I have been struggling with healthy eating lately (my sweet tooth gets the best of me, and cookies, cakes, and even the kids’ candy are just too tempting), so I asked my friend, Laura, from Little Bits of Granola, to share some of her best tips for eating well. Laura blogs about simple and natural living, and she’s written several posts with tips to eat better.
Can I make a confession? I love junk food. There, I said it. I love chips and cookies and crackers. I love pizza and french fries and tacos. I’m a real junk-food-junkie. Eating well is not easy for me.
I’ve tried hard to develop healthy eating habits over the years. It’s just not something that comes naturally to me, no matter how badly I want to be healthy. Luckily, I’ve figured out some simple ways to make eating healthfully easier, even when it feels really really hard.
Make no mistake, though. There is no silver bullet for those junk food cravings. It’s still a challenge for me, even when I’m at my best. But these little tricks do help make it easier for me, and I hope they’ll help you, too!
1. Define what “eating well” means to you.
I didn’t realize how important this was until I was challenged to actually give it some thought. But it makes sense. If you don’t know what eating well means, how do you know whether or not you’re doing it?
The great thing is that you get to define this for yourself. YOU get to decide what eating well is and what it isn’t. And it is different for everyone. For some people, eating well means whole foods, nothing processed. For some, it means eating paleo or gluten free or vegetarian. And for some it simply means balancing healthy foods with less healthy treats.
Define what eating well means to you and write it down. Put it somewhere you’ll see it regularly, like in your planner or on your refrigerator. You’ll know right away if a food is in line with your eating well definition so you won’t be able to convince yourself otherwise – like when I try to tell myself carrot cake is basically veggies. (I kid. Sort of. 😉 )
2. Plan your meals and snacks.
I am a big time meal planner. I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: meal planning helps me stay sane as a busy mom! It also saves money. But besides all that, it is a huge help when it comes to healthy eating. I know I’m much less likely to just order a pizza when I’ve already got dinner planned!
This helps with snacking too. I know some people say to stay away from snacking, but I can’t do that. If I let myself get too hungry, I start making poor food choices (and I become rather unpleasant). So I usually have a small snack between meals. The key is to keep them small and healthy. Plan them ahead of time so you know what to buy while grocery shopping and you don’t have to make a choice when it comes time to choose a snack. The choice is already made for you because you planned ahead.
3. Use a tracking system.
This can be super simple, like just writing down what you eat each day in a notebook. Or it can be as sophisticated as using a service or app that calculates points or calories for you. The idea is the same. Tracking helps keep you aware of what you are putting in your body. When you know that you’ll have to add that cookie to your tracking system, you are less likely to overindulge!
Using a tracking system has been, by far, my most effective method for losing weight after having a baby. Baby Boy was born 10 weeks ago today, and I’ve lost just over 30 pounds. But if sticking with healthy eating habits is a challenge for you, it’s a good idea to track what you eat every day, even when you aren’t trying to lose weight.
4. Know yourself.
Gretchen Rubin talks about “abstainers” and “moderators”. Abstainers are those who do best to just completely avoid temptation. If your weakness is cookies, you are better off if you avoid cookies altogether. In fact, for abstainers, it is actually easier to give up guilty pleasures than to try to enjoy them in moderation.
Moderators are essentially the opposite. They do best when they allow themselves to indulge a little treat every now and then. It is easier for a moderator to stay with a healthy habit if they can treat themselves now and then rather than abstain completely.
Which are you? I am a moderator have found that knowing this is a huge help when trying to eat well.
5. Give yourself grace.
No one is perfect and you are bound to get off track at some point. Forgive yourself, resolve to do better, and move on. Dwelling on a past indulgence isn’t going to undo it. In fact, if you’re like me, dwelling just feeds feelings of guilt and makes me susceptible to over-indulging again. But gracefully moving forward allows you to start again. You can always start again. Every time you eat, you have the chance to start again with a healthy choice.
If you are looking for more articles on healthy eating, you may enjoy these two over on Little Bits of Granola: