We all know that following a diet pattern that includes a variety of whole, real foods, vegetables, fruits, ethically-sourced proteins and healthy fats is a big part of leading a healthier (and longer!) life. Unfortunately, this is often easier is concept than in practice. Busy schedules, the unavailability of healthy snacks, and self-judgement can wreak havoc on the best of intentions and the most well-informed eating philosophies.
Eating well is possible, though, and it can become a habit with the right strategy. Of course, it is up to you to implement and do the work, but following my top ten tips for creating a healthy diet that can last a lifetime will set you up on your path to success.
1. Eat what you love.
Eating well for life is not about deprivation or severe restriction. That piece of cake at a celebration or that glass of wine with friends is just as important to your health and happiness. Trying to make your favourite foods bad, wrong or off your list of foods you can eat right now only sets you up for failure later. Instead, eat smaller portions of the foods you enjoy, enjoy them thoroughly, make sure they are totally delicious and enjoy the moments, the occasions and the celebrations with no guilt or regret.
2. Balance your daily intake.
If you know a bigger, more indulgent meal is on the horizon, make sure you eat a good variety of other foods throughout the day to ensure you get your daily nourishment and to prevent overeating. Think lots of vegetables, some proteins, nuts, seeds and whole fruits. Skipping meals at the prospect of a larger meal is a sure-fire way to overeat on less than optimal foods.
3. Don't count calories.
Focus on eating nutritious foods instead of counting calories. Eating naturally occurring, unprocessed, foods including vegetables, fruits, ethically-raised proteins and good fats will help you feel full, minimize cravings, and stabilize blood sugar.
4. Don't bore your taste buds.
Vegetables get a bad reputation for being tasteless. Be creative and spice things up. Additions like olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, herbs and spices can turn even the most bland tasting meal into a flavour explosion.
5. Routinely prepare nutritious food.
Prepare roasted vegetables, carrot sticks, some homemade dips or some bone broth in advance and store in the refrigerator. Stock up on leafy greens, frozen berries, nut butters, coconut milk and almond milk. This way there will always be an alternative to chips and dip, or the ingredients for a quick smoothie right on hand should hunger and/or cravings strike.
6. Go big at lunchtime.
Eating a bigger lunch can provide your body with fuel during the most active part of your day. Save smaller meals for breakfast if you are not hungry in the morning, or for dinner when your body needs to focus on relaxing and restoring.
7. Get rid of guilt.
A recent study in the journal Appetite found that feeling guilty about what you eat can undermine weight loss and might even result in weight gain. In other words, enjoy the food you eat, take pleasure in them, free of guilt and remorse. This is a better strategy to long-term health and weight maintenance than depriving or restricting yourself, or worse yet, beating yourself up for eating something on your 'bad' list.
8. Eat in full colour.
Fruits and vegetables come in every color of the rainbow -- aim to eat all of them to get a variety of disease-fighting phytonutrients. As a bonus, these fiber and nutrient rich plants fill you up, leave you satisfied and leave less room in your body and your life for junk foods.
9. Snack healthy.
Keep snacks like homemade trail mix, nuts, dried fruits, or nitrate-free jerky in your office. When nutritious snacks are in reach, you will be less like to be going out to find that doughnut.
Eat well 80 per cent of the time, allowing for a little freedom the remaining 20 per cent of the time. You can also use this ratio to avoid overeating -- check in with yourself throughout your meal and stop eating when you feel 80 per cent full.
Here's to your health!
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