Between my Freshman and Junior years in college, I packed on 30lbs. So much for the Freshman 15, I was going for a new record. The truth was, I went from living with my mom where I set my own eating schedule (which was mostly eat when you’re hungry, don’t when you’re not) to living with my now husband who ate three square meals a day. Not to mention we had just moved into together. Money was tight and healthy food wasn’t high on the list for our monthly budget.
During my Junior year, I remember thinking I had to take control of my diet. It wasn’t just that I had gained weight, weight doesn’t equate to being healthy, it was that I wasn’t eating well which impacted my energy level and my overall health.
The problem is, healthy is eating is like exercising, we know we’re supposed to do it but sometimes developing the habits are hard. I had spent almost 3 years establishing unhealthy eating habits. I ate quick food, cheap food, processed food, and portions that were too large.
I also knew that a traditional diet would never work for me. I can’t diet. They don’t work for me because they are too rigid and too restrictive to stick to for the long term. I need flexibility and the ability to say “I want a cookie today so I’m having a cookie”. So, instead, over the next year, I learned to adopt some simple healthy eating habits in my everyday life and that was the key to success for me. They worked because they were easy to integrate into everyday life. These habits helped me to lose the 30lbs and are what I use to this day to maintain that healthy weight.
Check your diet for hidden sugars/fats
There are so many hidden unhealthy foods in our everyday diet. The truth is, mainstream food makes it really hard to eat well! Consider taking a look at your everyday food items and seeing if there are places you have extra and unnecessary sugars and fats.
Common Culprits and Healthy Alternatives Include:
- Sugar/Cream in your Coffee. Try drinking your coffee black or decreasing the amount of cream and/or sugar you put in it. Maybe you can get rid of the cream but keep some sugar or vice versa.
- Daily Soda Drinks. Ideally, you want to remove these completely, but try cutting back. If you drink 2 a day make it 1 and then just 1/2. You can also try replacing the coke with a healthier alternative like fruit-infused water or seltzer.
- Salad Dressings and Condiments. These often have WAY more junk in them than you think. A dip, condiment, or dressing can take something healthy and quickly make it unhealthy. Try making homemade dressings using Extra Virgin Olive Oil, balsamic, mustard, Greek yogurt, etc. Also, try using condiments that are naturally lower in fat, for example, mustard, ketchup, and hot sauce are very low in fat.
I think hidden fats, sugars, and calories get a lot of people. You might change your overall diet but don’t realize some of the hidden fats in your everyday food items. We don’t think of a drink or a dipping sauce as affecting our daily diets, but these items can add up quickly. Cutting just a few can make a BIG difference.
Eat off salad plates
My next tip is to decrease the size of the plate you eat off of. This is one of the first changes I made to my eating habits when I lost my weight. I’m one of those people who will eat what’s on my plate. And, studies have proven that if we’re given a bigger plate we tend to take a bigger portion because we’re taking in reference to the size of the plate. So, by simply using a smaller plate you can subconsciously take a healthier sized portion.
Decrease your dependency on breads
Listen, I LOVE bread. I do, it’s probably one of my favorite foods. But, I think we all know bread isn’t the most nutritious choice. It’s full of empty carbs and those carbs spike your blood sugar while not offering much in the way of nutrients so you’re left hungry only an hour or two later.
The problem is we LOVE bread. It’s literally with everything we eat: sandwiches, toast with breakfast, we put burgers and hotdogs between it, etc. So, the trick is to cut out bread as much as you can. For example, if I eat a burger I’ll have it on lettuce instead of on the bun. I still get the delicious burger and all the toppings, but I’m saving myself from two big pieces of unneeded bread, carbs, empty calories, and unneeded sugar. This is also a great trick to use at restaunts to make a menu item healthier, if I’m going to have a burger I’ll have it on lettuce. You can also do this with sandwiches. If I get a sandwich I’ll often eat it open face style taking the top off and saving myself a slice of bread. Or, I’ll just open it up entirely and eat the filling and leave the bread.
Drink more water
I’m sure this sounds like a broken record because you’ve probably heard it a million times. But, drinking water is key. Not only can dehydration often make you feel more hungry, but water is key to flushing the bad toxins from your body. I try to keep a water with me at all times. I have a glass sitting at my desk, a bottle in my car, and always have a cup with me when I’m home.
A great trick to get in more water if you struggle is just to make sure you have a glass before every meal. Remind yourself that you can’t eat until you finish the glass.
Portion out your snacks
Portion control is hard. Almost all snacks come in portions sizes way larger than a normal portion is supposed to be. So, I always portion out my snacks instead of eating them right from the bag or container. I will pour a portion sized amount into a bowl or plate so I don’t overindulge.
I also use mini snack bags for work, like these ones. They are the perfect mini bag to use to pack a snack without packing too much of it.
Eat before you eat
The idea here is to eat a healthy snack before you go out to eat somewhere. In general, eating out always makes it harder to find something healthy. So, I will often have a healthy snack before I leave the house. This way I’m not as hungry and will eat a little less of the bad food. It’s also a great trick to help save money because you’ll spend less at the restaurant!
Replace your cravings
Everyone has bad foods they crave, and typically they crave them at certain times of the day. I’m have a sweet tooth and I know that around 1pm and after dinner are the two times I crave a sweet treat. Instead of just giving in to every craving OR sitting around wishing I had something, I have found that I can often replace the craving. I find a healthier option that helps me not feel like I’m depriving myself without giving into the craving completely. So, since I have a sweet tooth, I always keep fruit and berries in the house. This way I can make up a quick fruit salad. Other healthy alternatives to my sweet tooth are apples with peanut butter, a sliced banana with a few chocolate chips on top, or 1/4 cup of chocolate almond milk on top of frozen fruit (the frozen fruit turns the almond milk to a slush, yum!)
I’d say about 9 times out of 10, these things satisfy my craving. And, for those times it doesn’t then I just let myself have a dessert or piece of chocolate. While I actively work to make healthy choices, I never deprive myself completely of something. If I want an ice cream one night or a cookie after dinner, and my healthy alternative doesn’t work, I usually indulge. I think that’s the reason it works, because it’s all in moderation.
When in doubt, just eat whole foods
A simple trick to decide on what meal or snack to eat that I use is just to choose whatever has been changed the least. For example, say you’re trying to decide between an apple and a 100 Calorie Snack Pack. An apple may be MORE calories than a 100 Calorie Snack pack, but it pretty much comes off the tree and goes into our mouth while something like a 100 Calorie Snack Pack has countless ingredients that have been milled, processed, cooked, ground, etc.
Even if there’s a snack that says “low fat” or “sugar-free” I typically think to myself “what did they have to do in order to remove the fat and still make it taste good?” Usually, it adds weird chemicals or preservatives. I’d rather have a snack with fat or sugar that’s a whole food that hasn’t been processed or altered. Plus, it’s important to mention that a well-balanced diet actually needs fats and carbs. But, you want to try to eat good fats and wholesome carbs.
Find easy healthy options
Make eating healthy easier on yourself by having some premade healthy options. Eating healthy can often be MORE time consuming, so when you’re in a rush it’s hard to get something healthy. So, find some of your favorite healthy snacks that you can pretty much grab-and-go.
Right now I keep some Daily Harvest smoothies in my freezer at all times. These smoothies are ingenious. You choose the flavors you want and they deliver pre-packaged cups right to your front door that you store in your freezer. When you’re ready, all you have to do is open the cup, add a liquid, blend, and go. When I want something healthy but don’t have time to make it, I know I can count on these because they are made with whole foods (no additives!) I also have a coupon code just for you guys if you want to try it out, use the code COFFEE to get your first three cups free at Daily Harvest.
Watch the Video: Healthy Eating Habits that CHANGED MY LIFE
I hope some of the hacks I have found for eating healthier can help you too! I know it can feel like an overwhelming task at first. But, the reason many of my above habits work so well is because you can just adopt them into your everyday life. They are restrictive diets with lists of things you can never eat. It is just about making some small changes to your everyday eating habits over time.