Mediterranean or some other diet plan, this definitive guide to eating healthy will help you get started on the right foot with simple tips and explanations that are easy to follow and understand. Let’s dive in!
Set yourself up for success
Perhaps nothing is more important than eating well. When it comes to fitness, there’s a whole host of studies that show eating right can help you in myriad ways.
It may even be able to help you live longer, according to recent research from Harvard. It doesn’t take much, either:
The study suggested that people who followed a Mediterranean diet (which focuses on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil) were 12 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who didn’t follow such a diet. Sounds pretty good, right?
Start slow, don’t make drastic changes
Dieting is hard enough, but if you try to change everything at once you are more likely to fail. First and foremost, it is essential that you adopt a new way of thinking about food.
Instead of viewing food as an enemy or even as an ally, view it as fuel for your body. Your body needs specific foods in order to function correctly—so why not give it exactly what it needs?
After all, exercise is just as much about what we take in (fuel) as it is about burning off excess calories. Do not be afraid to start slow when trying to eat healthy.
There is no need to overhaul your diet completely overnight; instead, focus on one area where you can make positive changes every day.
For example, instead of eating out every night, prepare one meal per week at home. Or instead of drinking soda with lunch every day, drink water instead. Before long you will have developed healthy habits that will last a lifetime!
Find your community
The Internet can help you find a community that shares your interests, values and goals. A forum, group or interest group on something like healthy eating or running may seem trivial at first, but it can serve as a great introduction to other people with similar interests who could become friends.
At the very least, joining a group like these will let you commiserate with others who are struggling with living healthy lifestyles—you’ll be able to share tips and tricks while also hearing what has worked for others.
Remember that online communities aren’t just places where people gather information—they’re also forums where friendships are formed.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Studies show eating breakfast kick-starts your metabolism and helps you consume fewer calories during the day. Make sure you’re eating a healthy breakfast before hitting the road—and always eat it sitting down.
If you’re running late in getting out of your house, make sure you pack up a healthy breakfast that can be eaten on-the-go. But make sure it’s nutritionally sound by following these tips for packing a healthy snack
Write down everything you eat
Keep a daily food journal. By tracking your meals and snacks, you can identify patterns in what you eat as well as trends related to feelings of hunger or fullness.
Over time, you may discover that certain foods make you feel bloated or tired and that others keep your energy levels high throughout the day.
Writing down what we eat is not only essential for weight loss—it’s a great way to get feedback on whether our diets are meeting our nutritional needs.
In addition, keeping track of how much and when we eat gives us valuable information about what behaviors could use some fine-tuning.
Cut out the snacks
It’s so easy to get caught up in mindless snacking. When you’re watching TV, do you find yourself reaching for snacks that may be better suited for lunch?
Do you make a conscious effort not to have a snack after dinner, but then end up eating an entire box of cookies later on at night?
You can lose weight safely by eliminating mindless snacking. A great way to start is by cutting out as many sugary and salty snack foods as possible, and replacing them with healthier options.
Fruit is always a good choice—it tastes great, fills you up, and keeps your calorie intake under control. Try making fruit fun by creating healthy recipes like smoothies or baked apples.
Think about what you’re eating, not just how much you’re eating
Eating healthy isn’t just about how much you eat. While calories matter, quality of nutrition is a must. The saying you are what you eat is true for your body: what we put in our mouth affects how we look and feel.
We often think that eating smaller portions makes us healthier, but it’s more important to think about what you’re eating than how much you’re eating.
If your diet is high in fat, sugar and sodium (ie fries, soda and candy), then regardless of portion size, it won’t be good for your health—or your waistline. So ask yourself if portion control really means pushing smaller amounts of unhealthy food?
Eat every 2–3 hours, use an app if you need to
Skipping meals messes with your metabolism and makes you even more likely to overeat later. The best way to avoid those harmful eating habits is by eating frequently — so your body never enters starvation mode and starts storing calories instead of burning them. How often should you eat?
Go with every 2–3 hours, and if that seems daunting, start with 5- or 6-hour blocks until you’re accustomed to it. You can also use a meal app or food journaling tool like MyFitnessPal to keep track of what you’re consuming each day.
Just make sure you don’t go below 1,200 calories per day — if possible, aim for 1,500 calories per day instead.
Track your weight and measurements with an app like MyFitnessPal
Tracking your weight and measurements can help you stay motivated. It’s also very telling in terms of what exercises are actually contributing toward weight loss and which ones are burning calories but not actually reducing your mass.
To be more specific, you should track only changes in body composition (fat vs. muscle), rather than just pounds. This is because as soon as you lose fat, you’ll also lose some muscle (fortunately, it doesn’t have to be much).
So if you make changes that result in rapid weight loss, muscle may be lost with it. And don’t give yourself an excuse; these apps are free or cheap and they make tracking easy!
Get out and do something active!
Maybe you’re just trying to stay healthy, or maybe you’re trying to lose weight. Either way, exercise can be a difficult task, especially if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. By making physical activity part of your daily routine, it can become much easier.
You don’t need an hour at the gym or mile-long jog every day—just take advantage of small opportunities in your day that add up and make exercise a normal part of your life.
Getting out and walking around during coffee breaks is one easy solution; parking further away from your destination is another.
As long as you keep moving throughout each day, no matter how slowly or briefly, you can still reach your goals with exercise alone.