Weight and nutrition are things that preoccupy a lot of Americans. You can tell by the way that over 70 percent of New Year’s resolutions are about eating better or dieting. Unfortunately, most New Year’s resolutions barely make it a month before people abandon them.
Just because people quit on their resolutions, it doesn’t make eating better a bad goal. All too often, the “how” in how to start eating healthier is a big stumbling block. If you’re looking for ways that you can embrace healthy eating without sacrificing your sanity, keep reading.
We’ll give you some pointers on the how in how to start eating healthier.
Fruits and Vegetables
Everyone talks about fruits and vegetables when it comes to healthy eating. This talk often prompts unhappy looks from listeners.
If fruits and vegetables were only an occasional thing during meals in your childhood home, you likely never developed much of a taste for them. Even worse, you likely never learned how to prepare them.
The good news is that you can eat most fresh fruits and vegetables raw. Just wash them off and have at it. It’s actually the healthiest way to eat fruits and vegetables since you don’t expose them to heat, which can reduce nutrient content.
If you want your vegetables hot, you can steam most of them. Even if you’ve never steamed vegetables before, you probably have a steamer insert in your cabinet. It’s that weird thing that sits in a pot and has small holes in the bottom.
You just put an inch or two of water in the pot, drop in the insert, and apply heat. Once the water comes to a boil, you toss the veggies into the insert and cover. As a general rule, somewhere between 5 minutes and 8 minutes will get the job done.
Less Red Meat
Red meat often gets a bad rap from health and nutrition talking heads. Red meat isn’t necessarily bad, in and of itself.
It’s a great source of protein, iron, zinc, and Vitamin B12. Those are all things your body needs for muscle health, bone health, and nerve health.
What makes red meat problematic likely has more to do with the volume and portion sizes that Americans consume.
Rather than cut red meat out of your diet, aim for eating lean cuts of red meat. Try to keep the portion sizes down around 4 to 5 ounces. Keep your red meat intake down to around three times a week.
This also helps keep your saturated fat intake down, which is good for overall cardiovascular health and weight.
Portion control is another one of those elements of healthy eating that Americans struggle with, mostly because it’s almost an entirely new thing in their lives. After all, when was the last time you really thought about what a serving size actually looks like on a plate? When was the last time you weighed your food to figure out how much you actually put on your plate?
Beyond that, restaurants often serve dramatically oversized portions to their customers. A lifetime of too big portions has skewed most people’s idea of what a full meal means. There are a couple of things you can do to combat oversized portions.
You can invest in smaller plates. If your plates are small, it becomes more difficult to put oversized portions on them. You can invest in a kitchen scale. You can weigh your food in advance and divide portions accordingly.
There are many guides out there on portion sizes for the major food groups that you can reference.
Limit Processed Foods
Processed foods is another term that gets thrown around a lot in nutrition and health circles. For many people new to healthy eating and healthy foods, it’s a term that means next to nothing.
Broadly speaking, a processed food goes through a lot of changes before it reaches you. This often means an intense cooking process like deep frying or canning. It can also mean a lot of added sugar and chemicals to the original food.
A few common examples of processed foods include:
- Deli meats
- Potato chips
- Pre-packaged deserts, such as cupcakes
Processed foods often contain huge amounts of sugars, fats, salt, and chemical preservatives. Again, the matter often boils down to volume.
Assuming that you are otherwise healthy, you likely won’t do much damage if you eat a handful of potato chips or have hot dogs every once in a while. If you eat these kinds of processed foods on a daily basis, you’re likely taxing your body.
One of the big challenges with healthy eating is that good nutrition isn’t something most people learn about directly. If you learned about nutrition along the way, it’s likely because you went out and found a class or book about it. Those are both good ways for someone to get a handle on the essentials.
Of course, nutrition information evolves over time as doctors and scientists learn more about the food people eat. For example, there was a time when doctors considered eggs a health risk. Newer research has largely put that idea to rest.
The big takeaway is that you want at least a few sources of nutritional information that keep up on the latest research and news. You can troll medical sites and university publications.
You can also look for nutrition and health-focused websites, such as Lakanto’s food and nutrition blog.
How to Start Eating Healthier – Today
Feeling overwhelmed? Are you still wondering how to start eating healthier?
Pick one area and start there. For example, you can throw out your bags of potato chips and snack cakes. Just eliminating that one kind of food from your diet is a huge step forward.
Once you get comfortable with that one change, pick another thing. You can start adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. Keep making the changes over time and soon you’ll be eating healthy most days.
Looking for more healthy eating tips? Check out the posts over in our Health section.