Becoming a healthy eater isn't something that happens overnight, and sometimes it can require a lot of work. The best way to take on healthy habits is to incorporate them into your everyday life, and you can start small by finding ways to eat healthier without really thinking about it. Jumping straight to eating only quinoa and kale may not be your best bet, but including little swaps, picking up on more consistent habits, and making conscious choices can make a big difference on your overall health without you having to put in a huge effort.
"Small changes are more easily implemented and maintained over the long haul," says Sonya Angelone, MD, RDN, CLT over email. "Most people are resistant to change, so small changes are easier to incorporate into everyday life."
These changes can range anywhere from the types of food you consume to when and how you consume it, as healthy eating goes beyond just nutrition. Your environment also plays a role in what you eat, so creating an optimal one can help encourage healthy eating in subtle ways.
If you're looking to make some quick and easy changes to your diet, consider these seven hacks to eat healthier without even realizing it.
1. Drink More Water
"Start by drinking one more glass than you do today," says Angelone. "Water helps keep you well hydrated and helps you feel fuller. Drink one more swallow of water each time you drink water or never pass by a water fountain without taking a sip or two." Staying hydrated can help you combat junk food cravings as well as help your body flush out toxins and transport nutrients.
2. Switch To Whole Grains
"Switch to whole grains versus quick-cooking or highly-processed grains," says nutritionist Susan Piergeorge, MS, RDN from The Golden Door over email. "Examples include long cooking oats versus instant, or hearty whole grain breads versus processed." According to a study published in BMC Medicine, eating whole grains can help lower your risk of chronic diseases such as cancer and diabetes.
3. Don't Go Shopping Hungry
Shopping when hungry is a big no-no. "You really will buy more impulse items, mostly sugar or salt-laden foods you don’t need to eat," says Angelone. "If you don’t have the foods in the house, you are less likely to eat them." Research supports this as well: A study from Cornell University found that people are more likely to make unhealthy food choices at the supermarket when they haven't eaten yet.
4. Put Your Food Away
"Keep food out of sight," says Angelone. "Visual cues are a strong motivator to eat. Keep food put away in opaque containers and no cookie jars or candy dishes sitting on the table or counter." Additional research from Cornell University found that people who left food on the counter are more likely to eat it when it's in sight, whether it was fruit or junk food, so keep the bad stuff away and the good stuff out.
5. Keep A Food Log
"Keep a log one to two days per week," says Angelone. "Just being more aware of habits helps make changes." Although there's definitely no need to obsess over each and every bite you take, taking a look at the big picture can help you get a realistic idea of the types of food you are consuming.
6. Use Smaller Plates
Switching out your large plates and cutlery for smaller dishes can help prevent you from overeating. A study from the Georgia Institute Of Technology found that smaller bowls and spoons helps you perceive more food on your plate, which can help you stop eating just as you're hungry.
7. Get Off The Couch
Eating healthier is as simple as getting up off of the couch. A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who make an effort to get off the couch and get more active end up consuming more fruits and vegetables over junk food as a result.
Making these small tweaks day by day can help you build on your healthy habits without feeling overwhelmed by any major changes.
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