Choosing to eat healthy should be easy—after all, it’s supposed to be good for you. If you’re having trouble making your healthy eating plan into a habit, though, these 10 tips on how to make healthy eating easy will make it much easier to adopt healthy habits and stick with them long-term.
1) Eat lots of vegetables
Veggies make up two-thirds of your plate in a typical healthy diet, and for good reason. They’re an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants. A diet rich in vegetables also helps lower blood pressure and body weight. Veggies are low in calories but high in bulk—which means they fill you up without adding many extra calories. Aim for three servings per day (about one cup each), but go easy on calorie-dense veggies like potatoes. These healthful foods won’t make you feel full until you eat more than a serving, so consider half that amount or less if you want to cut calories or if your stomach feels uncomfortably stretched after meals already.
2) Choose whole grains over processed foods
Though many of us grew up on a diet of white bread, white rice and pasta, these refined carbs are not very filling. Refined carbs get digested quickly, meaning you will soon feel hungry again. Whole grains, on the other hand, take longer to digest and keep you feeling full for longer after eating them. For example, brown rice takes about an hour for your body to digest compared with less than 30 minutes for white rice. In addition to being easier on your stomach, whole grains also have a lot more nutrients than processed foods do—you’ll get higher levels of vitamins B and E as well as antioxidants such as beta-carotene and lutein.
3) Snack wisely
While eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains may be difficult in today’s world of vending machines and convenience foods, doing so is critical for good health. That’s because these healthier choices help protect against conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer that can lead to higher medical bills and even decreased life expectancy. In other words, we’re not only concerned about living longer – although that’s important too – but also living better. If you are looking for ways to make eating healthy easier here are some ideas
4) Stock your kitchen with healthy staples
People who live and eat a healthy lifestyle tend to have a common theme in their kitchens: lots of fruit, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins and nuts. Not only are these foods generally good for you—they’re also convenient and versatile. You’ll be less likely to choose processed foods or extra calories if your kitchen is stocked with natural alternatives. When shopping for food, aim for as many fresh items as possible—the more frozen or canned options you buy, the less likely you are to cook your meals from scratch. The same goes for snacks—if it has more than five ingredients (and one of them isn’t water), put it back on the shelf.
5) Read the Nutrition Facts Panel
When we read nutrition labels, most of us focus on calories, fat and protein. But there’s actually a ton of useful information on those labels—for example, it’s a good idea to look at fiber content (watch out for high sugar-content fiber!). If you’re struggling with your weight, also pay attention to servings per container. This will help you know how many servings you can have in one sitting without exceeding your calorie limit. Always choose food items that have fewer than 20 grams of sugar; foods with more than 10 grams are a source of hidden calories. And try not to go overboard on Vitamin C; an overdose may cause stomach upset or diarrhea.
6) Use coconut oil in cooking instead of butter and margarine
Coconut oil is a solid fat that comes from coconuts and can be substituted for butter or margarine in many recipes. A tablespoon of coconut oil contains 120 calories, 14 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and no cholesterol. Since it’s high in saturated fats, it should be used sparingly and not as a replacement for heart-healthy unsaturated fats like olive oil or canola oil. Coconut oil is high in lauric acid, which has been shown to promote heart health by raising HDL (good) cholesterol while reducing LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Coconut may also support weight loss because it increases metabolism slightly.
7) Keep some olive oil on hand for salads, drizzling, or sautéing
Olive oil is not only delicious, but also good for you. It contains beneficial compounds that can help lower bad cholesterol and blood pressure and aid in weight loss. For instance, a recent study published in The Journal of Nutrition found that olive oil and nuts could play a significant role in reducing risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome. Adding just two tablespoons of olive oil or 30 grams of mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios) every day was enough to improve participants’ health status over a year’s time.
8) Limit sugar, honey, corn syrup, molasses, agave nectar, and other sweeteners
These food additives are high in calories and unhealthy amounts of fructose, which can increase your waistline, blood triglycerides, and insulin resistance. Instead of using these sweeteners, use fresh fruit or unsweetened plant-based drinks like almond milk. For more information on how sugar can affect your body and your health, check out our piece on added sugars: Added Sugars: Why They’re Bad for You.
9) Eat more fruits and vegetables than processed foods
This is one of those old-school tips that’s still spot on. Fruits and vegetables are a great place to start your healthy eating plan. They’re full of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and are naturally low in fat—making them very filling while not adding too many calories. Many fruits and veggies also have other valuable health benefits like lowering your risk for heart disease or cancer; and they may even help you live longer. As a bonus, these foods tend to be less expensive than other options when you look at cost per serving! Here are some healthy fruit choices: apples, grapes, oranges, pears, pineapple (fresh), bananas (ripe), berries (strawberries), grapefruit, mangoes.
10) Don’t wait until you get hungry before eating
If you wait until you’re ravenous, chances are you’ll make a bad food choice, like a piece of cake or a chocolate bar. Studies have shown that when people eat on schedule—whether it be three meals and two snacks or five mini-meals throughout the day—they consume fewer calories than those who are prone to bingeing. It takes more time for your stomach to signal your brain that it’s full (that is, it takes more time for your brain to sense hunger versus fullness), so snacking frequently helps keep hunger at bay. The only problem with regularly eating small meals is figuring out what counts as mini. I can tell you from experience that deciding what constitutes a snack isn’t easy!