We all want to feel fit and healthy, but sometimes it’s hard to find the path there. In our current culture of overly-processed, mass-produced foods, healthy eating has become somewhat of a challenge. We are constantly bombarded with information that is often times based on subjective claims or one answer solutions that will keep you “slim, disease-free, and full of energy.”
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with all the varying declarations. And while fad diets are at least a step in the right direction (a desire for a healthier lifestyle), they can often lead to more frustration due to their usually unsustainable nature.
Take the Raw Food Diet for example. It suggests that cooking food destroys nutrients so adherents to the diet must spend hours juicing, blending, dehydrating, sprouting, germinating, cutting, chopping, and re-hydrating. Or how about the Cabbage Soup Diet – the idea being that the liquid will keep you full and cabbage/veggies are low calorie foods, hence weight loss. But how long can anyone really eat cabbage soup for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?
There is one time-tested plan that most experts can agree on being practical and beneficial. It’s called basic healthy eating. Brian Smith, clinical nutrition operations manager at UnityPoint Health Des Moines, encourages folks to eat a variety of foods, select as few processed foods as possible, and be careful with salt and refined sugar. Here are some other healthy eating tips from Harvard Health Publications:
To set yourself up for success, think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps rather than one big drastic change. If you approach the changes gradually and with commitment, you will have a healthy diet sooner than you think.
- Simplify. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more delicious.
- Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isn’t realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.
- Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The more healthy food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or drained of energy.
- Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You don’t have to be perfect and you don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don’t let your missteps derail you—every healthy food choice you make counts.
- Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently, particularly in restaurants. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything. At home, use smaller plates, think about serving sizes in realistic terms, and start small. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, try adding more leafy green vegetables or rounding off the meal with fresh fruit. Visual cues can help with portion sizes–your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size of a traditional light bulb.
- Try not to think of certain foods as “off-limits.” When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. If you are drawn towards sweet, salty, or unhealthy foods, start by reducing portion sizes and not eating them as often. If the rest of your diet is healthy, eating a burger and fries once a week probably won’t have too much of a detrimental effect on your health. Eating junk food just once a month will have even less of an impact. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
People are often overwhelmed when shopping and don’t know what to do when they get to the grocery store. Preparing meals at home is another challenge. That’s where Farm to Fit can help! We take the stress out of eating by designing menus that are filled with fresh vegetables, portion controlled meats, carbs, and fats, and plenty of variety. On top of all that, we’ll deliver them to your door! If food delivery isn’t your thing, try a CSA box or take a cooking class!
The bottom line: Shoot for developing a diet that you can maintain for life, not just a few weeks or months, or until you’ve hit your ideal weight. Healthy eating shouldn’t be about ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods. Don’t feel guilty about the foods you love, rather eat them in moderation and choose other foods to provide the balance and variety that are vital to good health.