. Taking charge of your nutrition is to be celebrated! Change this phrase out every few weeks so you don’t get used to it too much.
- If you must eat high-calorie comfort foods, eat them with a knife and fork and take smaller bites. Give yourself time to think about each bite that you are eating.
- Drink water instead of anything else. If you must drink soda, only buy the smaller cans and reduce the overall amount you drink.
- Every Sunday, do your shopping so you’re more relaxed. When you come home, make it a point to create pre-portioned healthy snacks that you can grab all week (i.e.: almonds + peanut butter, hummus + veggies, etc)
- Create a list of healthy, easy recipes that you will see easily so when you are scrounging or grazing, you will give yourself better choices than what is in your head.
- Use healthy food substitutions. See the full article on healthy food substitutions on the resource page.
- Create healthy patterns such as drinking a glass of water first thing when you wake up in the morning. My favorite is to eat one piece of fruit before every meal and especially when going to a restaurant or a party.
- Never leave your house without a portable snack. Ever. It may sound silly at first, but you will thank yourself when you’ve accidentally been out all day and are ravenous, so you can avoid the fast food and reach in your purse or cooler for a smoothie or big handful of roasted chickpeas instead.
- Going to RestaurantsIf you are going out to eat to a typical restaurant, check for vegan, vegetarian or lower calorie options. This will usually mean you’ll get less calories and more vegetables.
- Make it a rule when ordering appetizers that you only get a soup or a salad.
- When you order a salad, ask for double or triple the lettuce with your salad (they’ll usually oblige; lettuce is cheap!) or even double a serving of vegetables with your meal.
- Drink a full glass of water before you begin eating.
- Try a strictly vegetarian or vegan restaurant instead of your typical restaurant choice and ask what the customer favorite is. You will easily eat healthier by default and you may even learn a new type of dish that you didn’t know you liked before.
- When going out of town, make sure to plan what you will eat just as much as you would plan what to pack. Keeping your goals in mind this way will give you a much better shot at staying on track than if you leave it up to how you’re feeling at the moment.
- Create some realistic goals, and just start with one. Some examples: “I will eat 3 vegetables/fruits per day” / “I will cut out any refined sugar” / “I will cut out refined carbs.” / “I will substitute a healthy smoothie in place of breakfast for 30 days.”
- Whenever you eat a salad (at home or at the restaurant like above), triple the amount of lettuce you would normally eat, but have the same amount of dressing.
- Add beans to any/all meals to stay fuller longer. Beans can be eaten in so many forms. You can even add white beans to smoothies – you won’t even notice them and they’ll keep you full!
- Blend vegetables into your smoothies. I often blend tomatoes or broccoli in, and as long as it has enough yummy ingredients, I can’t even taste the vegetable! My morning smoothie absolutely always has at least 4 ounces of fresh greens anyhow. (Spinach has no flavor, try it, I promise!)
- Keep lots of fresh fruit, veggies and healthy snacks like chickpeas out on the counter where you can see them.
- Always be drinking water.
- For sauces and dressings: dip your fork in and then grab your food, instead of pouring over top. You’ll eat much less this way.
- Cook a big batch of beans and/or healthy grains every week and keep them in your fridge to use all week long.
- Go to the farmer’s market every weekend and stock up (or just the produce section of the grocery store). Buy more than you think you can possibly eat and then fill your refrigerator. Challenge yourself to make every single piece of fresh food during the week so that nothing goes bad. And leftover vegetables that are about to bite the dust can be made into sautéed bean and veggie patties or pakoras. Better to spend on groceries now than hospital bills later.
- Always bring a cooler with you, especially if you are going out for more than an hour or so. It’s so easy to pack a snack or meal in the form of a smoothie with ice packs so you can eat healthy literally anywhere you go. And if you find yourself out longer than you expected, you’ll be prepared.
- Stick to Meatless Mondays. And Wednesdays. And Saturdays. And…
- When you snack, always choose something that is not processed.
- If you are going to drink more than one alcoholic drink, alternate alcoholic drinks with glasses of water.
- Always bring your lunch to work instead of ordering out.
- Whenever you eat a meal, eat a very large serving of the vegetables first. This works especially well when going over to friend’s houses or holiday parties.
- If you bake, use more whole grain flour.
- Consider eating savory proteins and vegetables for breakfast, instead of typical sweet choices. Try taking a cue from Asian cuisine.
- If you eat eggs, discard some of the yolks to cut calories and cholesterol, but keep the majority of the protein.
- Add small amounts of nuts and seeds to your meals for more nutrition, healthy calories and fiber.
- Make it a point to eat different colored foods, so you can get a better mix of different nutrients. And no, I don’t mean different colored jelly beans.
- Try to find ways to make healthier versions of the foods you cannot live without. For example, if you usually have a bagel w cream cheese and jam, order instead a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and strawberries.
- Roast vegetables instead of frying. You will bring out many more deep flavors and you will save many calories of unnecessary oil.
Easy to Become Overwhelmed, Amirite?!
I know this series is way too many things to keep in mind all at once, especially when you are just starting out. And I don’t expect you to do them all right away — I’m not able to do them all either, not all the time at least.
Choosing a few and starting with the ones you can easily convert to is a fantastic start. Try to give yourself a goal of a new step every week or every other week. Within a year you will have some really great habits in place!
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Tell us one thing in this list that you would like to incorporate to help you make healthy eating a habit.