Healthy eating is a way of life, so it’s important to establish routines that are simple, realistically, and ultimately liveable.
What does healthy eating mean to you?
Since the first time I can remember having thoughts about food until after I became a training and nutrition coach, healthy eating to me meant losing weight.
In my head, if someone had weight to lose, they’d do that by eating healthier. If someone was already slim, it was because they already ate healthy.
However, you can be at a relatively low weight without eating healthy, and you can also be at a relatively higher weight whilst having a very healthy diet.
What’s more – and most importantly – health isn’t limited to weight, and healthy eating influences far more aspects of wellness than just your body size.
So, how can you improve your diet if you don’t want to change your weight? I’ve got you!
Each of the nine tips in this article poses a challenge to help you form a new eating habit.
These aren’t meant to be hard and fast rules, but rather starting points to give you a specific target to shoot for. Goal specificity is key to tracking your progress, and progress is key to success.
Without further ado, let’s dig in (pun obviously intended).
1. Drink two glasses of water with three meals.
I can count on one hand the number of clients who worked with me, who didn’t ask me to help them track their water intake at some point. It’s an easy aspect of your diet to overlook, and it makes a big difference when you get it under control.
Why bother drinking enough water?
Here’s what it can do for you:
When you start drinking more, expect that you’ll also need to pee more often. Fortunately, this is temporary: As your body gets used to your new, increased water intake, it’ll adjust. You won’t go to the bathroom fifteen times per day forever!
To make this a part of your routine, you can set phone reminders and alarms to remember to drink.
You can also track your water on most food-tracking apps, like MyFitnessPal, or you can download a water-tracking app, like Water Reminder, which is free on iOS and Google Play.
As a final point, two glasses with three meals might be too much or too little for you personally. To ensure you’re drinking enough water for your own body, try to get your pee to look like a 1 to 3 on this urine chart at least three to five times per day.
2. Eat vegetables or fruit of different colours with three meals.
I know you know you need to eat your vegetables. Everybody knows they’re good for you.
And yet, how many of us eat enough of them?
So here’s a challenge to try: Eat a vegetable or a fruit of a different colour with three meals.
For example, you could have a banana for breakfast, tomato sauce on your pasta for lunch, and microwaved broccoli for dinner. Easy, quick, and colourful.
Having a variety of colours doesn’t only make your meals more interesting and exciting; it also benefits your health. Vitamins influence the colour of food, so eating fruit and vegetables of different colours means you’re getting a lot of different micronutrients.
For ideas, you can look up a fruit and vegetable colour chart and add an item for each colour to your shopping list.
3. Eat a palm-sized serving of protein with three meals.
Protein is one of the most satiating nutrients. It also helps build and maintain muscle, and contributes to many physiological functions that keep our body healthy.
You can measure out protein easily using the size of your palm. On average, if you have a smaller palm, you might get 15 to 20gr from your serving; if you have a bigger palm, you might get 20 to 30gr.
For a five feet tall person like me, with a rather small hand, these are three examples of what my palm-sized protein servings can look like:
4. Eat oily fish once per week.
Oily fish is high in omega-3, an essential fatty acid. Omega-3s are called “essential” nutrients because the body can’t produce them on their own, so we need to get them from food.
In the UK, 140gr is considered a serving.
Here’s a list of oily fish for you to pick from:
Tinned sardines tend to be the most economical and easier to eat, since you can have them straight out of the can. However, the average tin of sardines is quite small, so you’d need at least a couple to get a full serving.
On the other hand, salmon is more expensive and comes in either raw fillets or ready to eat slices. On the plus side, a salmon fillet is usually big enough to constitute a full serving.
5. Try a new fibre-rich food every week.
Fibre is another satiating nutrient, like protein. It also helps with digestion, keeps your bowels healthy, and can reduce your risk of getting some life-threatening diseases like cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
Fibre comes in different types, and fibre-rich foods contain these types in varying proportions, so eating a variety of them can give you the most amount of benefits. That’s why exploring a new fibre-rich food every week can be a great challenge to set you on the path of consuming fibre on a regular basis.
These are some fibre-rich foods for you to try:
You can check the fibre content of the food you’re already eating on the nutritional label, or you can look it up on Google.
6. Try a new herb or spice every week.
You probably knew about the health benefits of vegetables, fruit, protein, and fibre before reading this article… But why the fitness should you care about herbs and spices?
Aside from making food tastier without adding many, if any, calories, they seem to have some protective properties against chronic diseases and health conditions. For example, oregano and sage contain antioxidants, which can reduce your chances of developing certain diseases.
Another advantage of these condiments is that they’re versatile and easy to use with many different foods and recipes, including, but not limited to:
For example, one of my favourite recipes is a simple egg white omelette. I’ll pour the egg white in a non-stick pan with a few sprays of low-calorie oil, add a pinch of oregano and fennel seeds to the liquid batter, then cover it for a few minutes.
Putting the herbs on the egg white before it’s cooked causes them to stick to the top of the batter. As a result, their aroma seeps into an otherwise bland-tasting omelette, turning it into a meal a food critic would be proud of (if I can say so myself).
For inspiration, check out this comprehensive list of herbs and spices.
7. Pack a homemade lunch Monday to Friday.
Meal prep is all the rage in the fitness world, but how can it help you?
A lot of people meal prep for a few hours on a Saturday or Sunday, but many find this process tedious and time-consuming. Fortunately, there’s no “best way” to meal prep, so you can find a system that works for you.
For example, you could:
Combining these two strategies, you could batch-cook the eggs and make egg sandwiches one day, then add them to a pouch of microwaveable rice and spinach the day after.
For more meal prep hacks, check out this article.
8. Stop eating when you’re satisfied.
Learning this can enhance your understanding of the signals of hunger and fullness that the body sends you.
In time, you’ll be able to stop eating when you feel about 80% full. This is a comfortable place to be: You don’t need any more energy and you’re not looking forward to eating again any time soon, but you also don’t feel sluggish and stuffed.
These are some habits you can work on to master this skill:
9. Create a regular meal schedule.
The body works according to various natural rhythms, known as circadian rhythms, which regulate many physiological functions, like sleep and hunger.
An irregular meal schedule can throw off these rhythms and affect your energy levels throughout the day, mood, ability to focus, and hunger and fullness signals. For example, your body can get hungry at a random time of day like the middle of the night, waking you up with a growling stomach.
On the other hand, with a regular meal schedule, you can “train” your body to expect food – and therefore energy – at specific times of day. With a steadier energy supply and demand, you’ll also have steadier energy levels, better digestion, and fewer unwelcome waves of random hunger.
Start by blocking out 20 to 30 minutes to draft your meal schedule, include some meal or snack options, so you don’t have to think about them on the fly, and set alarms on your phone to remind yourself to eat.
Your first attempt won’t be perfect, and it doesn’t have to. Experiment and modify your approach as you go along and learn what suits your lifestyle.
If you’re a shift worker, creating a schedule can be extremely challenging.
If you work daytime shifts, one trick that can help is to make a list of easy snack options that you can take to work with you, and that can replace a more complex meal you might make when you’re at home. Then you’d have the snack at work at about the same time as when you’d eat the homemade meal.
If you work night-time shifts, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to go that many hours without any food to match your off-day schedule. As an alternative, you can make a “work day” schedule and an “off day” schedule.
At work, you might not be able to sit down for a meal, so you can bring some nutritious snacks and space them out by two to three hours, so you can get a steady supply of energy and never feel either starving or too full.
The best snacks include fruit and vegetables, protein-rich foods, or options that are high in fibre and polyunsaturated fats, two nutrients that take longer to digest and therefore can help you stay full for longer. Some of my clients’ favourites are almonds, dried fruit, Greek yogurt, and apples.
Making your diet healthier doesn’t just mean changing your weight and body size.
The nine suggestions in this article can help you:
Which tip did you like the most? Share it in a comment.
A personal trainer who likes bodybuilding, superheroes, and bread.
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