Approaching Small Changes to Healthy Eating

Tips on Healthy Eating Habits

Small Ways to Eat Healthier in the New Year

Since the month of January has primarily been known as a starting point for adopting good habits, we’ve been talking about all sorts of positive changes in my last few blogs. To round out the month, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least touch on the topic of healthy eating.

First, I would like to welcome you to a judgment-free zone. Healthy eating to each person means different things.  Some people take restrictive eating to an extreme level, while others feel like the act feels precisely like “DIE” with a “T” stuck on the end. Some of us fall right in between. Do you know who is the most successful at healthy eating? The ones that know their limitations, and know their strengths. Those who have a realistic approach to the whole thing.

Some of the best advice that could be out there, however, is the approach of the “small change”. This is a good concept because you know what? Small changes add up over time. It’s just like when you save all your loose small change from cash purchases (or money found in pockets from the laundry!). If you put it in one place, keep adding to it, and forget about it for a while…eventually you will have an amount that is significant.

The same can be said when you approach a healthy lifestyle - small changes are everything.  Not to discount big changes, but as great as big changes are, they also can be difficult to keep going long-term. Small changes, however, once you start, become hard to stop. One small change leads to another, and then to another, and before you know it, several small changes add up to a big result.

What are some small changes in a healthy lifestyle that can add up to some big results?

Drinks: Switch out calorie-filled drinks for water. Water is the ultimate cleanser.  It helps your body work better, your skin look better, and overall, it helps you feel better.  Limit coffee - which is a great dehydrator. You don’t have to cut it out, just limit it.  If you drink 4 cups a day, cut down to two.  You could even substitute a coffee-flavored protein drink instead.

Snacks: We all have our favorites.  Are there similar things that give you the same satisfaction of crunch or sweetness that are just a little bit better?  If not, when you purchase your favorite snack, portion it out immediately into small-sized portions in individual bags.  Label each bag with a particular day to eat them.  Not only will this make what you purchase last longer, but it also keeps you from eating multiple bags simultaneously, since you will want to refrain from eating your next day's snacks.  Need a chocolate fix?  Buy snack size instead of full size.

Meals: Protein and things that are green are key. Try to make protein your largest portion, things that are green from there, carbs next, and so on. One trick of the eye is to use a smaller plate when dishing out your dinner. By using a salad-sized plate instead of a dinner-sized plate, you can fill it up, and immediately know you are eating less. This helps make smaller portions look bigger to your eyes.  Slow down and enjoy your meals as well.  This allows you to feel fuller faster, so you won’t be disappointed with your smaller portion.

Pack Your Lunch: If you are eating healthier meals in the evening, immediately after dinner, pack your lunch. Not only will this save you time, but by having your lunch prepacked, it will also deter you from picking out unhealthy selections while you are hungry in the morning. Bringing your lunch with you to work will also keep you from joining in on the office fast food run or eating out - which in turn can save you money.  It’s a Win-Win!

Planning & Prep: Do some meal planning before heading out to the grocery store. Having a list of what you are supposed to buy for your meals of the week will keep you from purchasing items not on your list, if you are disciplined. Stick to the list. Purchase most of your food from the “outer circle”. The produce department, the dairy department, and the meat department are all on the outer perimeter of the grocery store. A lot of the things that are not as healthy for you are located in the center of the store. Another good tip is to eat before you head out on any food-buying excursion. You will be less likely to stray from your list if you are shopping on a full stomach.

Go the Distance: Park in a far parking spot at the store. We all might be accustomed to parking as close to the Target door as possible, especially in cold weather, but by parking further out, it makes your steps add up.  After you eat lunch at work, get up and walk around your building.  It doesn’t have to be a high-powered walk, but just getting your body moving is a plus. As the weather warms and the evenings are lighter and longer, a nice stroll after dinner is a great way to round out the evening. Most of us are stuck indoors throughout the day, so you may find yourself enjoying stepping outside for some fresh air.

Get Your Rest: Studies show that sleep is essential for a healthy lifestyle.  Eight hours is ideal, but at least try to squeeze in seven solid hours per night. Limiting screen time before bed, and also not making it your first go-to if you happen to wake up in the middle of the night is important. When it is time to sleep, it is time to sleep.

Whatever changes you decide to make, if any, are completely up to you. This is certainly not a comprehensive list at all, so if there are others that have worked for you, I would love to hear about them. The important thing to remember is that change comes with time, and it is on no one's clock but your own.

I wish the best for each one of you!

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