Most of us are perfectly happy eating ‘healthy’ meals from time to time, but struggle with making a habit of it – which is a pity, as gastro health is a lot more important than some of us might realise.
To wit, did you know that our gut houses about 70 percent of our immune system? The food we eat plays such a big role in our overall health and wellbeing that it only makes sense to do our best to eat right.
Now, I love potato chips and grilled cheese as much as the next girl, and have definitely struggled to eat well consistently in the past, but the following tips have been a huge help. Funnily enough, I now crave ‘healthy’ food on a regular basis!
If you’re looking to change up your diet for the better, here are a few helpful pointers to keep you from falling off the healthy eating bandwagon.
#1 Know your budget
We’re not saying you should swear off salad lunches, but going out of your way to pay for a 25-dollar bowl of quinoa and avocado is going to be unsustainable in the long run. If cost is something that gets in the way of you eating healthier, make it a point to pack your own lunches to work. The food you cook is often going to be more affordable, less processed, and with fewer preservatives to boot.
There are also plenty of healthy options that aren’t overly expensive. Healthier whole grain breads aren’t often more pricey these days; potatoes and sweet potatoes are great carbohydrates if you can’t afford quinoa; and looking for wholesale places for your meats and fish might make it more worth your while to buy in bulk. Just split up larger packets into manageable portions before sticking them in the freezer and you’re set for the month or even two!
#2 Know your body
There are bound to be foods out there that don’t quite agree with you. It’s a good idea to keep track of stuff that your body reacts to, and how your body reacts to them. A food journal is one way to do this. If you think some reactions might be the result of mild allergies, it could be worth signing up for a comprehensive allergy test just to be sure.
Some people are allergic to more than just dairy and gluten, and even something as harmless as eggs can cause a reaction. Signs to look out for aside from obvious allergic reactions are itching, bloating, breakouts, and feeling lethargic or lousy in general.
#3 Keep track of imbalances
One of the things we tend to do when we embark on a diet is to cut out a lot of salt, which lowers water retention and can cause us to lose water weight. It might appear as if we’re losing weight quickly, but then we end up with serious sodium cravings.
There’s a reason you seem to end up with intense food cravings when you’re trying to hew to a healthy diet – it’s often due to a lack of essential trace minerals. Take mineral supplements if you need to, and look at isotonic drinks to maintain your sodium and potassium levels if you’re working out a lot. There’s plenty of research out there on the reasons behind particular cravings, so find an alternative (and more healthy) way to get what your body is missing.
#4 Approach it in stages
You can’t dive head-first into a diet and expect to instantly make it a natural part of your life. And frankly, not all of us are born with that kind of superhuman discipline or can afford a personal chef and trainer to keep us on our toes (as much as we wish otherwise).
You can try introducing a certain group of foods like complex carbs in one meal per day, or opt to eat fruit every morning, but the only way to incorporate healthy food into your lifestyle is to ease yourself into it. Another way is to create healthier versions of your favourite foods (like burgers with lean beef, healthier sauces and hearty vegetables). Remember: Slow and steady wins the race.
#5 Forgive yourself
We all trip up sometimes. Having a healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean we can’t indulge in some greasy cheesy goodness from time to time. If it’s something you enjoy, let yourself enjoy it on cheat days without feeling guilty!
Just ensure that you make up for it with something healthy at the next meal. If it’s weighing on your mind, putting in a little more workout time might assuage your guilt a tad, too. Good luck!