Eating healthy isn’t necessarily synonymous with dieting, although it may start out that way.
Healthy eating is a lifestyle. When you decide to make a change and start eating healthier, whether it be to lose weight or to feel better all around, healthy eating will probably feel like a diet. After all, healthy eating is hard (at first).
Do you follow the food pyramid? Count Calories? Low-fat or reduced fat? What is this keto diet I’ve heard so much about? How many Oreos can I fit in my mouth at one time?
Don’t worry! I’ve got some answers for you.
In layman’s terms, the key to healthy eating is to eat good food. You know what good food is. Meats, fruits, veggies, fishies, and eggs are all examples of good food. If it comes from a drive-thru window or has a list of ingredients that could rival a list of Kim K’s ex-husbands, it’s probably not good. But darn it, Snickers are tasty and “diet food” is atrocious.
More often than not, people try to radically change everything terrible about their diet right off the bat. This is probably why your New Year’s resolution to eat healthily and work out has failed within a month or two for the last three years.
Reagan West, of Owatonna Fitness, says, that “The key to starting to eat better with a healthy diet is to make one small change at a time.” Small changes can generate significant results. For example, you may want to substitute that handful of peanut butter M&M’s for a handful of blueberries.
West says “Sugary foods can be just as addictive as drugs.” Fear not, you need to retrain your brain from craving those salty and/or sweet snacks for fruits or vegetables. That’s a process, and it takes time, so don’t rush it.
My good friend Alex Valeski, who is a Personal Trainer at Tone 2 Day Personal Training in Savage, puts it like this …
“The hardest part of healthy eating for people is being able to stay consistent. People are always looking at the best new fad diets and expecting a 30-day transformation. This is not how a healthy diet works. You need to choose what diet fits you best. No one mold fits every person.”
He says to remember K.I.S.S.; Keep It Simple Stupid. Know yourself and what you’re capable and willing to commit to. Life has a glorious way of throwing a wrench into your perfectly laid out diet plans. Nobody follows the rules, anyway. It’s better to “cheat” with that Kit-Kat bar than become “Crankenstein” because you’re experiencing sugar withdrawal.
So congratulations, you’ve made the decision and are committed to changing your diet. Now where do you start? West recommends you download a fitness/calorie tracker and start taking a good hard look at what you’re actually eating.
That means every meal, every snack, and every calorie. Yes, even the three french fries you snagged from your significant other while he/she wasn’t looking. Do this for at least three to four days and take a good look at the results. How many calories are you actually consuming in a day?
West said that, on average, a person should consume about 2,000 to 2,500 calories per day. Keep in mind, not all calories are created equal. That means 2,500 calories of McDonald’s doesn’t fuel your body the way 2,500 calories of a well-balanced meal will. If you’re eating 4,500 calories a day on average, a good and safe place to start will be to decrease your portion size. That may look like one less snack or a smaller lunch, and definitely be cutting back on your liquid calories, like pop and beer, which Valeski says are a big no-no.
How do you construct a tasty and healthy meal? Valeski said he likes to keep it simple. (Remember K.I.S.S?)
“I want to make sure I am getting all of the nutrients I need while not sitting in the kitchen for hours.” He said he prefers to stick with chicken for protein because it’s simple and you can prepare it in a multitude of different ways. “For carbohydrates, I generally stick with quinoa, sweet potatoes, and brown rice (microwavable white rice isn’t bad either). For fats, I usually snack on nuts, like almonds, pistachios, walnuts, or cashews. I will also add avocado or a homemade coconut oil sauce for some extra healthy fats. For vegetables, I stick with spinach, broccoli, asparagus, or kale.”
If that seems a little too boring and bland for you, don’t fret. There’s plenty of room for mixing and matching. The critical point to remember is staying away from drive-thrus and processed foods. Convenience is a trickster. We’ve been seduced by simplicity, and 5-minute meals and the consequence is our health. Shop local! You may end up spending a bit more, but your body will thank you in the end.
Luckily, we have this cool thing called “the internet” which has a multitude of resources for healthy meal planning. The USDA website www.choosemyplate.gov includes a tab where you can look at and print meal plans. You can even customize the meals to your liking.
Give it a try and go eat healthier. You’ve got this.
By Emily Kahnke