Nutrition Diet

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Adopt these simple behaviors to ease yourself into eating healthier.

May 16, 2017

How to start eating healthy without going overboard

Quitting unhealthy eating habits cold turkey can lead to major cravings, which can make it very difficult to stick with your new diet. When you’re first starting out, the slightest diet relapse can leave you feeling guilty and more likely to throw in the towel. But the process doesn’t have to be doomed to fail! Here are some simple behaviors you can adopt to ease yourself into eating healthier without going overboard:

Eliminate processed foods

Our small daily sodium intake requirements are often exceeded when we rely on processed foods to keep us going. As a general rule, if a box of food lists more than five ingredients you don’t recognize, avoid it. Our bodies use more energy to break down natural foods like fruits and vegetables, meaning we actually burn more calories by avoiding processed foods.

If you live near a local farmers market, start buying your food there! In addition to repairing your body, you will be making a more environmentally sustainable choice. Food travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate, contributing to an avoidable use of fossil fuels and excess of packaging. Aim to buy food locally and in season, as it’s more nutritious when fresh.

Reject stigmas surrounding healthy eating

From vegan to vegetarian to paleo, it seems like there’s a joke to be made about every approach to diet and nutrition. But as long as you’re properly following a lifestyle that best suits your nutritional needs and taste, who cares what anyone besides your doctor has to say?

The negative stigma of healthy eating especially extends to men who refrain from eating “manly” foods, like wings or ribs, and instead opt for something healthier. And yes, our society genders food, commonly identifying “masculine” foods as those consisting of messy and oversized portions of meat. In this insightful interview, dietitian John Rickards remarks, “I think guys are less health conscious because they don’t want to show that they care about their health or what they look like.” Keep in mind: Fruits, vegetables and salads are not exclusive to women or a desire to lose weight!

Stop eating after dinner

For most of us, a “healthy late-night snack” is an oxymoron. Studies show that food eaten outside a normal sleep cycle turns to fat, primarily because we are more sedentary at night. Establishing healthy sleep habits, like keeping a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and other stimulants before bedtime will condition you to eliminate late-night snacking and embrace more restful habits. When in doubt, follow the saying, “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.”

The journey to healthful eating is best supported by acknowledging it’s a process, not an overnight transformation. Making room in your life for these approaches to meals and snacks can trigger tremendous positive change over time. Sometimes all we need is the encouragement to take the first step.