We would all love to consistently have a perfectly healthy diet, but life often seems to get in the way and we are quick to forget our commitment to improving our diet.
Maybe you’ve set ambitious healthy eating goals in the past and you know how overwhelming it can be. But eating healthy is certainly not about being perfect. Most people tend to get much better results when they start small and make incremental changes to their current diet.
Here are five ways you can start eating healthier even when you’ve failed before.
1. Start with the drinks
Sodas and processed fruit juices are loaded with sugar, and numerous studies have shown that they promote weight gain. Lattes and other comforting beverages also contain sugar and are often high in calories. So, the first step is to stop drinking all those calories that your body doesn’t need.
To wean yourself off high calorie drinks and smoothly transition to drinking more water, you can buy natural fruit juice (with no added sugars) and gradually add water to it. You may start with half of each, and work your way up by adding more water every day.
You can also make your own drinks by adding fruit slices to water, preparing herbal teas in advance, and making your own lattes with healthy ingredients.
2. Decide that you deserve to eat real food
In our busy lives, we often sacrifice our health to convenience. There can be an underlying belief that taking time to cook and eat real food, and thus caring for our health, comes at the expense of being a good parent, getting more work done, or having social activities.
But self-care is really important and can also help us take care of others better. And it starts with making the decision that you deserve to eat real food, instead of low-quality fast food items or processed foods.
If you’ve failed at sticking to a healthy diet before, decide that you deserve something better, and that you’re worth it. Make it a real priority in your life.
3. Eat a nutritious breakfast
Taking the time to cook and eat a healthy breakfast can be challenging in our fast paced world. And about 31 million Americans do skip breakfast every day. Yet a study conducted among preschool children found that eating breakfast consistently contributes to a healthy body weight.
Oatmeal, eggs, real yogurt with berries, a smoothie, or an avocado toast are simple breakfast options that all take less than ten minutes to prepare and will often prevent you from reaching out for an unhealthy snack bar at 10am.
4. Take 30 minutes to plan your meals for the week
Thirty minutes a week might be all it takes to finally enjoy healthy meals. It’s as simple as sitting down with a pen and paper and making a list of your favorite breakfast, lunch and dinner meals.
If those meals already feature vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, go ahead and add them to your weekly meal plan. If they don’t, make a list of ten different vegetables you like and put them on the menu.
When planning your meals, don’t forget snacks and meals on the go. Here is a list of healthy items you’ll want to keep around: fresh fruit, chopped fresh vegetables, whole-grain bread, cheese, boiled eggs, nuts and seeds.
Planning your meals in advance will free up your mind as you won’t have to always worry about what to make for dinner. It can also reduce your food budget, as you will probably be eating out less often.
5. Make the right choices when you’re eating out
Let’s face it, we can’t all be cooking healthy meals every single day. But when it’s time to order at the restaurant, we often end up sabotaging our efforts despite our best intentions.
In fact, it can be easier to eat healthy at the restaurant because there are always healthy options on the menu, and you’re not the one who has to prepare the dishes.
When you place your order, be picky, and do your best to be a “classy eater”: only choose dishes that contain non-fried meat or fish, and pick salads and vegetables. It will taste great, be much healthier, and it will make you feel good about yourself.
So, here is what to do now: start by picking one of these five ways, and take action. Stick to it until it becomes a habit. Then, you can move on and add another healthy eating habit. This is how you will ultimately succeed.
Anne Ricci is dedicated to helping women make healthy food choices, boost their energy and feel good in their body. You can join her tribe at AnnesHealthyKitchen’s Community.