It doesn’t have to be a chore to eat better. I know it can sound like the death knell to all your favourite foods but these hacks will get you eating better in small easy steps.
The trick is to make changes slowly. Don’t try to be the healthiest eater on the planet from Day 1. That’s just setting yourself up for failure.
Instead make one small achievable improvement at a time and you’ll find yourself on the road to a healthier waistline.
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#1 Set A Goal
Goals are ways of keeping yourself accountable. Don’t just guess your efforts are working, set goals and measure your results. “I think I’m eating better” doesn’t have quite the same impact as “I know I’m eating better”.
Just make sure it’s a goal you can stick to. Be realistic! If you’re 50 pounds overweight telling yourself you’re going to look like Jennifer Lawrence in 3 months time doesn’t quite hack it.
#2 Plan Small Steps
You may have a big overall goal but you can still break it down into small steps. It could be as simple as I’m going to swap my choccie biccies this month for fresh fruit.
When your small step becomes a habit you can add in the next one. It all adds up to making progress.
#3 Take Your Before Pictures
Hate taking pictures of yourself? I know – you’re not the only one. It’s still important to have those before pictures. You’re saying to yourself; “I can be better than this”.
#4 Get Out The Tape Measure
Being healthy isn’t just a number on the scale. Record your weight but also get out the tape measure.
If you’re trying to lose weight and also exercising, your body will change shape. Fat becomes muscle making you stronger.
Muscle is heavier but also denser than fat, so you may not see much movement on the scales. The tape measure is your answer. Record losing inches.
Take your before measurements now: the widest part of your body, (your butt), hips, waist, top of each thigh, each knees, bust and top of each arm.
#5 Have A Clear Out
You can have the strongest will in the world, but if there’s a cupboard full of goodies within reach it’s so hard to avoid temptation.
Get that junk food out of the house!
Stock up on healthy snacks instead. Nuts (go easy on quantities), fruit, carrot sticks. Anything to stop you reaching for food choices you’ll regret.
#6 Get Your Partner On Board
If you live with someone, get them on your side. Hopefully they’ll agree to eat better with you.
At least get them to keep the types of food you’re trying to avoid out of sight. That treat cupboard doesn’t have to be next to the kettle!
#7 Meal Plan
There’s nothing like coming home to an empty cupboard when you’re trying to eat better. When you’re tired and hungry it’s easy to end up ordering a takeaway. I know! We’ve all been there!
Avoid lapses by planning healthy meals in advance. If you know you have a busy week coming up, meal prep on Sunday night. Be prepared!
#8 Drink More Water
Yeah but what if you don’t like water?
It doesn’t have to be water, just non sugary drinks. Try and avoid artificial sweeteners too.
Thirst is easy to confuse with hunger. We reach for food when we should be quenching our thirst. Make sure you stay hydrated especially in hot summer months.
I can be really bad at this. Blogging away I forget to go and fetch a drink. My solution is to keep a water bottle to hand. It’s there on my desk reminding me to drink.
#9 Lose Weight Slowly
Get this one wrong and you’re heading for a life of misery – yo yo dieting where you lose too much weight too soon and pile it all back on 6 months later.
Worst still, you’ll have messed up your metabolism and round two will be so much harder. The official guidance is to aim for a weight loss of 1 to 2 pounds a week.
If you have a lot of weight to lose just think – that’s still 50 to 100 pounds in a year. Weight that stays off.
#10 Choose A Diet That Works
I’m not a huge fan of diets. Most over promise and under deliver. With most of the lose weight fast diets you’re mainly shedding water as your glycogen stores decline. As soon as you stop the diet and start eating normally again, the weight piles back on.
Eating real food, vegetables, fruit, lean protein and low GI carbohydrates are key to weight loss.
That said, it’s always tempting to download the latest trendy weight loss plan – something to follow that promises a life changing diet. We’ve all been there! Just make sure it offers healthy eating and doesn’t over promise on weight loss.
#11 Carb Or Not To Carb
Confused about carbs? You’re not the only one! Keto diet lovers will tell you they’re public enemy number 1!
The Ketogenic (Keto) diet strictly controls carbohydrates so that your body starts breaking down it’s fat stores for energy. Instead of carbs, Keto converts follow a diet full of healthy fats, protein and leafy vegetables.
Originally the diet was used to control seizures in children suffering from epilepsy and there’s strong evidence to support these benefits. There’s less medical evidence when it comes to using it for weight loss.
Now don’t get me wrong. You can lose weight quickly following a Keto diet. It’s just the diet is hard to stick to. Eating only a few extra carbs a day can jeopardise your weight loss goals. Plus are you really prepared to adopt the Keto diet for good?
For long term results, eating limited healthy fats such as olive oil, filling up on fruit and vegetables, opting for fibre-rich unrefined carbs and modest amounts of meat and cheese are your best bet for a healthy lifestyle.
#12 Take The Simple Option
If counting calories and recording your diet in minute detail appeals to your inner OCD that’s fine. Just be wary that overly obsessing over your diet can be a one-way ticket to an eating disorder.
It’s better to keep things simple. Take the real food route and learn to love filling your plate with colourful vegetables.
#13 Plate Sizes
Plates just get bigger and bigger and today’s chinaware bears little resemblance to plates sizes 50 plus years ago. We’re used to eating oversized portions and have lost the ability to stop eating when full.
Try replacing your plates and bowls with smaller sizes. It’s better to consciously get up and refill your plate with seconds than mindlessly chomp your way through a huge pile of food.
#14 Portion Control
Just like plate sizes, our portion sizes have got bigger. McDonald’s may have stopped supersizing back in 2004 but as a rule we’re still consuming far too many calories in one sitting.
A Big Mac is 540 calories. Add a large fries and you’re topping 1000 calories just for one meal – half the recommended daily calorie intake for most women.
Even with healthier meal choices, it’s still easy to overeat and blow a big chunk of your daily calorie allowance in one sitting.
#15 Eat A Balanced Meal
It helps with weight loss and maintenance to fill at least 50% of your plate with low calorie fruit and vegetables with an emphasis on leafy greens. Just 25% should be fibre rich carbohydrates and 25% protein. Go for lean protein sources if you’re trying to lose weight.
Healthy fats are essential to your diet – just don’t over do it. 2 teaspoons of olive oil (10ml) are all you need to complete your healthy plate.
#16 Think Of Food As Fuel
When you start off your weight loss plan with exercise, you’re changing how you think about food.
Your weight is no longer just cosmetic or about your health. You realise it stops you doing stuff!
Excess weight slows down your running, stops you walking up hills or achieving more advanced yoga poses.
Committing to getting in shape and using your body as it’s intended helps you care about the food you’re eating. Your food is the fuel your body needs to exercise.
You wouldn’t put cheap fuel in a racing car so why fill your body full of junk?
#17 Work Out Your Ideal Meal Frequency
Not everyone’s the same when it comes to ideal meal frequency. Intermittent fasting, where you aim for daily 16 hour fasts, is all the rage right now.
There’s a strong argument for this approach. Going back to our hunter-gatherer days, food wasn’t served up at regular intervals from a refrigerator.
The most popular method is 16/8 fasting where you skip or take a late breakfast and stop eating in the early evening. An eating window of 11am to 7pm is common. (You can still drink water during your fasting period).
It doesn’t suit everyone. If you’re the type of person who skips breakfast and ends up binge eating later in the day, it’s not for you.
There’s nothing wrong with eating at regular intervals. Try experimenting and see what works for you.
Some people find fasting is better for controlling their weight. For others it’s eating 3 small meals and 3 snacks a day to avoid getting too hungry.
# 18 Get Plenty Of Sleep
It’s a lot easier to stay on track with better eating habits if you’re getting plenty of Zzzs. We’re never at our best when we skimp on sleep.
Avoiding comfort eating or saying no to the cream cake your friend’s trying to ply you with, is so much easier when you’re getting your 7-8 hours sleep a night.
#19 Develop A Strategy
There are situations where we’re at our weakest when it comes to diet. It could be film night on the couch with a junk food loving partner or when you arrive home tired after a long day at work.
Try and work out when you’re at your most vulnerable and come up with a coping strategy. It could be an air-popped popcorn treat for film night or a bowl of carrot sticks to take the edge off your hunger when you arrive home from work.
#20 Have Healthy Snacks To Hand
Instead of a sin bin full of chocolate bars, build your healthy bin of snacks. Anything from bananas to roasted chick peas or hard boiled eggs.
Work out your favourite healthy snacks and make sure there’s always something available to eat when hunger strikes. It’s better to reach for nutritious food than blow your good intentions on a high calorie brownie.
#21 Quit Eating Sugar
This isn’t about eliminating sugar entirely from your diet. It will always be present in natural sources such as fruit.
It’s about cutting out that granulated white poison that does nothing for our nutrition and has contributed to the obesity epidemic in the US and UK.
Find out more about what to expect when you quit sugar for a month.
#22 Try Frozen Foods
One complaint about healthy eating is the cost. Yes fresh fruit and vegetables can be expensive.
An alternative is frozen fruit and vegetables. Picked in peak condition, these can be just as nutritious. Good options for the freezer are peas, beans, cauliflower, spinach, corn and berries.
#23 Opt For Whole Grains
Coarse cut oats, brown rice and whole grain bread and pasta will keep you full for longer.
These carbohydrates have a low glycemic index (GI) that won’t send your blood sugar levels sky high. Plus they’re packed with nutritious B-vitamins.
#24 Start Using A Shopping List
It’s easy to get carried away when you’re shopping for food – especially if you’re shopping on an empty stomach.
One way to make sure you stick to your healthy eating plans is to use a shopping list. It will help to keep junk food off the menu!
#25 Check Nutrition Labels
While I always advocate eating real food and cooking from scratch, it’s not always possible when you’re time poor.
Get into the habit of checking nutrition labels when you’re tempted by new products. Look for hidden ingredients that blow your plans to eat better.
#26 Make Soup
Every one loves soup! It’s also highly nutritious and usually low in calories. Plus it’s a great way to use up leftover vegetables and meat.
Making a filling bowl of soup can be as easy as combining your leftover veggies with some stock. Here’s a quick and easy recipe.
#27 Stock Your Pantry
It helps to always have some basic ingredients on hand so you can whip up a nutritious meal at anytime.
Fill your pantry with tins of sweet corn, tinned tomatoes, chickpeas and tuna. Make sure there’s packets of wholewheat pasta, jars of pesto and stock cubes.
Top up your supply of fresh onions and garlic and always have peas and other favourite vegetables in the freezer.
This way you can always rustle up a quick and simple meal without speed dialling your local takeaway.
#28 Avoid Low Fat And Diet Foods
Check the ingredients of the low fat alternative to your favourite food stuffs and you’ll often find the fat content has been swapped for sugar.
It’s often better to eat a small quantity of your favourite food and enjoy it than be disappointed by the diet version substitute.
#29 Think Twice Before Drinking Smoothies
Those smoothies and fruit juices may seem healthy but have you ever thought about the ingredients?
It’s one thing to eat an apple or two in one sitting, but a small cup of apple juice can contain as many as 4 apples – that’s twice the calories and twice the sugar content.
Stick to eating your fruit whole if you’re trying to lose weight or reduce your sugar intake.
#30 Choose Fresh Not Processed Meat
The food manufacturers would love you to believe mechanically separated meat is safe to eat.
It’s basically made up of all the leftover meat when you’ve taken off the prime cuts. The stuff you throw away after your Sunday roast.
Personally I’d rather stick to the real deal than eat something formed out of a paste of skin and leftover meat waste laden with sodium and preservatives.
If you want to eat better, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and other dodgy processed meats should be off the table.
#31 Get Rid Of Leftovers
When you’re full – stop eating. It’s okay not to finish everything on your plate.
You can save the scraps for another meal or do yourself a favour and toss them in the bin. Sorry Gran! It’s better than overeating just to clean your plate.
#32 Treat Yourself
It’s okay not to be perfect. The aim is to eat better rather than obsessing over perfection.
Follow the eating habits of certain Hollywood celebrities to closely and you could forget how to enjoy life.
Just try to eat better overall. If that means the occasional treats of your favourite foodstuff – that’s okay.
Eat your favourite foods, just less often and in smaller quantities. Make sure you savour every mouthful!
Eating better shouldn’t be a chore. The idea is to learn to appreciate and enjoy the taste of real healthy food. If you’re currently a chip and burger loving vegetable avoid-er, make changes to your diet slowly.
It’s better to take small steps of constant improvement than make sweeping changes to your diet you won’t be able to stick to. You’re building good habits. It can take a while but will hopefully last a lifetime.
Set a goal but make sure it’s realistic. Make changes to your diet one small step at a time. Going from a burger loving vegetable hater to a whole food salad eater overnight is setting yourself up for failure. Aim for slow and steady weight loss 1-2 pounds per week. Don’t cut out all your favourite foods – just save for occasional treats and reduce your portion size.
We’re surrounded by temptation and exploited by a food industry that knows how to get us eating calorie laden food that’s bad for out waistlines. Switching overnight to a healthy food plan is a big shock to the system and most people find it too hard. It’s better to make sustainable changes to your diet one small step at a time. Don’t give up all the foods you love – just aim for smaller quantities and switch in a few healthy alternatives.
Fresh fruits and vegetables cost more to farm and deliver in prime condition to the supermarket. Quality cuts of meat are more expensive than processed food made out of scraps and leftovers on the carcass. Choosing seasonal products, using frozen vegetables and eating small quality portions of meat, (or going meat-free), are ways to cut the cost of healthy eating.