Ease Your Way Into Healthy Eating: 5 Tips to Rethink Your Approach
Listen—we love salty french fries and a creamy chocolate shake as much as anyone, but, in today’s health-conscious world, we’re all well aware that we cannot (unfortunately) subside off of our favorite cheat foods alone and expect to live a long, healthy, ailment-free life. Whether a doctor has told you it’s time to lower your cholesterol—or you’re tired of getting winded every time you chase your little ones around the house—if you’re someone who lives for salt, sugar, and fat but is chasing the fresh feeling of a healthy lifestyle, today’s post is all you. We’re offering up five game-changing tips for easing your way into healthy eating—and keeping up the good habits for a lifetime to come!
1. Keep a food journal before you make any drastic changes.
Healthy eating looks a little different for everyone. While the need to shift away from processed foods and toward more whole foods is pretty much true across the board, there is significant nuance in what specific foods and spices may benefit you verus what will benefit another person. While dairy can be a great source of protein and probiotics, it can make some people feel ill or sluggish. While spicy foods are a great way to speed up your metabolism, spice may give some heartburn or stomach aches.
So, before you make any changes in your diet—spend a few weeks tracking what you’re currently eating and how you feel after each meal or snack. This will start to give you insight into what you need to change and why. Be sure to keep your journal going after you’ve begun to switch to healthy eating so you can observe what differences start to occur. In addition to everything you’re eating, make sure you’re tracking:
- Energy levels
- Overall comfort levels (aches, pains, headaches, etc.)
- Gastrointestinal comfort (bloating, gas, etc.)
- Bowel movements or constipation
- Mindset/mental state
2. Tap into your “why”—and find clever ways to remind yourself of it.
Healthy eating is like any other goal in life: it’s hard to stick to in the long run if there’s no meaningful motivation tied to it. Whether you’re ready to show your kids a healthier version of yourself or want to manage disease without having to turn to pharmaceuticals, having a “why” behind your shift toward healthy eating will make sticking to that promise come so much easier. From coming up with a mantra (“French fries don’t taste as good as being able to keep up with my kids feels!”) to placing sticky notes throughout your house or setting phone reminders—find a way to regularly remind yourself of your “why” that works for you.
3. Aim for 60/40 at first, then ease into 80/20.
If you’re someone who lives off of ice cream, tacos, and french fries—and then shifts to immediately depriving yourself of those things, you’re only setting yourself up for failure and a junk-food binder in the near future as your cravings get the best of you. Instead of going “cold turkey”, aim for a 60/40 split for the first two weeks (eating healthy 60 percent of the time; “cheating” 40 percent of the time) and then gradually work your way into an 80/20 split after that.
4. Allow yourself 1-2 weekly cheat meals.
Depriving yourself of the food you love for the rest of your life is simply unrealistic. A great way to make the “medicine” that is healthy eating go down, so to speak, is to treat yourself to 1-2 cheat meals each week. This will give you something to look forward to and will help you stay on track as your mind knows it has a “treat” coming soon. Remember, though, these are cheat meals not cheat days. Keep portion control and discretion top-of-mind as you cheat. One cheeseburger with a handful of fries is perfectly fine, whereas one cheeseburger followed by seven salty snacks and a pint of ice cream will only serve to boomerang you back to where you began.
5. Find alternatives to your favorites.
If your goal is to maintain healthy eating for the long haul, you’ll want to find some healthy alternatives to things you love. A few of our favorites include:
- Replace beef with bison
- Replace white sugar in your favorite baking recipes with coconut sugar
- Replace fried chicken with air-fried chicken
- Replace butter on your slice of toast with coconut oil
- Replace white bread with whole-grain bread
- Replace your nightly pint of ice cream with a low-calorie, non-dairy ice cream sandwich
- Replace a peanut butter-chocolate shake with a combination of frozen bananas, cocoa powder, and PB2 powder blended up with some almond milk and ice
- Replace pre-sweetened yogurts with unsweetened Greek yogurt topped with berries
- Replace soda with carbonated water sweetened with a few slices of fruit and 1 tablespoon of not-from-concentrate juice (like cranberry or grapefruit)
- Replace a sub sandwich with an open-faced sandwich (i.e. lose one piece of bread)
- Replace giant flour tortillas with smaller white-corn tortillas
- Replace your hamburger bun with a lettuce wrap
- Replace creamy alfredo sauce with heart-healthy homemade marinara
- Replace chicken tenders with grilled chicken breasts
- Replace deep-dish pizza with pizza with a thin cauliflower crust
- Replace your nightly cookie with a handful of chocolate-dusted almonds
Want even more insightful wellness tips? Browse the rest of the MendWell blog for empowering patient information, helpful nutrition advice, and pre-surgery tips.