Say goodbye to diet culture. You can look good and feel your best without restricting yourself or obsessing over what you eat. Food is the foundation of life, and it is meant to be enjoyed. Don’t let unattainable or unrealistic beauty standards dictate your menu; those days are over! Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, and so do health and wellness. Say hello to living (and eating) on your own terms, shaped by what makes you feel good, which ultimately results in you looking good too!
1. Slow Down
Sometimes our busy schedules keep us on our toes at all times. We may end up eating on the run, never really sitting down and taking the time to enjoy a meal. When we are mindful of what goes into our bodies, we have the awareness to make the best choices from what’s available.
Try eating in a pleasant atmosphere, with minimal distractions, and avoid looking at your phone while eating. Slowing down can also mean you may reach for healthier options. Taking the time to enjoy every bite (and actually chewing your food) will help you feel more satisfied and also promote better digestion. Studies show that slower eaters need less food to feel full. Simply slowing down can change your entire relationship with food. By really focusing on what you are eating, you will not only enjoy your food more; you may even find yourself making healthier food choices.
2. Focus on Nutrients, Not Calories
By thinking about the quality rather than quantity, you can fulfill your body’s needs without trying to limit all the good stuff! Rather than focus on calories, which are just measurements of energy, focus on getting the most nutrient-dense foods into your diet. By increasing the amount of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats you consume, you can ensure that your body has everything it needs to function properly and maintain healthy energy throughout the day. You may even be able to avoid that “constantly hungry” feeling. If your body isn’t getting everything it needs, it may be sending out extra hunger signals to seek out the nutrients that your body craves.
3. Listen to Your Body
Learn to tune in to what makes you feel good. Maybe that kale salad sounds super healthy, but if it doesn’t agree with your stomach or you never feel full enough, change it up or add to it. Just because your favorite food blogger or some health “expert” promotes a certain kind of diet, that doesn’t mean it’s right for you. This can be hard for people because there are so many mixed messages surrounding our bodies and food, so we learn to ignore the subtle signals our bodies send us. This is a skill that needs to be relearned and may take a little time.
4. Shop With a List
This one is good for a couple of reasons: one, you can avoid impulse buys of less healthy food options, and two, you can plan ahead for healthy meals that will leave you satisfied and feeling good. Having ingredients on hand to make balanced meals can dramatically change how you eat. Constant snacking sometimes results from not eating a well-balanced meal, leaving you unsatisfied and always searching for more. Having a really good solid meal planned ahead of time can help you avoid hovering around the refrigerator looking for something or the disappointment of feeling like there is “nothing to eat.”
5. Cook at Home More Often
Nothing beats a good home-cooked meal. Cooking at home can help you avoid any sneaky ingredients that might not be so healthy. Even if it’s something simple, it will still be more nutritious than the fast-food version or what you find at a local diner. Cooking at home lets you make all the right choices about what goes into your meals and into your body.
6. Increase Your Protein Intake
No matter what kind of diet you eat, protein should be a priority. Although it could be argued that some people these days might be going a bit overboard on the protein side of things, getting enough protein is absolutely essential to health. Just how much protein is good for you is a highly debated topic, but generally, you want to be getting somewhere between 10%-35% of your calories from protein.
Having a high-quality source of protein first thing in the morning, such as Live Conscious® Organic Protein, can help you start the day feeling your best. Typical breakfast foods like cereal, bagels, toast, etc., just aren’t enough to keep you going for very long. Pairing these carb-rich foods with a good source of protein can help you avoid the midday slump and give your body and brain fuel to run on.
7. Choose Whole Grain Options
Even if you’ve given up gluten, this is an important one. Not only do whole grains hold more nutrition than refined grain products, but they also break down slower in the body and help keep blood sugar steady. Refined grains and flours have had all of the bran, fiber, and most of the nutritional content removed to result in what is known as “white” flour. It is white because it’s mostly starch and lacks most, if not all, of the nutritious qualities found in whole, unrefined grains.
Whole grains leave you feeling fuller longer while providing lots of b-vitamins, minerals, and important kinds of fiber. Be sure to look at the ingredient labels of bread, pasta, tortillas, etc., and make sure that it is actually made entirely of or at least a majority of whole grains. Some products could boast “made with whole wheat” or “made with ancient grains,” but that could be just one of the ingredients and may not represent the entirety of the product.
For those avoiding gluten, this may be an even more important concept to be aware of. A lot of gluten-free products are made with refined rice flour or other super starchy flour that are not always that great for your health. Yes, it may be free of gluten, but that doesn’t mean it’s healthy! Look for options that have whole-grain gluten-free flours, such as sorghum, quinoa, and buckwheat.
8. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated throughout the day has tons of benefits, and if you are trying to eat healthier, it can help to ward off feelings of “hunger” that might actually be your body saying, “I’m thirsty.” Your body could receive mixed-up signals, and a lot of people reach for whatever snack might be available rather than giving the body what it really needs — hydration.
Drinking fluids about 30 minutes before a meal can help you keep from eating more than you actually need. This habit can help encourage signals being sent to the brain that tell it you are full. Be careful not to turn to sugary sports drinks, sodas, or even fruit juice if you feel thirsty. Instead, opt for good old-fashioned water or another low sugar option.
9. Bake or Roast Food Instead of Grilling or Frying
Now, we’re not here to say you can’t ever have french fries (who doesn’t love them?), but don’t make fried foods a predominant part of your daily diet. When foods are grilled or fried, some compounds are transformed into something called heterocyclic amines, which may be linked to changes in our DNA. It’s still a bit inconclusive what the long-term effects of these changes are, but most scientists and nutritionists agree that it isn’t a good thing. Baking, roasting, or even air frying (with the right kind of oils) are the way to go and provide a healthier way of preparing food.
10. Eat Your Greens
Eat something green every single day! Our bodies need the green stuff to function at the optimal level. Whether it’s kale, spinach, or mixed baby greens, try to incorporate them into your life on a daily basis or at least a few days a week. They provide lots of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and can easily be thrown into a smothie or made into a quick salad. Other green foods are just as important. Things like broccoli, zucchini, artichokes, and herbs like parsley and cilantro are bursting with nutrients, beneficial fibers, and antioxidants.
If you aren’t always able to get some veggies in, you can try a daily greens supplement to make up for any gaps in your daily diet. Beyond Greens® is blended with chlorella, one of the most nutrient-dense foods ever. You can use this blend on its own, just mixed into water, or add it to your favorite smoothie or fresh-pressed juice. Quick, healthy options are great to have on hand for those days when you just can’t squeeze everything in. No one ever said eating healthy had to be complicated!
11. Eat Fruits Instead of Drinking Them
Although fresh-pressed juices can be very nutritious, a lot of fruit juices are high in sugar which negates a lot of the vitamins and minerals. Juicing also removes all of the great fibers that fruit provides that benefit your digestive system and overall health. A lot of the nutrients found in fruits are actually in the skin, so juicing them throws out all the good stuff. Beyond that, most juices are pasteurized, which kills off most of the good enzymes and some of the heat-sensitive nutrients (like vitamin C).
12. Choose Popcorn Instead of Chips
To get that satisfying salty and savory fix, reach for nature’s ultimate snack. Popcorn is truly a magnificent creation and a whole grain that is high in fiber. Get creative with it and try adding fun toppings to keep it interesting. Try parmesan, garlic, or something spicy like cayenne pepper or roasted jalapeno powder. You can even go sweet with it, with a bit of cinnamon and sugar or your favorite pumpkin pie spice blend. There are even a lot of high-quality pre-popped, store-bought types available. Look for something that doesn’t have hydrogenated oils, excess sugar, or artificial flavorings.
13. Cook With Healthier Oils
Ditch the processed vegetable oils and make a grab for oils that have beneficial fatty acid compounds. What are vegetable oils anyways? They aren’t really from veggies at all but usually come from soy, corn, canola, peanut, and cottonseed oil. Most of these oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids, which most people get too much of already. These oils generally come from genetically modified crops heavily dependent on pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Besides being awful for the earth, all of those chemicals aren’t so great for our bodies either.
When cooking for high heat, go for oils such as avocado, coconut, sunflower, or safflower oil. Olive oil can be used for cooking or baking, but you want to keep it at lower temperatures. For salad dressings or other recipes that won’t be heated, try hemp oil or flaxseed oil. These oxidize very quickly, so they need to be refrigerated and are sensitive to heat. Both are high in omega-3 fatty acids and can be added to smoothies, drizzled in oatmeal, or used instead of butter on popcorn.
14. Drink Your Coffee and Tea Black
Rather than add sugar or cream to your morning caffeine fix, try drinking it without any additions. If you are making your coffee at home, a little touch of sugar and cream won’t hurt, but if you usually get your coffee drinks made at a coffee shop with all of the bells and whistles, you may be getting more than you bargained for. For one Starbucks Frappuccino, there are32 grams (or about 8 teaspoons) of sugar. Their Chai Tea Latte is 45 grams (or almost 11 teaspoons) of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar to start the day with!
Try adding just a touch of honey and coconut sugar, which are still essentially sugar, but they have added qualities that make them a bit more healthful than typical white processed sugar. You can also go with something like monk fruit or stevia powder if you are trying to keep your sugar levels low.
Waking Up To Wellness
If you are ready to throw out restrictive diets but still want to eat healthy and feel your best, there are many ways to increase health without limiting yourself. There is a lot of confusing information out there, but it really comes down to eating right for your own body. Health goes way beyond numbers on a scale, and wellness is a journey that is unique to each individual. Health and beauty go hand in hand. Make great choices by tuning in to what your body needs and providing yourself with options that fuel your busy lifestyle with the nutrients that keep you feeling and looking your best.