The thought of making a lifestyle change to eat healthier can be overwhelming. The most effective way to make a healthy eating routine stick is by tackling changes one step at a time, making small, sustainable healthy habits.
If nutrition and meal planning is a sticking point in your healthy lifestyle goals, try these five simple ways to start making healthier meals.
Choose a Better Cooking Method
Sometimes it’s not the food that’s unhealthy, but the cooking method. Take chicken, for example. In some meals, chicken is a great lean protein that can help you meet your weight loss or muscle building goals. Deep-fried chicken, however, cranks up the calories and adverse health effects.
Before you start thinking of different foods to eat, see if you can make your meals healthier with a simple method change. Put away the deep fryer and try baking your chicken. Instead of frying veggies, roast them to bring out the natural flavors. Steaming, broiling, and grilling are all great ways to cook food. Use the best non-toxic cookware to take your health to the next level.
Slowly Cut Back on the Extras
Lots of recipes call for more sugar than is actually needed. If there are sugary recipes that you enjoy, don’t reach for the sugar substitutes that often have health concerns as a side effect to lower calories. Instead, start cutting back. If your favorite muffin recipe calls for one cup of sugar, cut back to three quarters, then a half. See what you can settle for.
The same logic applies to salt. Those who have been eating salt their entire lives can’t detect natural sodium levels in food. By slowly cutting back and eliminating added salt, you’ll correct your tastebuds and won’t need it anymore.
A splash of this, a dash of that: how much fat and sugar are you really adding? It’s estimated that people generally underestimate their consumption by 500 calories per day on average.
Consider this: if you estimate that you’ve added a teaspoon of peanut butter to your toast, but it’s really a tablespoon, you’re only accounting for one-third of your actual intake. Measuring condiments is a simple way to make healthier meals.
Half Plate of Veggies
If you’re trying to avoid going too far down the rabbit hole of measuring food and counting calories, a simple rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with vegetables. This also allows for some flexibility in your eating, so you don’t get into a habit of restriction and bingeing.
The ideal plate consists of half a plate of veggies, a quarter plate of lean protein, and a quarter of healthy starches. However, half a plate of veggies and half a plate of pizza is still better than eating slice after slice.
Make Simple Swaps
You can still eat your favorite “unhealthy” foods by making some healthy swaps. Swapping sour cream for plain Greek yogurt gives you the same tang with lower fat and more protein. Swapping whole wheat pasta or spaghetti squash for white pasta increases your fiber intake and can severely cut back on sugars.
The key to making healthier meals is to get creative and make sustainable trades. Aim to eat nutrient-rich, healthy meals 80% of the time so you can indulge and enjoy yourself 20% of the time. Take baby steps and build sustainable healthy habits for life-long well-being.