It can be overwhelming to think about all the changes we ‘should’ be making in our diets, and feeling overwhelmed just adds unnecessary stress to our lives. So, instead of feeling stressed about eating right, start slow, and remember that every choice counts—even baby steps in the right direction.
I have broken down some of the basics of moving toward a healthier diet and lifestyle. Whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, come back to this list and see what simple steps you can take to get yourself on track. You may notice that the list is not composed of specific foods, but rather of lifestyle habits—think about your diet as just one part of your health. How you eat is an easy way to improve your diet without changing anything. Of course the ultimate goal is to incorporate healthful foods and remove the junk from our diets, but here are some easy first steps:
I come from an Italian family, and when we sit down for meals, it is a race to see who can eat the most the fastest—this is not a joke, nor is it a good thing. It does not matter about the quality of food on the table, if you are eating too quickly and eating too much, it is not going to be good for you. Take the time to chew your food properly; there should be no chunks of food to choke down when you swallow. Try counting up to ten chews at minimum—while possibly unenjoyable at first, it will bring awareness to both how quickly and how much you are eating.
It’s all in the ratio
Look at the ratio on your plate every day. Ideally, your plate will be half vegetables, one quarter whole grains or starch, and one quarter protein source. So if you are having grilled chicken and potatoes for dinner, make sure that there is room on half of your plate for veggies, for example broccoli and a mixed green salad with fresh tomatoes and cucumbers. It is an easy way to remember to eat your vegetables!
Wait before you ask for seconds
This ties in with rule one—slow down. It can take your body up to 20 minutes to realize you are full, so before you reach for a second serving, make sure you actually need it.
Drink a large glass of water 30 minutes before a meal, and limit your intake of liquids while you are eating. This will help you feel less hungry when you sit down to eat, allowing you to follow steps one through three more effectively. Besides, if you are chewing thoroughly, you will not require a big gulp of anything to wash it all down.
Choosing healthy snacks is important, but avoid going too long between meals, and try eating something at least every three hours—a handful of nuts, fruit with some yogurt, or veggies and hummus. This helps our blood sugar levels stay stable—once again, helping with steps one through three.