Most of the time, losing weight is an internal struggle between a person and their food/the gym. When I made the life-changing decision last year to overhaul my diet and exercise more regularly, people asked me what I was doing to lose my weight. My simple answer was, “Eating healthy and exercising,” which was the truth, but I was also implementing a few of my own personal secrets that I learned from years of trying to lose weight. If you practice these 10 tips, eating healthy will be much, much easier.
Start thinking about food before you’re hungry.
I can’t tell you how many times I have reached for a bag of chips or any other carb-loaded, calorie-rich food simply because I was too hungry to cook or make an educated decision about my meal. Once you pass the threshold of being mildly hungry to ravenous, you stop caring about what’s healthy, and you start looking for a way to feed yourself as soon as possible. The food you choose at that point will be the most convenient junk you can get your hands on. Now, instead of scarfing down whatever I can find, I eat a small snack like an apple to tide me over long enough to cook a healthy meal.
Have very easy, simple and healthy snacks.
How else will you be able to resist the donuts in the break room or that coworker making a french fry run? If you make your snacks in advance and take them with you, it will be much easier to avoid temptation. Every Sunday night, I make a big batch of hummus, chop up some carrot sticks, and portion out little baggies of nuts. In the mornings, I just grab and go!
Keep bad food out of the house.
If those chocolate caramel pecan turtles are sitting on your coffee table, you will eat them. That’s like the law of the universe. Most people eat what is readily available so if you don’t have junk food laying around, you’re probably not going to go out of your way to get some.
Carbs are not off limits.
No matter what the Atkins Diet tells you, you are allowed to eat carbs. You just have to learn the difference between good and bad carbs and eat the good ones. Good carbs include oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, cracked wheat, lentils, whole grain bread and pasta, beans, and (not fried) potatoes. These carbs are full of essential proteins and fiber. If you eliminate all carbs from your diet, you won’t feel energetic and you will probably crave some in the near future, causing you to binge on a whole package of Oreos. Not good.
If it’s not healthy, figure out a way to make it so.
There are a few simple exchanges you can make it your diet to take a dish from unhealthy to healthy. Non-fat Greek yogurt is one of the most versatile ingredients to incorporate into a healthy diet because it is low in sugar and high in protein. I use it as a substitute for mayo in egg salad, as a creamy factor in mashed potatoes, and as a quick snack with grapes.
Another easy exchange is to substitute white rice for quinoa or brown rice. This was a challenge in my household, being Armenian and all, because one of my favorite dishes is dolma and is traditionally made with ground beef and white rice. It took me a while to convince my mom to make it with healthier grains, but it was well worth it.
Eating healthy is easier together.
Nothing breaks a healthy-eating streak like getting home from work and your family is eating pizza. Or when you are trying to make healthy choices but your boyfriend wants to eat out. Or your friends keep eating ice cream around you. Food is a way for people to connect and not being able to eat what others are will make you feel left out. My healthy-eating journey didn’t start being successful until my boyfriend joined me. We no longer went to fast-food or chain restaurants, we started cooking more at home, and we began exercising together. It’s done wonders for our relationship and for our overall well-beings. Plus, it’s fun to be able to finally indulge together after a week of staying on track.
Figure out what you’re going to order before you get to the restaurant.
This has been easier for me since I’m the “foodie” in my family and group of friends so I’m the one who decides which restaurant we go to. Before I decide on a restaurant, I scour the menu to make sure there is at least one healthy choice I would enjoy eating. If someone else picks the restaurant, I look at the menu before leaving the house and make sure I know exactly what I’m going to order. Restaurants these days are making it even easier to eat healthy and deliciously because they are offering special menus and switching out their white rice for brown. Now if they can just get those sodium levels down…
Nothing will happen if you cheat once or twice a week
Designate two cheat meals (up to 1,500 calories each) per week to keep you on track. For me, these meals are usually Friday and Saturday nights because that’s when friends want to go out or there’s a special occasion. If you know you are going to eat unhealthy on a different night, like Sunday or Thursday, just pretend that’s your treat day and skip it on Saturday or Friday. During the week, if you feel tempted by a certain food that you can’t have, like a brownie or a BLT on sourdough, make a list of foods to eat on your weekend’s treat meals so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
Sneak veggies into everything
Making pasta sauce? Load that sucker up with mushrooms, bell peppers and asparagus. Making burgers? Sneak in some chopped spinach, sauteed carrots, and onions. Every opportunity you get, figure out a way to pump it up with some vegetables. They add bulk to the dish so you get full without eating as many calories, they’ll make you feel better about yourself, and they add a depth of flavor.
If it comes in a package from the freezer or snack aisle, do not to eat it. I’m not referring to bags of carrot sticks. I’m talking about pre-made stir-fry or shredded barbecue chicken that is loaded with extra sodium and fat. If you can make it yourself, please do. The only exception I make are certain types of chips that are baked and contain less than 5% of my daily sodium needs and 2-6 grams of fat.
What are your secrets that make it easier to eat healthier?