You might be familiar with the phrase, “You can’t out train a bad diet.” Translation: No matter how hard you exercise, if you don’t make healthy food choices, you’ll sabotage all that hard work.
But making healthy eating choices is easier than you think. In fact, you’re probably already making some of them. All you might need now is more consistency. Here’s how to get it.
Keep Track of What You Eat
Have you ever tracked every. single. thing. that goes into your mouth? If not, try it for a week. Can’t bear that thought? Then try three days. It’s an eye-opening experience and the longer you can track, the more insights you’ll glean.
Didn’t know just how many calories were in those two handfuls of nuts you ate while cooking dinner? Didn’t realize that forgetting your post-workout protein shake made you wake up feeling sore? The only way you’ll start making these connections is to track and then analyze the data you collect.
You might also learn that you’re already making some great choices. Emphasize those. And where you see poor choices (fried foods, too many processed foods, soda, etc.), cut them out and replace them with healthy options.
Start where you are, and make small changes that you can live with.
Plan What You’re Going to Eat
Start planning your meals. Doing meal prep will save you from going out to lunch or hitting the drive-thru and may help your wallet as well.
Not sure where to start? Here are dozens of weekly meal preps we’ve prepared for you (grocery lists included)! Or, you can start with what you like to eat and tweak it so it’s healthy.
Looking forward to steak smothered in sauce and a baked potato for Sunday supper? If cooked properly, a good cut of steak doesn’t need much adornment. Amp up the flavor even more with a lower sodium marinade with sweet, salty, and sour notes like this ginger soy flank steak. Then pair the ginger steak with Roasted Broccoli with Peanuts, or with these poppable Broccoli Tots.
Clean Out Your Kitchen
Open up your cupboards… how many not-so-healthy foods are lurking in them? We know, that box of toaster strudels belongs to your 10-year-old. And that you only serve those buttery biscuits made from that cylinder of prefab dough once a week.
That’s OK… but try to limit buying those indulgences as much as possible, because if you’re trying not to eat them then you’re going to have to pretend that stuff doesn’t exist.
Remember what we said above about having healthy food on hand for all occasions? This is the other side of that coin. Get rid of the foods that will tempt you to cheat. While you’re at it, try to think of alternatives. For example, a tea that tastes like apple cinnamon can replace candy, or dark (80 percent cocoa and above) chocolate can replace that sugary milk chocolate. Big white rice fan? Try brown or wild rice instead, or even quinoa.
These recipes and ideas provide healthier alternatives to the stuff we know and love:
- Instead of refined pasta, try these healthier pasta noodles
- Instead of instant ramen, try turkey ramen
- Instead of fried tortilla chips, try baked corn tortilla chips
- Instead of sweet potato fries, try baked spicy sweet potato fries
- Instead of store-bought ketchup, try homemade ketchup
- Instead of store-bought barbecue sauce, try homemade healthy barbecue sauce
- Instead of fast-food burgers, try these 7 healthier burgers
- Instead of a giant restaurant chicken burrito, try a chicken and black bean burrito bowl
- Instead of a muffin from a coffee shop, try this blueberry maple muffin
- Instead of brownies from a box, try these flourless brownie muffins
- Instead of a buttery bakery slice of banana bread, try this gluten-free banana bread
- Instead of store-bought cookies, try these oatmeal raisin cranberry cookies
How to Make Healthy Food Choices When Dining Out
Eating at a restaurant can be as treacherous as walking through minefields. To help yourself make good choices, review the menu ahead of time and use your favorite food tracking app to approximate the nutritional value of what you want to order.
One thing that will probably surprise you, though, is how many delicious, healthy options are out there. Look around on sites that review healthy restaurants, such as Healthy Dining Finder or the Happy Cow. Another strategy: Ask a trainer or trusted friend.
Of course, you can always just eat out on your cheat day. Once a week, have a day where you bend the rules a bit. Have a meal you’d never eat on any other day of the week. One day a week — or better yet, one meal a week — where you bend the rules can help you stay sane. So long as you don’t eat donuts all day.
It takes some mental adjustment, but once you get started on the path of making healthy food choices, you’ll wonder how you ever lived any other way.