Many factors can make nutrition seem complicated (and maybe even impossible), from spinning diet fads to misconceptions about how to eat healthier to achieve impossible body goals, but eating healthy shouldn’t be so confusing. Rest assured, there is no such thing as a miracle diet. There is no one method or magic list of instructions that will automatically make us all achieve our health goals, feel more energized, clear skin, and lose weight. Because while one way of eating may improve one person, it may limit another. Also, dieting is never sustainable, when we eat from a place of restriction, we never feel satisfied. Food is meant to be as enjoyable as it is nutritious. Ditch your diet and try these 14 ways to eat healthier this year that you can stick with for life (and none of them involve restricting an entire food group).
1. Eat leafy vegetables with two meals a day
If you make one change to your diet, consider eating more leafy greens. From spinach to arugula to watercress to romaine, leafy greens are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus, they’re so easy to sneak into meals that there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be eating several cups of veggies a day. Try adding spinach to a smoothie, add kale to pasta dishes or sauce, or order a side salad when eating out. If all else fails, try these delicious ways to eat more vegetables.
2. Find plant-based options for your favorite foods
If you don’t like salads, don’t eat salads! Forcing yourself to eat bland meals and boring foods leads to binge eating, excessive cravings, and worst of all, an unsatisfying life. Instead of eating foods you don’t like, use creative healthier versions of your favorite foods. Try adding veggies or making simple swaps, like opting for a cauliflower pizza crust or chickpea pasta. You can find recipe ideas here healthy alternatives to your favorite foods and plant-based recipes for every craving.
3. Make meal times sacred
Healthy eating is not only what you eat, but also how. In a world where meals are often on the go and fast food is on every corner, we forget that food is not just about survival or even enjoying the taste. Meal time serves as a reminder to stop, slow down and enjoy. Consider taking a break from work, turning off the TV, putting away your phone, and making every meal an opportunity to relax and be mindful. Whether you enjoy meals with the people you love or use them as meditation To take a break from the busyness of the day, every meal should be about slowing down and enjoying your food mindfully.
4. Load drinks that suit you
You already know to drink water and avoid sugary drinks like soda or sweetened coffee drinks as much as possible, so now it’s time to hack your hydration and include even more good-for-you drinks (besides your reusable water bottle). For example, tea (such as green, white or hibiscus) has many health benefits due to its health-promoting components such as polyphenols. You can also sip green juice or replace typical soda with mineral water, mint and lemon. Bottom line: In addition to drinking water throughout the day, get creative with nutrient-dense beverages to increase health benefits and hydration.
5. Eat fruit with breakfast
Your mom gave you orange slices and bananas with your Cheerios when you were a kid, but you still stick to eating fruit? Maybe you’re good at adding vegetables to your diet, but you forget about fruits, maybe you grab a breakfast sandwich from the cafeteria in the morning, or maybe you’ve heard the myth that fruit is not good for you. The truth is that fruits are full of antioxidants, minerals and fiber. They come from the earth; our bodies are meant to eat them. Whether your breakfast of choice is an omelet, avocado toast, or a bowl of Cheerios (old habits die hard), consider eating some berries or grapefruit.
6. Add herbs to every meal
Another easy way to sneak in fresh produce (seeing a theme here?) is to add herbs to every meal. Although usually thought of as garnish, herbs are actually leafy greens full of nutrients and various health benefits. Plus, they make everything tastier. Try putting basil leaves on homemade pizzas, add cilantro to fritters and sushi rolls or chop parsley in salads. Bonus points starting your own herb garden at home.
7. Listen for hunger cues
So long, intermittent fasting trends and outdated “three meals a day” rules! We strive to let go of rules, including when we should or shouldn’t eat food and how much we should eat. Instead of forcing yourself to eat three meals a day or five small meals a day (or whatever the latest trend is), eat only when you’re hungry. Feed yourself nutritious meals and focus on giving your body enough energy to get through the day, whatever that looks like for you. Likewise, instead of eating what someone else recommends (whether it’s your mom, a restaurant, or the recommendations on the package), eat until you’re satisfied and not full. Find the amount, time and way of eating that best suits your body and lifestyle.
8. Sprinkle seeds on everything
If you haven’t used the seed food group, you are seriously missing out. Seeds like chia, flax seeds and pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouseswhich contains a wide range of vitamins, antioxidants and minerals such as calcium, zinc and magnesium. I sprinkle flax seeds on basically anything (yes, even dishes like pasta and salads), but you can also try adding chia seeds to smoothies, snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds, and sprinkling sesame seeds on skillets.
9. Include more water-rich foods in your diet
Drinking water is so old school (but like also crucial so keep it up); you can eat your water too. Eating foods rich in water is the secret to long and lasting hydration (and a a glow lit from within). Add more plants to your water bottle, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, romaine lettuce, and berries, all of which are rich in water. Watermelon is one of the most hydrating foods you can eat (no surprise where it gets its name) that has water content 92%. Foods that contain water hydrate your body like plain old H2O, but they also add extra nutrients from fruits and vegetables.
10. Try one new vegetable every week
You probably have the same menu that you know, love, and go back to every single week when you head to your local Trader Joe’s or Whole foods. While a list is necessary for us busy girls (and my fellow lazy gals), it doesn’t always offer the most inventive meals or the most nutrient-dense. Challenge yourself to try one different vegetarian dish that you’ve never tried before.
Maybe you saw a delicious pumpkin recipe and have never cooked pumpkin, maybe you see beets at the grocery store and google how to make them, or maybe you come across a new leafy green at the market that you’ve never tried. Not only does trying new things (or cooking) make your meals more exciting, but a greater variety of foods also means a greater variety of nutrients. Plus, you might like something so much that it ends up on your grocery list.
11. Fill most of your plate with foods that come from the earth
Instead of sticking to the 80/20 rule or limiting yourself to a plant-based diet if that feels too restrictive, consider eating “plant-forward.” While this title definitely sounds a little silly, the idea is that you can highlight and celebrate nutritious foods, but you don’t have to limit yourself to them. Instead of measuring, tracking, or limiting, make sure the majority of your plate comes from the earth (not a factory), whether that looks like fruits, vegetables, whole grains (like oats, rice, and quinoa), or nuts and seeds. You load up on foods that make you feel good without restricting yourself from what you eat.
12. Add fiber to your diet
While fiber isn’t the sexiest nutrient (protein and fat get all the attention!), it’s one of the most important. And yet only about 5% of the country’s population meets daily fiber recommendations. Fiber is the part of food that the body cannot break down, so it passes through the entire digestive tract and helps keep it healthy. But fiber has benefits more than just bowel health and regularity (even if those are good enough). Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and seeds.
13. Eat a rainbow
No, I’m not talking about Skittles. You learned in middle school science class that plants get their colors from antioxidants, so it makes sense to eat all the colors to get all the antioxidants your body needs, right? Includes all red (tomatoes, apples, red bell pepper), blue (blueberries, blackberries, blue potatoes), orange (sweet potato, squash, tangerines), green (leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, zucchini), yellow (spaghetti squash, bananas, corn) and purple ( purple cabbage, eggplant, grapes) is the easiest (and prettiest) way to ensure you get plenty of phytonutrients and a full spectrum of vitamins, minerals and amino acids. Try adding at least three different colors to each meal, or include every color of the rainbow when grocery shopping.
14. Let yourself enjoy the foods you love
You may think that deficiency helps you avoid “bad” foods, but in reality, deficiency creates a deficiency mentality, which means you’re more likely to eat said food when you do, or more importantly, not really enjoy your life. This isn’t just warm and fuzzy body positivity, it’s a physical health hack to help your body feel its best. When we remove the “good” and “bad” labels around foods, we can listen to what the body really wants. We begin to crave foods that help us live, while consciously enjoying foods we never want to live without.
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