First let me preface this post by saying that I feel slightly awkward writing it. I have a fear of coming off as an “expert” when I am not one. This is a topic for another day, but I just want to say that I am not writing this on top of my soapbox. These are purely the tips that worked for me and I thought I might share them. They are not meant to be the holy grail of all things healthy.
Okay now that I’m off my soapbox, let’s tackle today’s topic: So you wanna start eating healthier? Where should you start?
This is a topic that has been on my mind quite a bit lately. I’m not sure what’s in the air but I’ve had a couple of readers and friends reach out to me asking for advice. Then I was fortunate enough to be interviewed for The Lifestyle Accountability Podcast (listen here) and not surprisingly they asked the same questions. I figured it might be worth sorting out my own answers and putting them all in one place.
So here goes…
Advice #1: Ask yourself “why?”
Perhaps you’re looking to lose weight (and need to) or maybe you’re trying to gain weight or muscle. Maybe you have health issues or possibly just want to take control of your health to prevent illness (or as much of it as you can control). Whatever your reason, think about it and write it down. Then decide what is realistic. If you’re trying to look like Giselle Bundchen you should probably stop reading now…if however you’re looking for ways to fuel your body in the right way and start feeling more comfortable in your skin, read on.
Advice #2: Start reading nutrition labels.
Don’t bother trying to control everything you ingest, but when you reach for a product at the grocery store read the nutrition label. I personally do not advocate calorie counting so that’s not what I look at. The first thing my eyes glance to is the ingredient list. Word to the wise, if you can’t pronounce it, don’t eat it. Try to buy products that use REAL foods and as few ingredients as possible. And generally anything that has sugar listed as the first ingredient probably isn’t something you want to be eating.
Advice #3: Get in the kitchen.
I don’t think that you have to cook everything you eat to be healthy. I’m a foodie so it would be a travesty if I only ate in. I tend to eat in on my weekdays and nights and eat out more frequently on the weekend. I personally love cooking, but I’m a firm believer that even if you don’t like it at first you will come to appreciate it over time. Ignore the naysayers declaring that healthy food tastes bad. It doesn’t have to if you find the right resources (more on this below). If you can, try to hit the grocery store once a week to stock up on the goods. Stick to the outer portions of the store when you can. This is where you will find the produce, proteins and other fresh ingredients. Avoid the middle sections, but not all packaged goods are bad. Like I mentioned above, you just need to be label conscious
Advice #4: You don’t need to do it all.
I cannot stress this point enough. I remember when I started caring about what I ate I literally went insane in the health food store. Goji berries? Chia seeds? Nutritional Yeast? I needed it all! And the reality is that I don’t use these ingredients all that frequently. Start by focusing on upping your vegetable and protein intake. Don’t limit your carbs but also don’t go overboard. You don’t need to eat a salad for every meal. I try to incorporate a salad a day. I’m not always successful at this, but when I do it’s a choice I can feel proud of. I talked a bit more about ingredients that are frequently used in my kitchen and which ones I think are important in this post.
Advice #5: Make your choices.
Too much of anything is never a good idea. Eating all of your meals in sounds unbearably boring and eating all of your meals out may not be the wisest choice (or the most budget conscious). Similarly, eating perfectly healthy all the time will almost certainly backfire into a major bingefest in the same way that eating junk consistently will make you feel like junk. I recommend the BDD rule. Bread, drink, dessert. Pick two of the 3 and stick with it. Or two drinks…whatever floats your boat. I also recommend to occasionally give into your cravings (if a healthier substitute doesn’t exist). I was having a major craving for a burger and fries on Saturday, so I got it and enjoyed it. I didn’t feel the need to compensate for it. One “bad” meal doesn’t make you unhealthy just like one “good” meal doesn’t make you healthy.
Advice #6: Seek out resources then soak them in with a grain of salt.
I say with a grain of salt because despite the number of “experts” out there, no one is an expert on yourself but you. You will hear people tell you that grains will kill you, that veganism is the only healthy diet and that 5 small meals a day is the only effective way to lose weight. For every true statement on health there is a camp out there preaching just the opposite.
That being said, there are SO many resources out there to help you get started on your healthier path.
Pinterest–>consider yourself warned. This site is a black hole. Start perusing the internet for recipes or tips you like and then pin them to your boards so you don’t forget about them. I tend to follow bloggers and icons in the health industry who have a similar mindset to me. They will also pin recipes and inspirations from others who have a similar mindset to them so it’s a great place to find new resources.
Healthy Aperture –> This is a website that amalgamates healthy recipes from around the internet. It’s like the healthy version of FoodGawker or Tastespotting aka healthy food porn
Healthy Food Blogs –> I have my favourites that I highly recommend scanning for recipes that you can make at home and don’t taste like cardboard. And neither are their personalities (big factor for me):
The main takeaway here is that first you need to assess why you want to start living a healthier lifestyle then you have to do A LOT of research on how to achieve those goals. I won’t lie, it requires quite a bit of effort, but in time these choices will become intuitive. You will make choices that won’t work for you and you will make some that will stick. Most importantly, you have to keep searching until you find what works for you!
What advice do you have for eating healthier? What are your favourite resources for healthy eating?
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