Margaret Mead once said, “It is easier to change a man’s religion than to change his diet.” You may feel that this is an exaggeration, but not as much as you’d think. According to a 2012 study, about 52% of the Americans who were polled believed it was easier to figure out their taxes than it was to figure out how to eat healthy.
And who can blame them? There are so many misconceptions and contradictory food studies that people come across while trying to eat healthy. Pair that up with unrealistic expectations such as washboard abs or Victoria’s Secret’s model figure, and there’s a recipe for disaster. Another reason that prevents people from eating healthy is a false impression that healthy foods equal bland food. No matter how healthy it may be, most people would rather have their taste buds temporarily satisfied than care about how it affects their health in the long term.
However, eating healthy isn’t a Herculean task and shouldn’t be treated that way. The trick is to find healthy foods that are varied and delicious. By stimulating your palate, you encourage yourself to adhere to a healthy and nutritious diet. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to eat healthy without comprising on the taste.
To help you get started, here are some easy ways you can start eating healthier today.
· Load up on Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are arguably the healthiest things you can eat. They are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other healthy nutrients that protect your cells against damage and help fight inflammation. Various observational studies have shown a link between a high intake of fruits and vegetables to a reduced risk of illnesses like cancer and heart disease. They are also low in calories, providing you with all these benefits for a low caloric price. Since fruits and vegetables keep you fuller for longer, they can prevent you from snacking at unlikely times. And they also make for great snacks themselves!
The easiest way to start eating healthy is to incorporate more vegetables into your diet. You can add berries, chopped apples, sliced bananas, or orange slices to your breakfast cereals, along with smoothies, yogurt, or any of your favorite dishes (as long as it suits the palate).
You can chop up a few different vegetables, such as cherry tomatoes, peppers, carrots, beets, cucumbers, onions, etc., and mix them up with leafy greens like lettuce, cabbage, romaine lettuce, arugula, or fresh herbs to make a delicious salad. The more colorful your salad is, the better it will taste and the more nutritious it will be so. So try to add at least three different vegetables in addition to leafy greens to your salad. Toss these veggies in with herbs and olive oil for a quick salad, or place them in a container in your refrigerator for easy access.
· Cook Big Batches of Grains or Beans
One of the major reasons people fail to eat healthy is that unhealthy, processed food is so easily available. When you’re in a hurry, you’d rather have a quick snack than take your time out to cook something healthy. This issue can be solved by a little advanced planning.
You can encourage yourself to eat healthier by cooking a big batch of grains or beans once a week, or however you find suitable. For easier access, divide this big batch into single-portion containers and store it in your freezer. As the week goes on, you can use this as an easy base for a ton of healthy meals. A pot of quinoa can be turned into everything from breakfast cereal to a veggie bowl, or even a base for your stir-fried chicken and vegetables to go with.
· Make Healthy Food More Accessible
Taking a queue from the previous point, when you are hungry, you are more likely to eat the first thing you find on the table or the refrigerator. If you open the refrigerator and find a chocolate cake lying in front of you, is there any chance you will snoop around looking for a whole wheat bagel? On the other hand, would you not have the bagel if that’s the first thing you come across?
Keep healthy foods in places that are easily visible and accessible around your home, as well as your workplace. Place some fruits in a basket on your kitchen counter, keep healthy snacks on your dining table and your office desk, keep a pack of unsalted nuts in your bag or pocket at all times. Whenever you feel hungry for a snack, you can easily reach for these healthier snacks instead of chips or candies.
· Swap White Flour for Whole Grain Flour while Baking
This is one of those things that takes absolutely no additional effort. If you like to bake and do it often, substituting the refined flour for whole-grain flour wouldn’t change your baking process at all. However, it will make your baked goodsw significantly more nutritious.
Whole grain wheat flour includes all the bran and the germ that make it nutritious. All of this is removed from refined flour, making it less healthy. The baked goods made with whole grain wheat flour also have a more earthy and aromatic taste, making them better overall. However, if you’re concern about the taste, start by only substituting half of the flour in the recipe with whole-grain flour. And then, as you get used to the taste, increase the quantity until you remove all the white flour from the recipe. If you swap refined sugar with something healthier, such as honey, maple syrup, or Stevia, this is the easiest way to indulge in some guilt-free desserts.
· Use Smaller Plates
This may sound weird, but using large plates actually tricks our brain into believing we are eating less. This can consequently lead us to continue eating even after our body is full. This happens because it takes time for the body to send signals to the brain, telling that it is no longer hungry. However, by that time, most people would have already overeaten. Eating on a smaller plate can trick your brain into believing that you have finished the whole plate, which means that you should be full by now.
In addition to size, color can also play a part in how much you eat. A study conducted by Cornell University showed that people eat less when there is a higher color contrast between the food and the plate. And we tend to eat more if the color contrast is lower. For instance, if you’re having pasta with alfredo sauce, you’re more likely to eat more if you use a white plate as compared to eating it on a red plate. If you want to control your food potions, invest in darker color plates such as black, grey, maroon, or dark purple, as you’d hardly eat foods of those colors.
· Drink Tea and Coffee Black
This may be slightly difficult, but it is definitely worth the effort. Removing cream and sugar from your tea and coffee can save you a lot of calories and provide you with the raw, unfiltered benefits of the drink. Not to forget that the sugar can make you more lethargic when consumed constantly.
Yes, you may not like the taste in the beginning, but you’ll get used to it soon. And it will encourage you to drink actual coffee or tea and not the sweetened and fattened beverage that is actually not that great for waking you up in the morning.
· Healthier Version of Your Favorite Foods
No matter how many healthy foods you try, there will be some unhealthy foods whose taste you just don’t want to give
up. If you’re generally following a healthy diet, it is okay to indulge in cheat meals once in a while. However, an even better option is to secretly make these foods healthy without letting your tongue know.
For instance, replace half of the potatoes in mashed potatoes for cauliflower. This way, it’ll still taste like mashed potatoes but will provide more nutrition and less starch as compared to traditional mashed potatoes. Similarly, you can swap the crust of a homemade pizza for a whole wheat crust and add plenty of veggies to it.
· Roast Instead of Frying
Everything from chicken fingers to French fries and most vegetables can be roasted instead of fried. Frying foods adds in a lot of unnecessary calories and may even reduce the nutrients quotient of a lot of vegetables. Roasting or baking at high temperatures still gives the food a flavorful crispy texture outside and preserves the nutrients of the food. And it requires a lot less oil.
If you feel that giving up fried food is too much, then you can also invest in an air fryer. It allows you to get the same deep-fried foods with vastly less usage of oil.
· Avoid Packaged Snacks
Steering clear of packaged snacks is one of the most important things you need to do if you want to eat clean. Even the supposedly healthy snacks such as granola bars, protein bars, canned fruits, and premade smoothies are surprisingly high in sugar. This obviously isn’t a good thing if you’re trying to eat healthy. Other packaged snacks such as crackers, chips, and muffins are even worse, as they contain vegetable oil and other unhealthy ingredients in addition to sugar while providing little nutritional value.
As you’ve (hopefully) already stocked your home and workplace with healthy snacks, this should be potentially easier now. Opting for nutrient-dense snacks also helps prevent further food cravings.
· Avoid Added Sugar
The one thing that has no nutritional value at all is added sugar. Yet, people consume it in large amounts on daily basis. It is also found in things that aren’t particularly sweet, such as sauces, condiments, and low-fat yogurt.
Both table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup are high in fructose. According to many studies, this compound plays a crucial role in increasing the risk of obesity, as well as other health problems such as diabetes, fatty liver, and cancer. It is okay to occasionally consume sugar in small amounts. However, even that should be limited as natural sugars such as honey or maple syrup provide little nutritional value.
· Drink Water!
Considering that water is the healthiest and most natural beverage that is basically available everywhere for free, it is surprising how many people don’t seem to make the best use of it. It keeps you hydrated without any additives, sugars, artificial sweeteners, or any other ingredients that may be questionable. Drinking a sufficient amount of water every day can also help you achieve a healthy weight.
In contrast, sugary drinks and soda have the opposite effect. They are high in empty calories and can cause you to gain unnecessary weight. They are also linked to obesity, diabetes, and other diseases. Similarly, moderate intake of certain types of alcohol may be fine. But heavy consumption can promote inflammation and contribute to many health problems, such as liver disease, digestive disorders, and excess belly fat. So limit your intake of these beverages and depend mainly on water for hydration. You can add lime to your water and infuse it with fruits and vegetables to add flavor.
The easiest way to start eating healthy is by focusing on fresh, nutritious, and minimally processed foods while limiting your intake of processed and high-sugar foods. Not only will it boost your health, but it will also help you appreciate the natural flavors of the food. And once you start eating clean and your body gets rid of all the toxins, your craving for processed food will also decrease, making it easier to stick to a healthy diet.