Recently, I read an article. And, not to say that it’s a bad article. Because it’s not, and I think ultimately the article presents fairly sound advice about food and nutrition.
But it got me thinking. How many articles are out there like this, articles that provide debased information about nutrition? How many articles attempt to oversimplify potentially complicated nutritional concepts into ‘5 easy ways to lose 5 lbs’ or some other catchy title?
The short answer is, there is a A LOT of misinformation out there about healthy eating and nutrition. Self-proclaimed health ‘gurus’ tend to oversimplify a lot of nutritional concepts into generic statements like ‘it’s all about calories in vs. calories out,’ or ‘if you count carbs, you can eat whatever you want.’ And again, there is SOME truth to these statements, because calories do matter and carbohydrate does play a role in reaching a healthy weight.
And that’s why I wanted to take some time to provide you with simple, smart, and REAL ways to eat healthier that actually work. You don’t need to buy any fancy foods or eat organic or anything like that. These are real tips that have worked for me and my clients. Moreover, there is a ton of overwhelming evidence from healthcare professionals that confirms what I’m about to tell you.
These ways might not sound glamorous or super chic or like something Jessica Alba does every morning, but I can tell you that they have worked for my clients and me. Make these changes, and you will notice changes in your health.
1. Eat More Plants
I don’t want to make this super complicated and say you need to have X servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Everyone is different and has different nutritional needs. But here are some basic guidelines to follow regarding fruits and vegetables:
- Go for color→ Green is great, but that doesn’t mean you only need to eat spinach, kale, and other green veggies. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner, you plate should have a variety of colors. You don’t need to eat the rainbow all day, every day, but simple swaps like rotating your breakfast fruits in the morning is a great way to get variety.
- There is no superior fruit or vegetable→ The idea that blueberries are somehow ‘superior’ to grapes or oranges is a downright falsehood. I get questions from clients all the time asking about which fruits are best or the ‘most healthy’. The answer is all fruits and vegetables are good for you. What’s more important is how they’re prepared. Zucchini is a great vegetable, but if you deep fry it you’re kind of missing the point. Opt for steaming, roasting, and sautéing over frying or breading.
- Works plants into all your meals and snacks→ Does it ever feel like 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables is damn near impossible to eat in a single day? Try working them into your breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Cereal isn’t that bad if you add berries or a banana, right? And that sandwich you eat every day—why can’t you add some veggies to it? Instead of boxed pasta with jarred sauce, couldn’t you add some mushrooms and peppers to that dish?
2. Reduce Processed Food Consumption
I completely realize that I’m not the first person to speak out against processed food. Frank Lipman talks about it all the time. Put simply, if you’re trying to eat healthier, processed food is not something you should be consuming a ton of.
I know it’s convenient and easy, and sure sometimes it tastes great. But processed food is loaded with sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, additives, preservatives, and other artificial ingredients that just aren’t good for you. Am I going to say you need to make everything from scratch and eat 100% clean? No, because even I buy bottled salad dressing and prewashed greens. The point is, cut back on food processing when you can. Do you really need to buy those cookies? Or can you find a suitable alternative/recipe online?
If you’re still struggling to break your junk food habit, check out this great video by Mark Hyman:
3. Strive For Balance
Photo Credit: Well & Good
This is one point I can’t emphasize enough. I have had many clients over the years that do what I call ‘feast or famine.’ That is, they either try to eat clean and perfectly 24/7, then gorge on all sorts of junk foods for days or even weeks. They feel like they’re constantly going back and forth between being super strict and super unhealthy. Sound familiar?
Even as a personal trainer and nutrition coach, I myself sometimes get caught up in eating healthy, trying to make sure each meal is perfect. But remember this: no single meals makes or breaks you. Having pizza instead of a salad once a month is not going to ruin all your hard work. Having pizza instead of salad every night for a month straight, however, is going to detrimentally impact your health. For more information on this, check out an article I wrote not too long ago about binging and overeating.
Striving for balance can mean different things to different people. I had a client once who ate healthy 80% of the time, but allowed for treats and other foods she really enjoyed 20% of the time. I had another client who was convinced a cheat meal on Sunday nights helped fuel his muscles for his next week of heavy weight training. Ultimately, ask yourself if you feel good about your diet. Do you feel satisfied? Do you miss certain foods?
4. Remake Healthy Versions of Your Favorite Foods
This strive for balance brings me to another point: comfort foods? If there are foods that you really want to keep into your diet, you can totally make them healthier. Again, I have many clients who adopt an all or nothing approach to nutrition. I always advocate that instead of depriving themselves of their favorite foods, they try to remake healthy versions of these foods.
Cruise Pinterest for five minutes and you can healthy zucchini lasagna, 5-ingredient quinoa mac and cheese, and even these skinny buffalo turkey sliders. So basically, with a little research and planning, you can certainly make your favorite foods on a regular basis so that you can still eat healthy without feeling deprived.
5. Use Water and Other Beverages As a Way to Sneak Nutrients In
Photo Credit: Modern Hippie Housewife
You strive for eight glasses of water a day, right? If so, that’s great! But did you know there are some easy ways to sneak more nutrients into your water and other low-cal beverages? Try adding vitamins, antioxidants, and other nutrients through these simple methods.
- Infuse your water→ There are so many ways to add nutrients to your daily water bottle. Surely you’ve heard of adding lemon to your water. But also give ginger slices, cardamom seeds, goji berries, and even barberries a try. These add-ons are simple ways to work vitamin C, antioxidants, and other health enhancing nutrients that can help you lose weight, reduce inflammation, and boost immunity.
- Drink herbal tea→ Every day, I try to drink at least two cups of herbal, non-caffeinated tea a day. The first is usually a decaf green tea, which I drink to give me a healthy dose of antioxidants. The second is another caffeine-free herbal tea that I normally drink in the evenings to help me wind down and relax. Turmeric, ginger, rose, and even ashwaganda have made their ways into my evening herbal teas over the years. Mix and match different varieties based on how you’re feeling each day. This way, you stay hydrated AND get some health-boosting herbal supplements.
Try any (or all) of these simple tweaks to reveal a healthier, happier you 🙂