I think most people want to eat healthy.
But for many it’s too tough to start (especially eating healthy on a budget). We get into eating habits, that aren’t great, and its just too much to give them up and change our lifestyles.
So what do we do? We don’t bother; it’s too hard.
Does this help a person?
Nope. Does this sound like anything else we don’t take care of because its too hard? Yup, personal finance! So what’s the answer to eating healthy? Just like your personal finances, you can start with baby steps and move from there. Make small changes to your habits, little by little, and build up over time.
Trying to change all of your habits at once is too hard for most.
Most of us can’t do a 180 degree shift to our lives. What is possible is to take one small change and implement it into your life and make it a new habit. Once that habit is a normal routine in your life you can move to another habit. We can take this concept and apply it to eating healthy. Find one aspect of your eating and work it into a new habit. Know that it can take 3-4 weeks before a new habit becomes an everyday routine!
Here are some changes you can make to eat healthy one step at a time:
Change The Fast Food You Eat
Notice I’m not saying cut out fast food completely (that comes later). That’s too big of a step. Start off with changing the kinds of fast food you eat. Instead of getting that big burger try out the grilled chicken sandwich. Instead of the super-sized fries and soda, get the medium size. Look for better food options at the fast food joints you frequent. The key is to start small and build from there. Over time you may just find you don’t even want fast food!
Change Your Milk
Move to drinking organic milk. Milk it does the body good, or so the ads say. But they really should be from the best sources without any additives and from animals that are healthy. I’m not saying eat everything organic. That’s too much at once (if you can do it fine). I pick milk because its a pretty basic staple in our lives and I think it can have a high impact. Remember when your mom said “you are what you eat?” So think about milk for a moment – If a cow isn’t eating properly and is full of chemicals and you drink its milk, what are you really drinking? (That was kind of rhetorical but the answer is you are drinking the junk that’s put into the cow). So switching to organic milk is a nice step to take.
Organic milk can be expensive. In fact organic food in general can be more expensive. This is another great reason to make your changes one step at a time. We can’t all afford to switch to everything organic, so make the choice to start with milk. Once that becomes important in your life add other organic foods to your diet.
Eat More Fruits And Vegetables
Odds are if you are concerned about changing your eating habits to eat healthier then you aren’t eating enough fruits and vegetables. According to the American Heart Association, you should have 3-5 servings of vegetables and 4-5 servings of fruits a day. That’s tough to so for most of us! Make a conscious effort to eat more fruits and vegetables every day. If you tend not to eat any then start off eating one. Find ways to substitute an item in your meal with a fruit or vegetable. For example, if you go to a restaurant that offers pasta or fries (yea, potatoes are a vegetable but fries aren’t so great for you) as a side, ask if you could substitute it for a side of vegetable. A local diner we frequent lets me substitute fries with a small serving of broccoli.
Cut Out The Sugars
Cutting backs sweets when you have a sweet tooth can be extremely difficult. Sugar can act like a drug in many of us. Here is where you need to really be conscious of your cravings. Try to find one particular “bad” food and reduce its intake. Don’t substitute the food you pick with another “bad” food!
Prepare Your Own Meals
When other people prepare your meals you really don’t know how they are made or where the food comes from (mom’s cooking excluded).
As good as a meal may look at a restaurant you have no idea how its made. This is where a lot of people get in trouble health-wise. You think because you eat out at a reputable restaurant that it also healthy. Hey, it looks like it has the four food groups.
But sometimes food tastes real good for a reason – sugar, fat, and salt!
These three items trigger lizard brain desires deep in our brains and make us love the flavor of the food. That’s why many establishments use those ingredients – they want us to like their food. But the cost is it isn’t healthy for us. That not to say that every time you out out its no good for you. I’m just saying you can’t say for certain what the ingredients are and how it made. Food prepared by your own hand, with ingredients picked yourself, will help insure that your meal is healthy. Find one meal you can make well with healthy ingredients and become the master of it.
Eat Foods With Less Ingredients
Ever pick up a box of some food and see an ingredient list as long as the box? Sure you have. It’s like being back in high school staring at a chemistry test. And how many of those items do you recognize? Odds are many of those items are sugar substitutes or preservatives.
Do you really think that can be good for you?
Aim for foods that have less ingredients that you understand. One of our favorite natural peanut butters has a total of two ingredients: peanuts and salt. That’s not too bad. Go ahead and check out some peanut butters the next time you’re at the grocery.
Eat Whole Grain Bread
Whole grains have been shown to reduce heart disease, regulate blood glucose, reduce the risks of some cancers, and more! Eating bread with whole grains is a great way to integrate whole grains into your diet. Be careful that the grains are actually “whole” and are not refined or enriched. Also be on the lookout for sugars lurking in the ingredient list. For an extra bonus you could even look for sprouted breads.
Cut Out The Kids Cereals
Most popular kid cereals are loaded with sugar. I used to love kid cereals as a kid. I remember being so disappointed that Alpha-Bits cereal didn’t contain only marshmallows! You know how I used to pick cereal? I picked whichever one had the best prize (and I’d have to grab the box when we got home to get to the prize before my sister). My love of kid cereals lasted to adulthood as well. A meal would be a nice big bowl of cereal. After a while I noticed something – I would get real tired and crash after a big bowl of cereal. See, my body was crashing after the huge sugar rush I’d get from the cereal. Rather than provide nutrients, I was getting an overload of sugar. Do yourself, and your kids, a favor and look for whole grain cereals with less sugar.
Drink More Water
Make a conscious effort to drink more water. Keep a bottle full of water handy for when you are thirsty. Water is healthy for you and MUCH better than soda or some other kind of drink. Many times when you think you are hungry you really are just thirsty. Its also has zero calories and generally helps you function better. The body needs water.
I’m No Health Saint
I have my sweet tooth, let me tell you!
If I ever meet Ben & Jerry I’m gonna run up and give them a big hug! But over the years I’ve changed the way I eat that is way different than my old eating habits. I lived by fast food and sugar. But I realize now that trying to eat healthy has benefits that far outweigh the taste of a quick sugar, fat, or salt (most of the time). Fast food is done for me for the most part. Kid’s cereals are out too. Honestly, we don’t eat out too often. It’s OK to indulge every now and then within reason, so long as it’s not your norm.
It’s more expensive, price-wise, to eat healthier but that’s OK for us. There’s a hidden cost in those cheaper foods – Bad Health! The way I look at it, eating better now is like pre-paying health insurance. The more we watch what we eat now, the more we help to prevent health problems later on. Obesity and diabetes are rapidly growing problems in our country. We need to be the ones responsible for our health and what we put into our bodies. When you buy healthier foods you are putting your money where your mouth is and major corporations take notice. When people move to better foods, more companies enter the healthy food arena making the production of good foods less expensive.
No, its not easy to change your entire diet overnight. But you can take steps to move in the right direction to eat healthier. Just like it takes time to get your personal finances in order so it takes time to change your diet. But it can be done and I truly believe your life will be enriched by following a better diet!
Change your eating habits. Take one aspect to change and make it a habit. Then move on to something else to change. Soon enough you will look back without regret and see how much your diet has changed and how much better you feel!
Wanna know a secret? Once you’ve been eating better for a little while you start to realize the different tastes and textures of food. You understand that a lot of food tasted good in the past because it had lots of sugar. Guess what? You actually ENJOY food more when you are eating healthy. Go figure!
The tips above are just that – tips. Find a way to be conscious of your eating and make it healthier for you.