Starting healthy eating habits can be over complicated and overwhelming. Making drastic changes to your diet all at once can do more harm than good and often leads to you quitting before you get started.
Here are five basic rules that can help simplify things when trying to eat healthier and promote weight loss and control.
1. Eat slowly and stop when you’re 80% full.
- Try and sit for each meal. Sitting while eating helps you consume fewer calories.
- Strive to finish a meal in 15-20 minutes. It takes 20 minutes for satiety (the feeling of being full) mechanism to kick in.
- Eating to 80% can be seen as eating until you are no longer hungry compared to eating until you are full and cannot eat more.
2. Eat protein dense foods with each meal.
- Some great sources of protein are lean red meat, salmon, eggs, plain Greek yogurt, and cottage cheese.
- For vegetarians and vegans, using beans, peas, legumes, tofu, and tempeh are good alternatives to meat.
- Women should eat 20-30 grams of protein per meal, which is roughly the size of your palm. Men should eat 40-60 grams of protein per meal (two palms).
3. Eat vegetables with each meal.
- Veggies are a low calorie, protein dense food filled with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) and phytochemicals (plant chemicals) that the body needs to work properly.
- Eat the rainbow. Eat vegetables that are all colors of the rainbow to help get the different micronutrients you need.
- Try to fill half your plate with vegetables. This can seem like a lot so just start by trying to have some kind of vegetable with each meal and add a bit more over time when you feel ready. Remember, a little bit of good is better than nothing at all.
4. Eat minimally processed carbs.
- Examples of minimally processed carbs are whole grain bread, rice, potatoes, oats (whole oats), and cereal grains (wheat, rye).
- Examples of highly processed carbs are sugary sports drinks, breakfast cereal, soda, fruit juice, table sugar, sugary desserts, ice cream, muffins, and bagels.
- The body is better at taking in carbohydrates after a workout session so try to save your carbs for after the gym.
5. Eat healthy fats.
- About 30% of your diet should come from fat.
- Try to balance saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated so that a third of your fat intake should come from each.
- Examples of good fats include raw, unsalted mixed nuts, avocados, extra virgin olive oil, fish oil (or algae oil), and ground flax seeds.
Remember that changing habits can be hard. Shoot for an 80-90% compliance with this. Giving yourself some wiggle room will give you a chance to eat some of the foods you crave every so often, while still making meaningful changes to your diet. In the long run, this will help you stay on track and have a positive lifestyle change, not just a crash diet.