Happy Friday! Over the past month I’ve done my best to overhaul my eating habits. Personally, I don’t believe in dieting but I do believe in making healthier choices and transforming bad habits into good ones. I just ate a banana split last night and I have no intentions of completely giving up anything I love. However, I have found by keeping a daily food journal my eating habits have shifted in a positive way. For anyone looking to eat more consciously I highly recommend keeping a food journal.
In the past month I’ve gone from the girl who drinks Starbucks mochas two to three times a day (for the past 4 years!!!) to the girl who drinks one cup of coffee at home in the morning. I’m not giving up mochas, nor am I giving up Starbucks rather just looking to make every choice a little bit healthier.
Adopting new eating habits is a different road for every person. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses from the start. I personally don’t like soda or chips or most candy so the decision to avoid those processed foods hasn’t been difficult. I do love ice cream and pizza and pasta though, so learning to define those items as treats rather than everyday indulgences has helped me to feel healthier and happier.
While tracking my food, focusing on wellness and listening to several audiobooks on nutrition I’ve learned a few tips along the way. If you are looking to implement healthy changes in your life these are the tips I personally swear by.
10 Tips for the Happiest, Healthiest You!
1. Avoid adding sugar to anything. So much of what we eat contains sugar already and as a nation we over consume sugar like crazy. To cut down on sugar intake in a small way avoid adding sweetener to coffee, salads (aka sugary dressings), stir fry (read those prepackaged seasoning labels). Learn to appreciate the natural flavor of foods you thought tasted better with sugar. For me this meant ordering an iced cold brew coffee without the slightly chemical tasting sweeter Starbucks pumps into it. Miraculously I liked the coffee just as much!
In some cases (baking) sugar replacement isn’t feasible. In my opinion it is far better to use real sugar when baking chocolate chip cookies than artificial sweeteners. Sometimes you can use 1/2 the sugar a recipe calls for and still produce the same sweet treats. Usually, when baking I follow the recipe and accept this item as an occasional treat. As long as you aren’t making sugary cakes and cookies for yourself daily you’ll probably be okay.
2. Get excited about vegetables! Vegetables should be the base of every meal even if you aren’t a vegetarian like me. As much as I love plain, raw spinach (seriously, ha), vegetables don’t need to be boring. Dice up a few cherry tomatoes and avocado and drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper for a quick and simple addition to scrambled eggs. Steam asparagus and broccoli and sprinkle with parmesan cheese. Learn to make new fresh salads for your lunch or bake heavenly eggplant parmesan. Try cooking and preparing vegetables in new ways, they’re delicious!
By filing your plate primarily with vegetables you’re doing your body a huge nutritional favor. You’ll be more alert, more fulfilled and for those of you looking to shed weight…you’ll eat fewer calories. Of course a balanced diet isn’t solely veggies and I would not recommend giving up fruit, protein or fat! Yet, when you base your meals around vegetables you usually end up with a healthy plate.
3. Make your own food whenever possible. As a takeout queen I know this step can be hard initially. It seems so much easier and so much quicker to grab food from the Whole Foods hot bar or order your favorite meal from Uber Eats. Just don’t! As obvious as it sounds every single choice is an opportunity to nourish your body, and cooking at home is almost always healthier than eating on the go. Learn to love cooking, for some it’s an acquired taste. Practice! I am by no means a great chef and honestly it takes constant practice for me to enjoy cooking. Yet, I’ve found that the more I push myself into the habit of cooking the more I genuinely enjoy it. When you cook at home you can avoid the temptation of french fries or greasy pizza and you can focus on feeding your body real food without added sugar or excessive salt.
4. Keep a water bottle with you at all times. Though I am not one of those people that believe we confuse thirst and hunger (I don’t know about you but my body can definitely tell the difference) I do know drinking water is just a good habit. Simply keeping a water bottle at your desk, in your backpack, etc. can make a big difference. If you notice you are chronically bad at drinking water (aka by dinner time you realize you haven’t had a drop of water all day) make a goal of sipping water throughout the day. Drink a glass of water before breakfast then one before your “morning meeting” at work or after your first class ends. Make triggers that remind you when you should be drinking water and follow your thirst!
5. Meal plan ahead of time so you don’t end up ordering takeout because you’re starving. As I mentioned above…takeout is a tempting option often because it’s so easy. I’ve avoided falling into the takeout/order in trap by planning my meals ahead of time. You won’t catch me preparing all of my meals on Sunday night but I do try to create a weekly “menu” and grocery shop for the staples I will need over the weekend. By stocking my refrigerator ahead of time and outlining recipes I want to try I make it that much easier for myself even on the laziest day.
6. Focus on real food over processed food. Despite what fad diets want us to believe, the enemy of your body is not fat or carbs or food that is white…the enemy of your body is processed food. The enemy of our bodies is the 156 pounds of added sugar we consume every year (did your mouth just drop the way mine did when I really stopped to process that statistic?).
I can’t honestly tell you I don’t eat anything processed but I do try to base my meals around raw foods. For processed foods do your research and make your choices wisely. Not all processed foods are created equally!
7. Eat when you’re hungry. There is nothing holy about forcing yourself to be hungry, and you’re not suddenly an Instagram ab model because you skipped lunch or drink trendy (faux) detox tea. I realize I’m about to enter a controversial territory here but I think diets are stupid. You will never catch me referring to a healthy eating habit as a diet because diets are temporary! Are you really going to stick to eating grapefruit and tea for lunch for the rest of your life? Can you really skip solid foods for every meal except breakfast? I’m pretty skeptical and also aware that 99% of diets don’t yield long term results. A healthy lifestyle is the best way to reach your ideal body weight and optimal health and forcing yourself to be hungry is not healthy!
I eat small portions 4-5 times a day. I eat breakfast in the morning (generally a smoothie or a slice of avocado toast or scrambled eggs or a small bowl of oatmeal), a mid morning snack at work (usually almonds or a piece of fruit or a protein bar), lunch (usually a salad with some sort of protein and fruit), sometimes an afternoon snack (a hard boiled egg or piece of cheese or vegetables and hummus or a smoothie) and then dinner (this varies greatly). I don’t ever find myself starving because when I start to feel hungry I eat. Eating when you’re hungry keeps you from overeating (we all know that ravenous “I will eat anything and everything feeling”) and it helps you to make healthy choices. It’s much easier to choose a salad over a hamburger when you’re not to that “hangry” stage yet! Fad diets are my biggest pet peeve and you will not catch me on any radical juice cleanses or fasting challenges.
8. Don’t eat because you’re bored. Or because food is in front of you or because you see someone else eating or because you’ve had too much to drink. For some people (like myself) setting rules for yourself is the way to go,”I will not snack on junk food at work”, while for others this approach is too rigid. I focus on listening to my body and eating mindfully. A junky cupcake at work doesn’t mean anything to me…I don’t even like cupcakes, so I don’t eat it just because it’s there. That being said a homemade dessert at a dinner party doesn’t need to feel like the devil because I practice healthy habits and mindful eating. Choosing to eat because I am truly hungry and truly love something rather than eating out of boredom makes all the difference.
9. You deserve treats, so don’t feel guilty about that slice of pizza or ice cream sundae! Remember treats are just that, treats. It’s SO easy to fall into the habit of eating ice cream in bed every night or ordering pizza several times a week. I’ve been there! When you begin to treat these splurges as occasional treats rather than every day indulgences there is no longer a reason to feel guilty about it. This all being said…you need to know yourself. Are you incapable of eating a single cookie when you know there is a whole box in the cupboard ? If you’re the accidentally eat the whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s type #NoJudgement, don’t keep it in the house and choose your splurges wisely. Instead of having nightly ice cream as I used to, I’ve stopped keeping ice cream in the house. If it’s in my freezer I WILL eat it everyday but I don’t want to give up ice cream all together. Now, I go out to ice cream once or twice a week. I still get the joy of ice cream and it actually means more because it is usually an experience (i.e. Grabbing ice cream with a friend) rather than a mindless nightly habit (i.e. watching Netflix and eating ice cream in bed).
10. Stay inspired! For me staying inspired means continuing to learn about my body, nutrition and new healthy recipes. The more I learn about nourishing my body the less I want to binge on ice cream every single night. The more healthy recipes I see and save the less tempted I am to order pizza and takeout. I seek inspiration for myself every single day and remind myself that every choice can be a healthy choice. When you break down eating choice by choice it isn’t too difficult to eat healthy while allowing for occasional indulgences.
I’m not a nutritionist or an expert in human biology. I’m just a girl who has taken an interest in human nutrition and I’m trying to share what I have learned. I am deeply interested in your insights too! Do you have any favorite recipes? How do you avoid too much sugar? What keeps you inspired in the kitchen?
Have a wonderful weekend lovelies <3