Andrea Ovard, a registered and certified dietician, shares with us her tips to start incorporating more healthy foods and habits into your daily eating plan.
What does healthy eating really mean? There are so many different diets and trends out there these days, making it difficult to sort through everything and determine what really works and what is really important when it comes to good nutrition. As a dietitian it's my job to help people understand how to eat healthily and help them figure out the best way to do that.
So let's get back to the basics, because that's what it's really all about. Healthy eating doesn't have to be complicated. There are a few main points that I try to emphasize to those I work with. These are the things that I think are most important when getting started and trying to maintain a healthy diet.
1. Don't cut out any food groups or specific foods.
With the exception of allergies and intolerances, you don't need to cut out any foods completely. Not sugar, not gluten, not dairy. All foods can fit into a healthy diet. When you cut a food completely out of your diet you make the number-one diet mistake, because when you cut a food out you make your diet unsustainable. It's next to impossible to give a food up forever, and usually when you tell yourself you can't have something, it only makes you want it more. It's about finding balance and moderation. Give yourself permission to have all foods, in moderation. I like the 80/20 rule: make 80 percent of your foods healthy, nutritious foods and 20 percent of your foods indulgences. This makes it much easier to stick to your healthy eating plan and not fall off the wagon. So when you do reach for that cookie (20 percent), you don't feel like you've failed and then reach for 10 more—you realize it's OK, and you are able to relax and enjoy it.
2. If you can't NOT eat it, don't buy it.
If you don't have it in the house, you won't eat it, right? We all have foods we just can't help but eat when they're around. For me, it's cookie dough, so I don't buy it. It's not that I never eat it, but when I do, I make a single serving of cookie dough. Then, I enjoy it—and it’s gone. Whatever it is, let yourself enjoy it every once in a while, but don't keep it around because you know what they say: "Out of sight, out of mind."
3. Plan ahead and measure out.
I would dare to say that these are what I consider the two most important components in a healthy diet. First, planning. The most common downfall of eating healthily is a lack of preparation. Yes, healthy eating does often require a little more effort, but it's more than worth it. So find a few healthy meal ideas online and make a plan. Buy the needed foods at the store and either have a meal prep day or just take a little time each day (this usually takes me only about 15 minutes at night!) and make a healthy lunch and snacks for work. If you're prepared with healthy meals and snacks, you will be much less likely to end up eating an unhealthy meal via the drive-thru or from the cafeteria at work. If you have your healthy trail mix, fruit, string cheese, etc. packed up as a snack, you won't be as tempted to hit up the vending machines during your afternoon snack attack.
Next, measure out. This is key. Portion size is so important. Even healthy foods can be a problem if you're eating too much of them. People sometimes think it's weird, but I literally portion out my foods with measuring cups and spoons. For example, when I'm preparing my breakfast for work, I measure out my granola with a 1/4 cup. My high protein granola is a healthy breakfast option, but if I eat it right out of the bag I’m a lot more likely to consume quite a few more calories than I realize, pretty quickly. Same thing with my trail mix snack and my banana and peanut butter. Measuring things helps keep you aware of how much you're eating, and you'll probably realize where your "problem areas" are (where your excess calories, sugar, and fat is coming from).
There are no shocking secrets to eating healthier; it's just simple. Remember to let yourself have a treat now and then, don't buy foods that you know you have no self-control with, plan ahead, and measure out. This will help you get started and stay on track with a healthy eating plan. Good luck; you've got this!