Eating healthy can be challenging if you’ve gone your whole life not knowing how to do it.
All my life I’ve had a love-hate relationship with food. I’ve done yo-yo dieting, binging, and severely limiting my calories. But after working with a few personal trainers as an adult, I discovered one big problem: I didn’t know how to eat healthy.
It’s been a journey. And I’m still far from perfect. But I have learned some great guidelines for how to eat healthy. Here are four easy ways to start eating healthy.
1. Eat a Variety of Foods
Our bodies need a variety of nutrients to thrive. Eating a variety of healthy foods will make sure that your body gets all the nutrients it needs.
I often hear people complain, “I hate eating healthy foods.” After my own wild battle with healthy eating, my answer to this is: “You haven’t experienced enough healthy food to find the ones you like.”
If you’re struggling to eat healthy, you need to start trying different foods. You’d be surprised by what foods you like.
And, it’s okay to have healthy foods you don’t enjoy. That’s why a variety is important. You can still get all the nutrients you need from a different food.
For example, I hate kale. I think it’s disgusting. But I love spinach. Both are leafy greens and they provide similar nutrients. But anything spinach lacks I can get from a source other than kale.
2. Balance Your Macros
There are three macronutrients your body needs: carbs, fat, and protein. Your body needs all three of these to thrive. They’re all important. So strive to eat meals and snacks that give you a good balance of all three.
Some fitness gurus can get a little intense about macros. Which is fine because they have ambitious goals. But for the average person who’s just trying to eat healthy, aim to balance your macros.
Growing up, the majority of what my family ate was carbs. My lack of protein left me constantly feeling hungry. Which caused me to overeat very easily.
There was a time when I was working out a lot and focusing on only eating protein. My lack of carbs made me feel lightheaded and dizzy.
You can deep dive into more intense guidelines for macros. But for general healthy eating, strive to have all three macronutrients present in each meal or snack.
3. Redefine Your Food
One of the most beneficial healthy eating guidelines I’ve done is to redefine my food. This has also been very crucial in helping my kids learn how to eat healthy, too.
I categorize all my food into three groups: meals, snacks, and treats. Meals are foods you eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner. For example: omelettes, soup, and grilled chicken.
Snacks are food items with nutritional value. For example: apple slices, a bowl of almonds, and carrot sticks.
Treats are everything else that has little to no nutritional value. For example: cookies, candy, chips, and ice cream.
For my babies and myself, we can eat food from all three categories. Balance is key, right? But we have guidelines for when we can and cannot eat them. For example, when we first wake up, it’s time for a meal. Not a treat. If it’s the afternoon and we’re hungry, we eat a snack. If we want a treat, we can only eat one after we’ve finished our meal or had a snack first. It’s important that we want the treat for fun. Not because we are hungry. If we’re hungry, it’s time for a meal or a snack instead.
Again, it’s okay to indulge in treats. But healthy eating requires us to meet our body’s nutritional needs first.
Growing up, I’d come home from school and feel hungry. So I’d grab a bag of chips or a Fruit Roll-Up for a “snack.” Now I define these items as treats, not a snack. They don’t provide any of the nutritional value needed to satisfy hunger.
4. Drink Water
I cannot stress enough how important drinking water is to healthy eating. You can only last three days without water. It is the most important nutrient you can put in your body. Your body is 70% water. You need it.
I am baffled when people say they don’t like drinking water. This points to a lifelong experience of drinking sugary or flavored drinks. Now you only crave these drinks.
But most American adults go throughout their day being dehydrated. This leads to many problems like fatigue, headaches, inability to concentrate, muscle cramps, and more.
You need to drink at least half your bodyweight in ounces every day. So if you weigh 200lbs, you need to be drinking at least 100oz of water every single day.
BONUS: No Junk Food
Now, now. Hear me out. I’ve read a lot about healthy eating over the years. And every time an article said “No Processed Foods,” I would just skip on by to the next section.
“No Processed Foods”? That’s impossible. But, this fall I decided to try it. As of writing this article, I have gone 64 days without junk food like cookies, ice cream, candy, chips, french fries, packaged snacks, and more. Yes, I’ve lost about nine pounds since then, but that isn’t even the best part.
For years I have struggled with extreme fatigue. Every afternoon I would get very lightheaded and dizzy. I’d have to lay down or take a nap every single day just to function. It was so frustrating. I tried everything to make my fatigue go away. I got more sleep at night, I lost weight, I tried thyroid medication, switching up my birth control, and starting the Mediterranean diet. None of it helped my fatigue.
But since I cut these foods out, I haven’t struggled with fatigue. It’s been life changing. I can go each day without needing to lie down in the afternoons.
You can still enjoy treats, like we discussed above. But I strongly encourage you to try going 60 days without junk food and see how you feel. (Most “cleanses” are 21 days. I suggest doing it for 60 days because I still craved all the junk food after 21 days without it).
Conclusion: You Can Do It!
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be hard or restrictive. But it can be challenging if you’ve gone your whole life not knowing how to eat healthy.
These guidelines are simple. Focus on eating a variety of food. Try to balance your macros. Relabel the food you eat. And drink lots of water. With these four guidelines, you won’t need to go on a restrictive diet to eat healthy.
If you enjoyed this article by Brindisi Olsen Bravo, you might also be interested in these: