Careful planning is the best way to prepare for any journey, including your path towards health. These ten steps will provide you with the background of information you need to set up your plan, and ultimately reach your goals!
1) Food should nourish your body, as well as your soul.
For many of us, our relationship with food is complicated. We turn to food when we’re bored, stressed, happy, sad, and everywhere in between. When trying to get healthier or lose weight, we can often view “healthy food” as a type of punishment. If this sounds like you, the key for long-term success in getting and staying healthy is to reboot your relationship with food. It’s about creating a healthy mindset, and finding the right balance that’s custom to you and your needs.
2) Don’t try to change everything at once.
The best way to start eating better for the long-term is to start slowly. Here are some tips that can help:
- Celebrate every milestone.
Incorporate as much of the information we provide into your life as possible, but choose just a few things you really want to focus on. Even something as small as saying, “today, I will only have positive things to say about my healthy choices” is a success.
- Change all-or-nothing to one step each day.
For example, if you want to cut back on drinking soda and you normally have three cans each day, reduce your intake down to two cans a day for a couple of weeks first, then reduce it more from there.
- Create achievable goals!
Remember that whenever incorporating a new habit into your life, you should set reasonable goals. Small steps mean more likelihood of success!
3) Plan your meals ahead as much as possible.
Often when we’re running late or absolutely starving, we grab whatever is fast and easy. This doesn’t always mean it’s nutrient-dense, so setting yourself up with healthy snacks and grab-and-go meals will prepare you for when you’re short on time. Here are some simple ways to get started:
- Chop, slice, dice!
Turn your fridge into a grab-and-go station by having all of your fruits and vegetables washed, chopped, and ready to eat.
- Utilize your freezer.
Pre-portion sliced bananas and fruit in individual baggies to freeze for a quick morning smoothie!
- Make starches ahead of time.
Make a batch of brown rice or quinoa over the weekend, separate into containers, and you’ll be set up with an easy meal base the rest of the week!
- Dust off that muffin tin!
Use that tin for making meatloaf, or mini egg omelets for a quick breakfast.
- Love your leftovers.
Use those stir-fried veggies from the night before for an omelet in the morning, or slice leftover chicken for a salad the next day.
4) Become a mindful eater.
Many calories are consumed simply because we don’t think about them. Whether snacking on appetizers when out for drinks with friends, munching on chips at our desks, or eating popcorn while watching TV, all of those additional calories really add up. At the end of the day, the calories we consume make the biggest impact on our overall weight. Understand what you’re eating by raising your awareness about mindless snacking.
5) Stay hydrated.
One of the easiest ways to increase energy and boost overall health is by drinking plenty of water, and yet it’s one of the most commonly undervalued habits. Invest in a good water bottle that you love, and make it your best friend. It should never leave your side, and you should consider it as important to remember as your phone or keys when leaving your house each day. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces, and to help hold yourself accountable, download our handy hydration tracker. Have trouble drinking enough? Add a packet of True Raspberry Lemonade or Women’s Choice Award winning True Limeade to entice yourself to keep sipping.
6) Limit foods that have some form of sugar (or sweetener) listed among the top three ingredients.
While we know that sugar is found in typical sweets like candy bars and cookies, sugar is also often a key ingredient in processed foods because it enhances flavor and preserves freshness. However, empty calories from sugar provide no nutritional benefit to our bodies, so it’s important to strongly limit our intake. Sugar goes by as many as 56 different names, so it’s important to read your labels!
7) Get to know proper portion sizes (they’re smaller than you think).
In the land of “super sized” and Big Gulps®, true portion sizes have become very distorted over the years. Understanding correct portion sizes really matters when trying to eat healthier or lose weight. Read labels (and serving sizes) carefully, and divide your portions by using a scale or measuring cups.
8) Eat a rainbow of nutrients.
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (in every color) will optimize your health by providing an array of nutrients for your body. For the biggest nutritional punch, incorporate a wide array of colorful foods into your diet on a regular basis.
9) Incorporate a protein or healthy fat into every meal.
While it’s easy to get lost in different diets that claim the importance of “high protein” or “low carb”, the simple truth is that our bodies need a combination of different nutrients to operate at their best. This means both proteins and healthy fats too! Some great protein examples are: lean meats, nuts and seeds, and beans and legumes. Good fat examples: avocado, coconut oil, and fatty fishes.
10) Eat whole foods as much as possible.
Focus your energy on eating as many whole foods as possible (such as non-packaged fresh vegetables, fruits, uncooked beans, raw nuts and seeds, etc.). You won’t have as much room for foods that are processed and less nutritious if you stock up on the good stuff. As you start to eat more mindfully, decreasing the amount of moderately and heavily processed foods consumed will help reduce your intake of empty calories, hidden sugar, sodium, and fat.