Healthy eating is often associated with bland foods, lifestyle overhauls, and an overall sense of deprivation. But there are actually ways to eat healthier right now that require almost minimal effort and definitely don't mean any crazy big changes in how you live your life.
In fact, I've often said that "diets" or drastic changes never, ever work for me, because at the end of the day "bad for you" foods are always going to be there and I am just not the kind of girl who can say no to a piece of birthday cake at an office party and not feel incredibly sad about it. Instead, the older I've gotten the more I've just started to embrace a happy medium. If I order a side of fries, I also make sure I order the side salad. I don't keep candy in the house, but that doesn't mean I'll beat myself up about a trip to the bodega for a candy bar.
I've found that while this means I don't necessarily have six pack abs (or let's be real, any abs), it's a compromise that keeps me at my optimal happiness — I make sure I'm getting the nutrients I need for my body, but there are no foods that I keep off-limits or am "not allowed" to eat.
If you're interested in eating more nourishing foods for your body, but you also know a drastic diet overhaul is simply not realistic or sustainable for your life, here are nine crazy easy ways to start eating healthier right now.
1. Always Pack Foods With Veggies
A piece on Choosemyplate.gov, a government site designed to help you make healthier daily choices, recommended packing non-vegetable-based foods with extra veggies to help get your daily quota. For example, order the veggie pizza instead of the plain cheese, and when you order a burger, make sure to pack it with lettuce and tomatoes. And on CookingLight.com, registered dietician Sydney Fry said to simply double the amount of vegetables when making recipes at home, as it will add extra nutrients without changing the flavor.
2. Get A Cool Water Bottle
First Kiss, $35, Swellbottle.com
In a piece for Real Simple, Barry Popkin, head of the division of nutrition epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina, noted that we're designed to drink water — not sodas, juices, or chocolate milk — and thus we'll feel our best if we limit the non-water beverages we drink. This is where my personal tip of getting a super cool water bottle comes in! When I did this my daily water consumption practically doubled almost instantly.
3. Eat Vegetable-Based Baked Goods
That's right — just hide good-for-you-foods into other stuff you love, like baked goods! Carrot, zucchini, and pumpkin-based baked goods are a great place to start with this kind of thing. In the U.S. News and World Report piece, Registered Dietitian Sarah Krieger said, "It can definitely be an awesome way to get your more nutritious substitutes and replaces high-oil, high-fat baked goods." I also am a super big fan of black bean brownies.
4. Drink From Tall, Slender Glasses
Tom Collins Glass, $2.49, Webrestaurantstore.com
Life coach and behavioral psychologist James Clear said that if you're trying to limit your soda or alcohol intake at any given event, start drinking from tall and slender glasses as opposed to short and wide ones. He noted that our brains perceive more in a taller glass, meaning you'll likely drink less over the course of a night, but not feel deprived in any way.
5. Keep Junk Food Out Of Sight
Clear also noted that we're far more likely to want something if we can see it, so he recommended keeping healthy foods in transparent plastic wrap, and wrapping things like cookies and brownies in opaque aluminum foil. This will help keep your willpower in tact when trying to eat more healthfully.
6. Pack Half Immediately At Restaurants
A piece for CNN on healthy eating recommended simply asking for half your restaurant meal to go when eating out, since the typical restaurant portion size is well over twice a recommended single portion. And if you're worried about how it will look to other people at the table (i.e: like you're totally high maintenance), just remember that you're trying to be good to yourself and your body, and that's way more important than what people think!
7. Get Into Snacking
In a piece for Self, registered dietitian Jessica Jones said to always make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, like sliced veggies and hummus, apples and all-natural peanut butter, or nuts. This way you'll be way less tempted to grab from the plate of cookies at the office, or make a trip to the vending machine since you won't be driven by hunger. She also stressed that prepping healthy snacks takes a lot less work and time than we often perceive; "It literally takes five minutes and will help you eat healthier throughout the day," Jones said.
8. Get Your Avocado On
According to Medical News Daily, the "avocado is the only fruit that provides a substantial amount of healthy monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFA) [and] are a naturally nutrient-dense food and contain nearly 20 vitamins and minerals." And because of their rich and creamy texture they also taste awesome on sandwiches or as the base of dips in place of less healthy options like mayonnaise or sour cream.
9. Take Advantage Of Weekends
This is a personal tip that I gleaned from a BuzzFeed compilation article on easy ways to eat healthier: We often don't feel as though we have time to really make full breakfasts Monday through Friday, so take advantage of your weekends as two days a week when you can really go crazy with healthy meals. Make an omelet with veggies, a pretty side of fruit, and throw an avocado and salsa on top. You'll not only be nourishing your body, but you'll seriously feel like you're pampering yourself. What's not to love?
Eating more healthfully doesn't have to mean hours of prep work or a lifetime of deprivation. There are actually super simple things you can do that take relatively minimal effort that can make a huge difference to your health in the long run.