So you are in the healthy living club now. You’ve educated yourself about how unpredictably health damaging your poor eating habits could be, you care deeply and decided to make a move towards a ban of all of your favorite packaged, sugar-stuffed, chemically processed, or in other way harmful, indulgences. That is a huge jump in the unknown. I’ve been there and I know how overwhelming the temptations to go back to your old you could be. It might seem impossible to follow an entirely healthy eating pattern avoiding all harmful ingredients. But it all starts with small steps until it gets an inevitable part of your lifestyle, your thinking and…just a routine you don’t need to pay special attention to. I’m sharing a few tips that really worked for me.
Let Fruits and Vegetables Be the First Thing You See On Entering Your Kitchen
Keep a variety of fruits and vegetables on a prominent spot in your kitchen – carefully washed, beautifully arranged, inviting and ready for a delicious bite. Let them remind you of the path you’ve taken. This habit will help you achieve the recommended 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Often change the type of fruits in the bowl, add new every other day, try some you’ve never tried before. Let this be your bowl of curiosity that keeps you on track. For me, it decreases the number of sudden junk food surges as a healthier option is always at hand. If you’re trying to lose weight, however, be careful with the quantity. For example, don’t eat avocado like you consume other vegetables. It is a wonderful food, but the average avocado (200 gr) gives you about 320 calories. Imagine if you ate 3-4 of them per day.
Don’t Store In Your Fridge Any Food You Don’t Want To Eat
If you know that your favorite full of sugar, preservatives and color additives cookie or salty fatty snack is just a fridge door pull away, it will be hard to stick to your healthy plan for too long. But don’t make yourself feel like being punished, either. If your bowl of fruits doesn’t work, allow yourself some indulgences. Or you might end up having nightmares about harmful chocolate cookies or fries trying to claw their way to your plate. Learn how to incorporate nutrient-rich foods in delicious raw desserts that, in fact, don’t differ much in taste from commercially available ones. And, even taste better. Don’t eat too many of them either. Let quality trumps quantity every single time.
Prepare On-the-Go Homemade Snacks and Bites
The day goes by. The workload is overwhelming, you’re stressed…or bored. And you find yourself inching closer and closer to that vending machine for one of those delicious forbidden bars you adore. “I’ll share it with fellow colleagues, not a big deal.”, you whisper. And you end up eating two of them all by yourself.
Instead, you could set off some time during the weekend to prepare compact and easy-to-carry homemade all-natural no preservatives cookies or raw cacao or cereal bars. If that makes sense for you, keep an apple or banana on your office desk, or raw nuts if you’re not specifically aiming at losing weight.
Always Check Labels for Harmful Ingredients
Most packaged and processed foods in your grocery store or supermarket feature a long list of ingredients many of which with proven or suggested negative health impact. The easiest for you would be to avoid processed foods and choose those that are in the most natural state possible. This means avoiding convenience food or tertiary processed food, the pre-made or frozen meals, as well as added sugar-rich foods like cookies and cakes, you name it.
If your days are as busy as mine, you’ll probably try to let this advice past your ears. But try to focus for a second on the benefits of cooking your own meal. You might reconsider. First, you know exactly what you put in it (following the steps described above and below it should be good for your body). Second, homemade food always tastes better – just remember the nostalgic delicious scent of your grandma’s kitchen. Third, it saves money – eating homemade foods is usually much cheaper than eating at a restaurant, for example. And it could save time either if you plan ahead. You could spend some time cooking in bulk during your weekend and eat the surplus later in the week. Don’t forget to add spices in order to reduce the need for adding more salt.
Be sure to know where your food comes from. Look for the USDA organic label to ensure the quality of the ingredients (or whole fruits and vegetables). The organic label can guarantee a level of certainty that the food has been grown without synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, through sustainable biologically based farming methods to the fullest extent possible. Farmers are allowed to use pesticides but strict requirements control what and how will be used. The substance intended for use must first be approved according to criteria that examine its effects on human health and the environment. With processed multi-ingredient foods, the certification suggests organically processed foods don’t contain artificial preservatives, colors, or flavors and require that their ingredients are organic, with some minor exceptions. (1)
Visit Local Organic Farms and Talk to Farmers
Since fruits and vegetables are supposed to constitute no less than half your daily food supply, try to stick to organic as much as possible to avoid loading your body with unknown amounts of pesticides. Research local organic farms, visit organic markets. Choose small organic farms that offer a visit before buy. This will give you the amazing opportunity to meet the people who work for your food, ask questions and, in a way, build a connection with your food. The latter is especially important for the way you perceive food and the process of eating itself.
Try Mindful Eating
The concept of mindful eating has roots in Buddhist teachings. It’s based on the idea of being fully aware of what is happening within and around you at the moment. Use all your senses in choosing to eat food that is both delicious for you and nourishing to your body.(2) Find ways to slow down and eat intentionally, not for comfort, but following your body’s signals. There are so many important details about your food you could try pay attention to – the spices flavor, the lemon tinge, the variety of colors and textures… Try thinking about what’s in your meal and where it comes from. Each food has its story. In simple words, make a commitment to appreciating and enjoying the food you eat every day.
Read a Lot. But Be Critical and Wise
Being aware of the latest trends, research and studies is very useful for making informed choices. It’s good to remind yourself from time to time why you’ve made your choice to say “goodbye” to harmful food. But be critical, carefully choose what you read and compare information from different credible sources. If you are not sure about how certain new foods would impact your health, or if you have a specific health condition you need to take into consideration, or you need a medical advice, don’t search the web. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a treatment and diet. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.
Be Tolerant: Don’t Act Like You Are Part of a Sect
Don’t let all you say or do revolve around your lifestyle and diet changes. You are probably aware that all you say about food and toxic ingredients will naturally face some bias and you’ll often be subject to criticism. No one likes being criticized, so in order to avoid getting discouraged in your new path or bring about negative emotions, don’t criticize, either. When invited to a friend’s house or at a party, be polite, eat what you’re served and try not to polemize on what the possible effects on your blood pressure or digestive system might be. Also, don’t feel guilty about it.
Bonus tips for beginners! Always go shopping with a list, don’t stray away. Don’t take your kid with you, if you have one. This will definitely end up entirely striking out your initial plan.
While not pretending to be diet guidelines, my rules for avoiding harmful foods might still provide the bedrock that you could govern around your eating and grocery shopping behavior and habits. They might help you in switching to a healthy eating pattern the way they did for me. Remember – your diet change won’t happen overnight. Nothing worthwhile ever does. I don’t know if avoiding certain foods and adopting a healthy lifestyle will make you live longer or better. But the feeling of steering your life in the direction you want to travel in is rewarding enough.