If you're anything like me, you may find it challenging to maintain a healthy diet consistently. For me, it took years of trial and error to finally get to a point where I eat healthfully the vast majority of the time. I'm on a mission to help other people find this balance in their lives so that they, too, can enjoy the many benefits of healthy eating, such as sustained energy, increased longevity, improved overall health of mind, body and spirit. Listed below are what I've learned over the years and am happy to now share with you:
1 | Don’t Skip Breakfast
It really is the most important meal of the day! Not just because it revs up your metabolism and keeps you energized in the morning hours, but also because eating a healthy breakfast sets the tone and intention for the rest of the day. If you show up to work on an empty stomach, of course you’re going to be tempted to spike your energy with the coffee and donuts someone brought it. But if you filled up with a hearty breakfast and stayed hydrated, none of that would even look good to you.
2 | Bring Your Lunch to Work
This is one of the most important (and IMHO easiest!) ways to radically improve your diet. It’s as simple as preparing a quick salad or packing your leftovers from dinner the night before into some containers and bringing them to work. Getting into this daily habit will not only transform your diet, but will also save you lots of time and money! Remember to cook lots of fun, delicious healthy meals so you don’t feel like your bag lunch is a drag, but something to look forward to. Your coworkers might even get jealous!
3 | Batch Cook Your Dinners
I’m such an advocate for batch cooking! If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s when you shop for, prepare and cook an entire week’s worth of meals ahead of time (usually on the weekend) so that you don’t have to think twice about what’s for dinner. My favorite thing to batch cook is soup, as it’s so easy to get your protein and veggies in there and very easy to store. I usually take the leftovers and freeze them so if there’s a weekend I don’t have time to batch cook, I thaw out the frozen meals and have a week of dinners. Easy!
4 | Want Sweets? Make them Yourself!
I don’t know about you, but I have a huge sweet tooth. But from all that I’ve learned about the health disadvantages of sugar, I avoid it as much as possible. But that doesn’t mean I need to feel deprived! My favorite way to appease my sweet tooth without the negative health effects is to bake my own treats. I use recipes like this amazing gluten-free zucchini bread to satisfy the sweets craving, without the refined sugar, gluten or dairy.
5 | Find Recipes You're Excited About
If you see healthy eating as something you “have to do” instead of something you “want to do,” you’ll dread the process and most likely not achieve the results you desire. Switch it up! Start looking for inspiration on Pinterest, cooking blogs or in cookbooks for healthy recipes that look fun to make and delicious to eat. No need to eat that same boring old salad day after day! I personally love the food blogs Cookie & Kate and Minimalist Baker. Both sites have awesome, healthy recipes that can be modified for vegans, vegetarians, Paleo-eaters and those with gluten, dairy or other food allergies.
6 | Restaurants Don’t Need to be a Landmine
Some may say that it’s impossible to eat healthfully at restaurants. There is a grain of truth to the statement, in that it’s difficult to know exactly what you’re eating if you didn’t prepare the food yourself. However, there are some hacks you can put in place. For breakfast, order the omelet and ask if you can customize your own fixings, opting for the veggies. For lunch, find a salad with lots of veggies and leave out the cheese. For dinner, look for a meal with plenty of protein with a side of veggies and leave off any creamy sauces. For all meals, opt for water instead of sweet, caffeinated or alcoholic beverages.
7 | Vacation? No Problem!
You might think that going on vacation will make it impossible to eat healthy foods causing you to give up on the idea entirely. This is simply not true and unnecessary! What I do when I go out of town is I decide with my partner one meal we’d like to eat out each day (whether that be a breakfast, lunch or dinner) and the other two meals we eat at the hotel. We bring big containers of cooked meat, mixed veggies and quinoa in a cooler and keep them in the mini-fridge. When we’re ready to eat, we pop some food in the microwave and presto! Not only do we ensure that most of our meals are up to our health standards, but we also save a lot of money! For fresh fruits, we find a market in town and grab a variety every few days.
8 | Schedule in your Splurges
No man can live off bread alone! Sometimes we need to let our guard down and just enjoy the sensory pleasures of food and the joy that food can bring us in the moment. Moreover, finding a healthy balance with your diet will help you maintain consistency with it, whereas strict, rigid diets tend to fall by the wayside. For those special occasions coming up, schedule in a “splurge” day where you go all out. Remember to savor the experience and be mindful of the fact that you’re splurging. Let it be a conscious, enjoyable experience.
9 | Focus on What You'll Gain, Not on What You'll Lose
When we think about the word “diet,” we automatically feel constricted and there’s a rebel inside us that wants to revolt! That’s because the word conjures up limited portions, bland foods and deprivation. What if we instead thought of dietary modifications as a lifestyle change that will give us increase vitality and make us feel really good all the time? And to take this a little further, what if I said you could eat delicious food to satisfaction? Well, guess what? You can! Simply cook whole, organic foods (that means nothing from a box!) and eat slowly and mindfully, paying attention to your body’s signals that you’re not hungry anymore. You’ll never have to worry about portions again.
10 | Keep it From a Good Place
When thinking about the dietary changes you’d like to make, ensure you keep it from a place of self-love as opposed to self-loathing. If you resolve to change your eating habits because you want to alter the way you look, you’ll most likely be resentful about the changes you’re enacting, making it more challenging to maintain the new habits. Conversely, if you create change from a place of self-appreciation and improved health, you’ll be much more apt to keep the healthy habits for life.
11 | Be Kind to Yourself
Making nutritional changes is hard work! You may come up against some really uncomfortable feelings such as craving, desire, deprivation, anger, frustration, guilt and shame. This is normal. Food and eating are highly emotionally-charged phenomena. It can provide a sense of comfort in times of need. It can be linked to happy or unpleasant memories from childhood. Remember to be kind to yourself during this process of self-discovery.
I hope these tips have been helpful and inspiring to you. Please keep in mind that making the shift to eating healthy as a lifestyle is a huge commitment and is a process. That means it takes time (sometimes years!) and that there is a ton of self-correcting along the way. There’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do this. It’s your journey. Now I’d love to hear from you! Where are you on your healthy eating path? Have you been doing this forever and looking for ways to fine tune? Are you just getting started and trying to figure out how to do this? Please share your experience in the comments below. If you have any great tips that I haven’t written here, please add those to the conversation, too! Thank you for reading and be well.
about the author
Hi! I'm Natalie. And my passion is helping people live more peaceful, meaningful lives. Through holistic therapy in Pasadena and here on the blog, my mission is to provide people with the support and tools they need to live their best life.