I want to share some strategies that I use to keep me on the right track with eating. I will proudly say that I eat whatever I want, salad or ice cream I love it all! But sometimes eating well takes some effort. You have to have some habits in place to make healthy eating second nature, and these are all good ones to try to adapt in your own life.
1) Shop the perimeter at the grocery store.
We’ve all heard it before, and that’s because it works! If you avoid the inner aisles at the grocery store, you won’t be picking up all of the more processed foods. This goes for Costco too. In fact, I would say don’t shop at Costco unless you can be disciplined and avoid all of the giant packages of snacks and treats. The last thing you need if you are trying to eat healthy foods is a family size bag of Maple Pecan White Chocolate Sea Salt Bark. Trust me, I know! If you are just shopping the perimeter that usually leaves produce, protein, dairy, and breads (thats what my store is like). Load up on produce and use it every day. If that’s mostly what you have in your fridge, chances are you will use it up.
2) Pack your lunch.
I work at 7-11. I’m surrounded by food, all day, every day. Most of it isn’t all that appealing to me, but if I don’t pack my own food to eat then I’m stuck with what’s in the store as my options. And I’ll be honest, if I’m looking for something healthy and filling, there aren’t that many options. So pack your lunch. I take a few minutes in the morning and put together a simple salad, yogurt with honey and fruit, or even just leftovers from dinner the night before. I’m lucky enough to have a lot of space to store things at work, so I keep a ‘snack drawer’ of sorts. It usually has random stuff – smoothie fixings, soups, granola, peanut butter, applesauce…I also have fridge options so I keep things like cottage cheese, hard boiled eggs, and vegetable juice.
3) Make it easy.
Meals don’t have to be a major thing. Sure, its nice to browse around Pinterest and find new recipes, but a lot of new recipes can be complicated. Even if it is a simple one, using a new recipe can be time-consuming just for the fact that you’ve never done it before and need to make sure you are doing it right. Dinner doesn’t have to be hard. More often that not we just make sure we have a protein and some veggies. If we have time to make rice or another side dish, great! Otherwise a quick protein and steamed veggie will do just fine. Save the complicated or new-to-you recipes for the weekends or days off from work when you have more time to experiment.
That one might sound weird, but I find that the more regularly I exercise, my desire for ‘junky’ food goes down. It only takes a few times to realize that the chicken wing and gummy bear lunch I had isn’t really compatible with having a good run or other cardio workout. Maybe it is psychological, but I just notice that the more I workout, the healthier I want to eat. My theory is that our bodies get used to feeling good and good-for-you food just ends up sounding better.
5) Do some kind of meal prep when you have free time.
This doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking. If you like to do it, and make lots of things for the upcoming week, go for it! It can be simple though, too. I like to make sure I have quick and easy protein. So I’ll do hard-boiled eggs, or make hummus, or just make sure to have some extra chicken breast cooked. Make-ahead steel cut oats are a great breakfast option that only takes about 10 minutes to prepare. Breakfast sandwiches are pretty easy to make, as is a quick frittata to reheat in the morning. Having pre-cut veggies ready for lunches or dinner is always a good idea too. A big pan of roasted vegetables is a nice break from salads or raw veggies for lunch. Making extra food for dinners is a great way to do meal prep too! Just portion out the leftovers after dinner and you are set!
6) Keep it interesting.
I eat a lot of the same things, but I don’t eat them day in and day out. That would be too boring. For instance, with breakfasts I usually eat cottage cheese, yogurt, or hard-boiled eggs for proteins. If I make a batch of eggs I just eat that all week. But next week I will choose something different. This usually keeps me from getting bored and resenting having to eat the same things all of the time. And if I do end up getting burned out on something, I’m free to change it up and try something new! Lunch is the same way. I buy enough salad fixings to last the better part of the week for lunches. By the time I run out, I’m getting tired of salads. So I just start packing leftovers or sandwiches for the rest of the week. Crisis averted.
7) Keep your treats outside of the house.
When I start to feel like I’m overindulging too much, I know its time to get rid of the treats in the house. It helps to not buy big bags of treats (see #1), so try to get in the habit of buying smaller portions of treats. Another option is to keep your treats at the store! You can have all the cookies and ice cream and goodies that you want, just keep it outside of the house. If you want a cookie, go and get it from the store or bakery. Most of the time I don’t want to deal with the hassle of going out, so I decide to have something else, most often fruit. If the ice cream isn’t there, there is a good chance I won’t be eating any.
These are all things I do all of the time. They really help me to eat well every day. They are all fairly simple and aren’t anything groundbreaking. But if you are struggling a bit to eat better, give a few of them a try.