Healthy eating isn’t as complicated as we often make it out to be – it’s usually not so much a matter of knowing what to do as it is actually doing it!
With the New Year, and so many resolutions to eat healthier, it can be hard to ignore all the flashy trend diets that promise quick results, in favor of making a lifestyle change for the long haul. But here’s the thing – those diets are a short-term bandaid, and (I’m assuming you want to continue eating food for the rest of your life) won’t carry over long-term. Why not invest the time now into building those healthy habits that you can apply forever?
We tend to know the basics of healthy eating: lots of vegetables, lots of water, minimize processed foods, don’t overeat, make sure you get your protein in, etc. Putting those into practice, however, can seem more daunting. To make this easier, we’ve put together a few strategies that you can try out to kickstart your healthy eating habits!
What: Drinking more water throughout the day
Why: Water is an essential nutrient for our survival, and is involved in pretty much every function of your body – from digestion, to temperature regulation, to circulation, to lubricating joints for movement, and more. Aim for about 2.5-3.5 litres per day, or take half your body weight and drink that many ounces.
How: The easiest way to be sure you drink water through the day is to have it readily available to you – carry a water bottle with you, or fill a mug to keep on your desk. It’s much easier to take in water in small frequent sips rather than panicking in the evening and trying to chug 3 litres at once…and your bladder will thank you for that, too.
What: Minimizing processed foods or eating out
Why: Avoid the empty calories, extra sodium and oils, and preservatives that are necessary to give processed foods their shelf life. Think instead about consuming as many whole foods as possible!
How: Plan ahead! Avoid having to grab the “quick fix” by thinking ahead and grocery shopping according to your plan – you’re less likely to eat Pizza Pops for supper if you have a fridge full of healthy options. If you know you’re always rushed at supper-time, cook ahead or use your slow cooker! For the days that you know you need a “quick fix”, plan for healthy “convenience” foods, such as canned tuna, bagged salads, hard boiled eggs, frozen veggies, or pre-cooked chicken.
What: Eating more vegetables
Why: Veggies are nutrient dense, and full of all the good vitamins and minerals that our body needs! They are also higher in fibre, so they digest slower and can keep us feeling fuller. This translates to stable blood sugar levels rather than peaks and valleys (low blood sugar is also a major initiator of our hunger cravings). Apart from stabilizing blood sugar levels, diets rich in high fiber foods have been associated with lower BMI, smaller waist circumference, lower body fat and weight reduction over time.
How: If you hate brussel sprouts and broccoli, stop trying to choke them down, and instead find vegetables that you enjoy (and if you love brussel sprouts and broccoli – me too!). Experiment to see if you enjoy eating more raw veggies, steamed, boiled, or roasted. Try to eat a mix of vegetables of all different colours, as they will contain different vitamins and minerals. Aim for at least one “fist” size portion of veggies at each meal or snack.
What: Eating more protein
Why: Protein helps our body to build and recover, after workouts, but also just after any physical exertion in your daily chores and work. Protein is also more satiating than carbs – which means it can keep you feeling fuller for longer and help avoid overeating!
How: Again, planning ahead can make all the difference here. Meats are often what take the most prep and cooking time, so this is another time that could be helpful to cook ahead of time, or to cook extra to save for left overs. You can also keep some beans or lentils on hand for a plant-based protein option that cooks up quickly. Often, the hardest meal to get your protein in is breakfast – a great option for the morning rush is Greek yogurt with some granola, seeds, and fruit.
What: Eating smarter carbs
Why: Choosing nutrient-dense foods rather than calorie-dense will help to fuel your body properly and leave you feeling less sluggish. Carbs often get a bad rap, but most people require about 40-60% of their daily calories to come from carbohydrates in order to perform their activities with ease, avoid fatigue and irritability, and sleep more soundly at night.
How: Try pumpernickel bread, oatmeal (rolled or steel-cut), oat bran, muesli, whole grain pasta, brown, wild or basmati rice, couscous, barley, bulger, sweet potato, corn, yam, beans and lentils – these are higher in fibre and will digest slower (just as we talked through high fibre benefits with the veggies). The bigger piece of the puzzle here is eating in proper portion sizes – which brings us to our last point.
What: Eating proper portion sizes
Why: Getting the right balance of carbs, fats, protein, and veggies at each meal will make it easier to find balance overall. Instead of trying to think how much you’ve eaten on a daily basis or weekly basis, it’s easier to control the smaller amounts we eat more regularly.
How: Use your hand to measure your portion sizes – it’s always with you! For women, aim for at least a palm’s size of protein, a cupped handful of carbohydrates, a fist of vegetables, and a thumb’s worth of healthy fats at each meal. For men – double it to 2 palms, 2 cupped handfuls, 2 fists and 2 thumbs. This is a good starting point, and, depending on your goals, activity level, and how you feel throughout the day, you can add or subtract from there. Here’s a “handy” reference picture from Precision Nutrition:
Next steps: Choose ONE of the habits above to really focus on this week – don’t try to change too much at once. Pick the one you think you can knock out of the park, build some momentum, and then choose another!
Need a bit more guidance? We’re currently offering a New Year, Fresh Start promo package, which includes a 30-minute Nutrition Review with our Precision Nutrition Certified Coach. On top of that, you get an initial consult, one private personal training session tailored to your goals, and one entry to our group Strength Camp. All for only $75 until January 21st!
Ready to take the leap? Fill in the form below, and we’ll be in touch shortly.