9 Simple Steps That Will Change the Way You Eat

For most of us, healthy eating takes work. There's always a reason (blame it on the al-al-al-alcohol) etc. etc. Whatever it is, the fact is that the best of intentions to live healthfully and make nutritious choices don’t always translate into day-to-day routine.

Anyone who's ever meant to keep an apple in their backpack only to find themselves starving and succumbing to the call of the vending machine yet again, knows what I'm talking about. Still, with a few smart tips and good resources in your back pocket, eating healthfully is more doable than ever.

PLAN AHEAD

Meal-planning need not be more than a simple 10-minute routine — but it's one that can reduce stress, spending, and waste. Devoting a few minutes on a Sunday evening to planning meals for the week allows you to establish your intentions and make a plan for their execution. As a result of this process, you end up eating better, spending less, and wasting less. You can knock it all out in one calculated, simple trip to the grocery store.

It may seem obsessive, but I've found that setting a calendar alert to remind me to take a banana on my way out helps with already hectic mornings. The best intentions are often waylaid by nothing more than a lack of planning (I know this is true for me!). Plus, what better excuse to finally cook up all those recipes on your Pinterest board. (Here’s mine for a truly eclectic mix of recipes I’ve been meaning to try forever.)

BE PICKY ABOUT YOUR MUNCHIES

Being thoughtful about snacking can make a big difference in day-to-day health and calorie consumption. By being mindful about cravings, you can make better and more satiating snacking decisions. Here are a few simple trade-ups:

  • Instead of peanuts, try roasted edamame or roasted chickpeas to accompany a caloric cocktail.
  • Instead of chips or pretzels, try 94 percent fat free popcorn when you're feeling munchy.
  • For your next party, instead of sour cream in a dip, try fat-free Greek yogurt.
  • Instead of a Popsicle when it's hot out, try frozen grapes or a frozen banana on a stick. Bonus: try dipping it in a little melted chocolate before freezing it!

DITCH THE SODA

Here’s a scary, but perhaps motivating, truth: Dr. Christopher Ochner, assistant professor of pediatrics and adolescent medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, told FoxNews.com, “If everything else in their diet is equal, a person who has a can of Coke a day adds an extra 14.5 pounds per year, just from the calories alone.” While 140 calories in a 12 oz. can may seem like a small number, the 41 grams of sugar is indisputably massive. It’s the equivalent of putting 10 sugar cubes in a cup of tea. From cavities to diabetes, the detrimental effects of soda on our health are innumerable, and there is literally no nutritional value to make those calories worth it. So, it’s a good idea to wean yourself off high-sugar sodas in favor of sparkling water (there are so many fruity options!) or Zevia, zero-calorie soda made with stevia. When you need a caffeine fix, turn to green tea.

CUT THE CAFFEINE

Caffeine is addictive. Beyond jitters, some of the problematic side effects of caffeine include insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, upset stomach, fast heartbeat, muscle tremors, and dehydration. The Mayo clinic estimates that up to 400 mg a day is safe for adults, which translates to four cups of coffee max, but try to drink well under that. You don't want to just consume the safe amount. You want to consume the amount that will make you feel best — and no more than that.

EAT BREAKFAST (NO, REALLY)

A smart breakfast sets the stage for the rest of the day. Something as simple and quick as a hard-boiled egg can actually reduce hunger throughout the rest of the day. Furthermore, studies have shown that when we satiate ourselves in the morning, we are more likely to make healthier eating choices during the rest of the day.

WATCH OUT FOR FAUX-HEALTHY FOOD

Beware of foods that only masquerade as healthy. Certain products like dried fruit, granola, and many protein/health bars walk the walk of healthy foods (available at health food stores, deceptive packaging), but don’t talk the talk. When it comes to snacks like these, just check labels, as they are known to contain tons of added sugar.

DRINK BETTER

Certain ideas about food are deeply ingrained in our minds: For example, most of us know that eating two doughnuts every morning for breakfast is not the smartest way to start your day, but we don’t always think about less obvious unhealthy decisions. Even if we know drinking tons of sugary soda isn’t healthy, somehow that doesn’t always register when it’s mixed with alcohol. If you’re looking to avoid taking in too many empty calories at the bar and you can take your liquor straight, that’s the lowest-calorie option. If not, opt for sugar-free mixers like club soda, lemon juice, or diet soda.

DITCH THE BINGE/RESTRICT CYCLE

Even the most body-positive, confident gals among us have been there: Indulge in five scoops of ice cream and “make it up to yourself” by eating rabbit food for the next two days. But, as you may have experienced at one point or another, it’s a vicious cycle. Depriving yourself will only lead to the same emotions that led to the binge to begin with — and so on, and so forth. Here are some guidelines to help break the cycle.

BE KIND TO YOURSELF ABOUT YOUR EATING

At the end of the day, berating yourself for eating a piece of cake or a big plate of French fries won’t get you anywhere! If you’re at your favorite restaurant that makes your favorite crème brûlée that you only get every few months — just go for it. I, for one, have a few places around town where, as soon as I’ve been seated, I know there will be dessert, and even what that dessert will be. It’s better (and more fun) not to spend the entire meal agonizing over the decision. Most things are OK in moderation. Treat yoself. Life is too short.