We have all been told in some capacity that incorporating proper nutrition into our daily lifestyle, whether it be for weight loss, sport performance, or health purposes, should be of high priority. In attempt to create a healthier lifestyle, it is common for some to decrease their caloric intake or drastically change what they consume. Anyone willing to make a change should recognize that they already have the right mindset but need to make sure the changes are done in the right way. Introducing drastic and sudden changes to your diet can be very difficult to uphold. I myself have tried following specific nutritional guidelines, however over time the commitment seems to lose momentum and old habits resurface. My intentions, like most others who are trying to make a change, are positive. The process however, might take a few more steps to create a realistic and maintainable routine.
The following areas I am going to touch on will help guide you towards creating healthier habits and in turn a healthier lifestyle. With a little time and effort, you too can make healthier living part of your daily routine. Often we think of the word ‘diet’ as insinuating a caloric restriction, however this is not the case and can be any change from your regular eating habits. For example, eating more protein throughout the day as opposed to just at night is considered a diet or dietary change.
For some, it may take less time to adjust to new dietary changes while others may require more effort. It is important to start by working around your daily routines before deciding to progress. Too many changes in a short amount of time will likely lead to decreased adherence. The four tips that will be discussed have allowed me to shift my nutrition in the direction I want without falling in and out of routine.
1) Searching For Advice
If you are looking for nutritional guidance, it is best to seek advice from individuals who are knowledgeable about the subject. Taking matters into your own hands can be beneficial, however you must take the time to review the pros, cons and purpose of your new diet.
When you come across some kind of quick fix that perks your interest, try asking yourself these questions:
-What is the purpose of this diet?
-Are my sources reliable?
-Will the changes I make have negative impacts on other areas of my life?
-Do I have the time/money to make these changes?
-Is this something I see myself sticking with?
I’ve said in the past that fitness is for life and nutrition is a key component. We are always eating to fuel our bodies so it is crucial to take the time to be educated on a particular diet in order to see positive outcomes.
2) Start At Home
Starting at home is the best way to gradually introduce new habits. Within your home, you have better control of what food items go directly into your body. Some people can very easily have junk food sitting in the house and barely touch it- I am definitely not that person. For me, if it is in the house, I can guarantee it will be gone in less than a few hours. Knowing this is something I struggled with, I made the decision to stop buying junk food all together. If it is not in the house, I am less tempted to eat it and can find an alternative to cure whatever I might be craving.
By cutting out junk food that contains high amounts of sugar, fat, and sodium, you will start to see some positive changes within your body. Improvements include healthier body weight, increased energy levels and better mood (people like happy people). You will not only change your body composition but also improve prevention of chronic health issues, including diabetes and heart disease. There are many ways to introduce new items that can mimic the food you normally consume or prefer. Here are a few tips you can try to make eating healthy easier:
-Mix plain Greek yogurt into regular yogurt to reduce the amount of sugar
-Choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate
-Choose natural peanut butter over regular peanut butter
-Substitute plain Greek yogurt for sour cream
-Freeze kale into ice cubes to put in your smoothies
-Use garlic as a way to flavor food over sauces
-Use sweet potato over regular potato
Taking the time to prepare your own food will always be a better alternative. These tips and tricks will help you shift your food consumption to a healthier alternative while still enjoying the dishes you like to eat.
3) Eating On The Go
When you’re in a time crunch, getting food on the go is always the most convenient. It’s fast and easy because you don’t have to worry about the extra work of preparing a meal. When I started to take on more work while balancing school and training, I relied on picking up snacks or a meal when I did not have time to prep the night before. There is nothing wrong with picking up food on the go, however you can be more conscious of what items you choose. Preparing your own food is the best method to ensure you stay on top of your nutrition, but some days that is just not realistic. Since this occasionally happens, I developed some ‘go to’ spots where I know the meals or snacks I am going to eat are healthier and well balanced.
In order to create your list of ‘go to’ places, you first need look at how many times a week you go out to eat or purchase food on the go. If you can make minor changes by bringing more snacks or meals to reduce that number, that’s great. If not, you need to determine which locations provide multiple options that supply adequate nutrients. I recommend starting by avoiding places with a drive thru. If you think about it, many locations with a drive thru have greasy, high fat and high calorie containing foods. Of course there are a few items on the menu that can be healthier, but why limit yourself to such a short menu? This can be one of the first changes you make when eating out.
The best locations for you to choose from should have freshly made, non-processed items and a self-serve station (if you can find one). The reason I recommend this is because a self-serve station gives you the opportunity to control portion size down to the morsel. For example the amount of dressing on a salad, condiments and items mixed with unhealthy options.
Many grocery stores have adopted a hot food section or an area to prepare fresh salads. When I find I have had a long day and do not feel like cooking, I’ll pick up a roasted chicken and salad. Not only does this provide a healthier dinner option, but it can also be used as lunch for the next couple of days. The grocery store can be a reliable source when grabbing items on the go, you just need to know what to look for. In addition to the grocery store, I rely on Freshii, Harvest Barn (self-serve salad bar) and Alligator Pear as my ‘go to’ locations. Eating on the go can definitely be expensive, but if you are already willing to spend the money, why not put it towards a healthier alternative!
4) Starting The Day Right
One of biggest challenges for many people is eating breakfast in the morning. Breakfast is one of the most important meals because it provides energy necessary for your day and prevents overcompensation at lunch and dinner.
There seems to be two main reasons that cause people to skip breakfast. First, they do not feel they have enough time and second, they just do not feel hungry. To break this habit, try starting small. An apple, yogurt or even some nuts in morning will help you adjust to the feeling of eating in the morning. A smoothie is also a good option if you do not feel like physically eating solid food. You can gradually introduce larger amounts of food to ensure you are getting a proper meal.
When you awaken from your sleep, your body is in a deficit from fasting overnight. Skipping breakfast prolongs this unhealthy deficit and eventual sensation of hunger. This can have a negative effect on your energy levels and can create difficulties when trying to target specific exercise adaptations, such as increasing muscle mass. Having a small meal can drastically reduce negative impacts and prevent prolonged hunger.
Preparing a simple snack the night before can make a huge difference when you are rushing to get ready for your day. For example, boil an egg the night before or make a container with yogurt and fruit for a quick grab and go. If your job allows it, you can also pack snacks that can be eaten at your desk instead of at home. It all comes down to trying new and different methods to see what works best in your morning routine.
By making small changes throughout your day and regular routine, you will find that eating healthier is not as hard as it is often made out to be. Remember, it does take some time to adjust but time is what will allow you to continue these habits. Without time, any major changes made suddenly are less maintainable. In order to apply these guidelines to your life, you need to identify where you struggle the most. It might be within the house, throughout your workday, or some other aspect of your lifestyle. Determine which areas you struggle with and try applying these simple steps to help sustain a proper routine.