Exercise and supplements have their part in weight loss, but you know the saying, "Abs are made in the kitchen".
The New Year is a chance to establish healthy (and sustainable) habits around eating, whether it is for weight loss or general health purposes. Eating well can lead to more energy, a stronger immune system, improved strength and endurance, and better gut health, sleep, and mood. A clean diet can also help improve skin and hair condition.
We generally find that the people who focus on these health benefits, and how clean eating makes them feel, are more likely to stay on track throughout the year than those eating clean solely for weight loss purposes. This is because weight loss isn’t always a nice steady journey. During those pesky weight loss plateaus it’s important to remember the other benefits of eating well so you’re not discouraged to give up.
If you’re ready to start making small changes to incorporate healthy eating into your lifestyle, follow these three simple tips to help make eating healthy the new normal in a few months time!
Have ingredients for quick, balanced meals on hand
It’s 5pm and hunger strikes - if you don’t already have the ingredients for a healthy meal on hand, it’s too easy to just eat whatever is readily available. Plan meals in advance and make sure that you buy the ingredients needed for these meals ahead of time.
Planning and prepping ahead for healthy meals seems like a pain, but it can actually be pretty simple. Just choose a couple of go-to meals, and stock up on their ingredients. Making more than enough for one meal is also a great way to make sure you have healthy options available when hunger hits. Leftover meat can be added to leafy greens kept in the fridge for a quick salad option. Eggs are great to keep on hand, along with canned tuna and quick cook rice. Make sure you always have plenty of fruit and vegetables available – pre-cut them ahead of time and store them in ziplock bags in the fridge for easy snacks!
Choose healthy take-out options
There are days when there just isn’t anything in the pantry or we don’t have time to put together even a quick meal. Perhaps it’s someone’s birthday or anniversary and you can’t avoid eating out. If you are going to order takeaways, or eat out, you can still eat well by identifying the healthy options ahead of time. (NB: While this is a good strategy to have, if you really want pizza or the creamy pasta, it’s okay to indulge on occasion!)
Depending on the takeaway chain or restaurant you’re ordering from there may be obvious healthier choices such as the Low Carborator from Burger Fuel, which is extra lettuce instead of the burger bun, or if it’s not a burger without the bun you could choose the smaller wholemeal bun instead of the large. Salads are usually a healthy alternative depending on the ingredients. Try to stay away from anything deep fried or covered in sauce.
If you haven’t planned ahead or aren’t sure what is the healthiest option – don’t panic! Just be mindful of how much you eat. One of the biggest reasons takeaways and restaurant meals derail our progress (or health) is that we usually overeat due to larger portion sizes or the food being too good! Try to eat until you’re full and save any leftovers for the next day.
Make a plan for sweets and alcoholAside from takeaway foods – the next two things most likely to derail us from healthy eating routines are alcohol and splurging on snack foods like cupcakes or potato chips. It’s not necessary to cut these completely out of your diet, they’re okay to indulge in occasionally but it’s best to have a plan.
For example, some people eat clean, healthy meals and avoid alcohol during the week, but will indulge on the weekends. Others might choose two different days based on regular social plans (or these days might change depending on the week).
If you know you’ve got a shared morning tea on Wednesday, you might decide to swap one of your weekend days to be a healthy eating day. The idea is to make healthy eating a sustainable lifestyle so we like to follow the 80/20 rule – 80% clean healthy eating rule, 20% … not so clean. If you eat healthily 100% of the time THAT’S GREAT. But if you slip up some of the time, that’s fine too! At the end of the day we’re all only human and sometimes it’s more important to enjoy life than worry about that cheat meal we shouldn’t have had.
Planning ahead which days will be your relaxed or “cheat” days makes it easier to pass up the temptations on the other days. If you know you’re going out for dinner (and dessert) on Saturday night, you’re less likely to be tempted by the cake at work. You’re not depriving yourself of deliciousness, and boy does dessert taste so much better when you’ve waited all week for it.