There are many reasons why healthy eating may be a challenge for you. Perhaps it is your busy schedule and limited time to prepare healthy meals. When your schedule starts to interfere with healthy eating habits, you are more likely to skip meals and choose convenient or fast foods to eat. If you go too long between meals and get to the point of feeling ravenous, you may snack on foods that you don't even like -- but at this point you'll eat anything. If this sounds like you, then it is time to make healthy eating a priority. When you take care of yourself by eating healthy, you will be more focused, more productive and more efficient. This will keep you in control of your schedule instead of your schedule controlling you!
Once you commit to make healthy eating a priority, it is important to be patient with yourself and to select only one to two goals at a time to work on. Small changes over a long period of time will equal big results. Mindful eating can help you learn to slow down and pay attention to the tastes and textures of the food. You will notice that you will need much less food to feel satisfied and actually be able to enjoy what you are eating.
It is also important to be mindful of your body's hunger and fullness cues. Learning to recognize hunger cues can help you distinguish between true hunger and eating in response to emotions not related to hunger. Fullness cues are important to pay attention to so that you don't end up eating to the point of feeling uncomfortable. In her book "Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat," Dr. Michelle May writes, "When you eat instinctively, you eat what you love...you trust your body to let you know when and how much to eat."
Forget Restrictive Diets
There is a great quote by famous comedian Dan Bennett: "Probably nothing in the world arouses more false hopes than the first four hours of a diet." In 2007, a review of several studies on dieting from the American Psychologist concluded that people who go on a diet typically gain back more weight than they lose. The body has an amazing ability to recognize when it is not getting what it needs, so dieting will only cause powerful cravings for the foods you are restricting.
Nourish Your Body
Eating healthy will provide your body with the nutrients it needs to leave you feeling satisfied; it will also give you more energy and help you manage stress. The foods that should make up the majority of your diet include fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy products or dairy substitutes, whole grains, beans and healthy fats from nuts, avocado, olive oil and fish.
Healthy Eating Strategies
One strategy that works well for many people is to include a protein food with meals and snacks, especially at breakfast. Examples include cottage cheese, low-fat cheese, eggs, egg whites, tofu, nuts, peanut or almond butter, lean meats and yogurt. Try to include a fruit or vegetable with each meal and snack. Vary your whole-grain intake to include brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, barley, spelt and oats. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day.
Prioritize Healthy Eating
Some days are so busy that planning a healthy meal can seem an overwhelming task. Even if you are limited on time, it will most likely save you time and money to prepare a healthy meal or snack at home instead of stopping at a convenience store or fast food restaurant.
Quick and Healthy Ideas
If you are limited on time in the morning, make some hearty oatmeal. Cook oats as normal and add cinnamon, blueberries and crushed almonds. If you don't have time to eat it at home, you can put it in a container and take it with you to work. For a quick and healthy snack, try mixing cottage cheese and trail mix. If you need a quick lunch, make a peanut butter and honey sandwich. All you need are two slices of whole-grain bread, peanut or almond butter and honey. It can't get any easier than that. Salads are always a quick and easy meal you can throw together for dinner. Just add vegetables, chicken or turkey, beans and low-fat cheese. Toast some whole-grain bread and spread some avocado on top.
Fast foods and processed foods will always be readily available, so finding the healthy eating strategies that work for you is essential to be able to stick to a healthy diet.
- "American Psychologist;" Medicare's Search for Effective Obesity Treatments: Diets Are Not the Answer; Traci Mann, Janet Tomiyama, Erika Westling, Ann-Marie Lew, Barbra Samuels and Jason Chatman; 2007
- "Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat;" Michelle May, M.D.; 2009