It is confusing for us to even think about eating healthy because of all the diet trends and what is considered acceptable or unacceptable. In fact, there are over 2 million diets to choose from- of course it’s intimidating to make a decision and stick with it! With approximately 45 million people each year joining some program or another, it seems as though diet culture is here to stay. All hope to make healthier choices is not lost, however. It is possible to eat healthy and skip a diet altogether with these simple tips.
Awareness: A different perspective on food
The food industry has drastically evolved since the 1950’s with the advancements of modern science. Food companies provide more choices than ever before, making grocery stores an absolute playground for tastebuds. Kitchens are full of ultra-processed snacks and meals at the cost of increasing the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other illnesses. Acid reflux, stomachaches, painful joints or inflammation, and even headaches are all indications that food has impacted the body in a negative way. In other words, stop blaming your body for being in pain and instead turn to what you’re feeding it!
Check out our previous blog post, Why willpower is a scam and decision fatigue is real
When you buy food from a store, you can quickly check the nutrition facts label for information about how many calories and how much protein, fat and sugar are in the product. But what about the ingredients?
While it’s tempting to disregard the list of ingredients as just another part of a product description, it’s actually one of the most valuable pieces of information that you can find on a package.
If there’s an ingredient that you don’t recognize or understand, look it up before making the purchase. Another way to eat healthier by following food labels is to find alternatives to products, such as mayonnaise or yogurt that may contain less harmful ingredients. The less ingredients there are on a food label, the more natural the product (meaning it is not processed). Let’s use an apple as an example. A fresh apple from the produce section is one ingredient, an apple. While applesauce on the other hand could contain several more ingredients such as artificial sweeteners and flavors. Simple swaps such as this make a huge difference and the information is always available.
Feed vs. fuel
Understanding the difference between feeding and fueling the body is of the utmost importance when attempting to make healthier choices- especially when it comes to snacks. I think of feeding the body as consuming foods that have little to no nutritional value. Pop, candy, chips and other junk foods do have sneaky labels like no sugar, low fat, only 100 calories, etc. While these labels may make us feel less guilty about our choices and appear to be an okay option, this type of food does not actually fuel the body. Fueling the body means eating fresh, whole foods rich in nutrients. So often we get stuck on the amount of calories in a product when we really should pay more attention to the nutritional value.
I recently saw a poster on the side of a gas pump at the local gas station. It had a picture including bottles of pop and America’s favorite candy bar, and next to it the words, “don’t forget to fuel yourself!” The truth is, you’re not going to get very far on these snacks. Afterall, sugar has no nutritional value! A different option to truly give the body fuel would be a few hard boiled eggs and a cup of fruit. You will experience more energy for a longer period of time with protein and carbohydrates from these nutrient rich foods.
There are countless snacks labeled as healthy, but do they contain the ingredients to back that up? The most common snack disguised as healthy are granola bars; let’s use these for the example. Granola bars often contain ingredients that have some nutritional value such as coconut or oats. However, granola bars also contain ingredients such as vegetable oils, sugar, corn syrup, corn starch, and vegetable glycerin (an ingredient most commonly used in skincare products-yuck!). Snacks like this feed the body with nothing more than a sugar bar slapped with a flashy ‘HEALTHY’ sticker on the package.
Investigate your kitchen cupboards and fridge for items that are feeding your body no benefit, and be creative with alternatives that will fuel you up.
Drink more water
Hydration is imperative for organ function, digestive health, skin clarity, and more. So why are approximately 75% of Americans chronically dehydrated? While pop, juice, fancy coffee drinks, and alcohol are tasty, they offer little to no nutritional value with the addition of unnecessary calories. Swap pop for sparkling water or Zevia beverages. It may take trying a few different flavors before finding one you like, but will be worth it in the long run! I also suggest taking a long, hard look at labels on sports drinks before purchasing anymore of them. My favorite alternative to popular brands is Dynamic Hydrate; kid approved and available in 3 delicious flavors in on-the-go packets or full size containers.
Studies show sufficient water intake curbs cravings and manages appetite. Both of which provide amazing benefits to the body including better energy levels! How much water is sufficient? The rule of thumb is half of your body weight in ounces of water per day. For example, a person weighing 180 pounds should drink 90 ounces of water per day.
Small changes add up
The most important lesson to learn here is that you don’t have to be on a diet to eat healthy. You can reinterpret how you view the world around you by following different steps, living a more conscious lifestyle, and trying out new things. The choices are endless, so think of these tips as a starting point.