Are you wondering how to eat healthier? Does healthy eating seem like something you can’t make a consistent part of your life? Do healthy foods, a healthy diet, and nutritious meals seem unrealistic?
Don’t worry; we’ve got you covered.
Healthy eating has been made too complicated by self-professed gurus, people selling diet books and plans, and the government. Thanks to years of confusing messaging, many people don’t even know what healthy eating means.
The good news is that eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult.
In this post, we’ll talk about how keeping it simple and starting with small goals will help you build nutrition habits that will benefit you for a lifetime.
Here we go!
First, the facts about weight gain and loss.
Whether your goal is to burn some fat, gain some muscle, or maintain a healthy weight, it’s important to understand how each happens.
Change in body weight over a given period is a product of calories in versus calories out.
You’ll gain weight if you consume more calories than you burn over a long enough period (known as a calorie surplus). You’ll lose weight if you consume fewer calories than you burn (known as a calorie deficit).
Here’s some simple math to remember that will help you reach your goals: one pound is equivalent to 3,500 calories.
You’ll gain one pound if you eat 3,500 more calories than you burn over a week.
If you eat 3,500 fewer calories than you burn over a week, you’ll lose one pound.
To make it simpler, we can break that down into days. 3,500 calories / 7 days = 500 calories per day.
So to gain roughly one pound per week, you need to eat at a 500-calorie surplus daily.
So to lose roughly one pound per week, you need to eat at a 500-calorie deficit daily.
Now that we understand the math of maintaining a healthy weight, let’s talk about how we can put it to work to help us build a healthy diet and achieve our goals.
Understanding and reading food labels are critical to healthy eating and controlling what goes into your body.
The serving size is the first thing you’ll want to look at on the food label. This will tell you how many servings are in the package and how much each serving contains calories and nutrients.
For example, if a food label says there are two servings in a container and each serving has 250 calories, then the entire container has 500 calories. This is important to know when you’re trying to maintain a calorie deficit or surplus.
The next thing you’ll want to look at on the food label is the macronutrients: fat, protein, and carbohydrates.
These three nutrients contain calories and impact your weight the most. Each macronutrient has a different effect on your body:
Fat contains nine calories per gram and is the slowest to digest of the three macronutrients. It’s also necessary for hormone production, cell health, and vitamin absorption.
Protein contains four calories per gram and is the most satiating of the three macronutrients. It’s also necessary for muscle growth and repair.
Carbohydrates contain four calories per gram and are the body’s preferred energy source. They’re also necessary for proper brain function.
The other big thing to look for is the sugar content. In short, you should eat as little sugar as possible! We will cover this more later in this blog, but for now, remember–no sugar!
The building blocks of a balanced diet are protein and vegetables.
If your goal is to get stronger, burn some fat and lean out, you need to eat a lot of protein.
Protein will help you build more muscle, burn fat, and keep you full longer.
Most of your calories each day should come from lean protein sources, like grilled chicken or fish, tofu, legumes, and eggs.
Try to eat an amount of protein equal to your body weight in grams. For instance, if you weigh 150lbs, your goal should be to eat 150 grams of protein each day.
Be careful, though. If you’re like most people and aren’t getting enough protein, you’ll want to ramp up your daily intake gradually. Maxing out overnight will very likely make you sick.
People who aren’t used to eating much protein often have trouble understanding how they’re supposed to eat as much protein as they should each day. This is common! Here are some tips to help you hit your daily protein target:
- Every meal and snack you eat should have a protein component. Don’t eat carrots for a snack…eat carrots AND some almonds or beef jerky.
- Eat often throughout the day. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, of course, but also snacks in between.
- Find a quality protein powder you like and use it! Especially when it’s hot outside, and we don’t want to eat as much, protein shakes make it easy to get in 25 quick grams of protein.
Vegetables and some fresh fruit
After you get your protein, load up with vegetables. Vegetables are full of nutrients and fiber, which help your body to function at its best.
Try to eat at least two cups of vegetables with every meal. Some of our favorites include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and spinach.
Fruit is also healthy for you, but because it contains sugar, limiting your intake to one to two pieces per day is best.
Yes, fat can be healthy for you! Healthy fats, like avocados, olive oil, nuts, and seeds, help to keep you full and satisfied. They also help your body to absorb vitamins and minerals.
Add a healthy fat to every meal, like half an avocado with lunch or a handful of nuts with dinner.
What about carbs?
Contrary to popular belief, carbs are not the enemy. They’re an important part of a balanced diet. You need carbs to fuel your workouts and help your body recover from exercise.
Eating complex carbs like potatoes, rice, whole grains, oats, and quinoa is key. These carbs will give you sustained energy throughout the day and help you perform your best in the gym.
Did you know that drinking water is one of the simplest things you can do to improve your health?
Water helps to flush toxins from your body, keeps your skin looking healthy, and can even help you lose weight.
Plus, it’s calorie-free and refreshing!
Instead of worrying about drinking a specific amount of water daily, focus on drinking enough, so your urine stays clear throughout the day. This is your body’s way of showing you you’re sufficiently hydrated.
If you don’t like plain water, stay away from sugary drinks. Instead, add something like Propel. Propel has no calories, comes in different flavors, and includes electrolytes, which are especially important to supplement when it’s hot.
Energy drinks can be ok, provided they’re not loaded with sugar, but water is always the best bet.
Processed foods and sugar
These are the two main culprits when it comes to obesity and chronic disease.
Processed foods are generally high in calories, low in nutrients, and full of unhealthy additives.
Sugar is empty calories that provide no nutritional value. It’s also addictive and can lead to cravings and binges.
In short, the more processed foods and sugar you can eliminate from your diet, the better off you’ll be. They are the enemy.
If you’re trying to improve your nutrition, it’s best to limit your alcohol intake.
Alcohol can lead to heart, liver, and brain disease and can cause fetal alcohol syndrome in pregnant women.
Nutritionally, alcohol is calorie-dense and provides no value.
It’s also worth noting that alcohol can impair your judgment, making you more likely to make poor food choices.
If you choose to drink, avoid mixed drinks of all kinds. They’re very sugary, and the calories will add up quickly.
Instead, stick to light or non-alcoholic beers and clear liquors.
Need some examples of healthy meals?
If you’re wondering what healthy eating looks like in practical terms, here are a few examples:
– For breakfast, try eggs and veggies cooked in olive oil. Add a piece of fruit on the side.
– For lunch, have a salad with grilled chicken or fish. Make sure to include a mix of greens, veggies, and healthy fats.
– For dinner, cook a lean protein source like grilled chicken or fish. Serve with roasted vegetables and a side salad.
To simplify healthy eating even further, when in doubt, think meat and vegetables.
How to Say No to Temptation?
You can change your eating habits by thinking ahead and setting yourself up for success. Here are two big tips to help you say no to unhealthy temptations and build a balanced diet:
- Keep healthy snacks with you at all times. This way, when 3 pm rolls around and you get a craving, you can reach for an apple or carrot sticks instead of unhealthy junk.
- Do a kitchen clean-out and eliminate all the stuff that might cause you to give in to temptation. Do the Oreos call your name at night? Throw them out!
- Learn to ask yourself this question before every food decision: “will eating/drinking get me closer to my fitness goals or pull me further away from them?” Getting into this habit will help you stop eating mindlessly and start eating with intention–using healthy foods as an important tool to help you reach your goals.
Address the Root Problem of Unhealthy Eating
Using food to cope with stress is very common. If you are overeating or making poor food choices when you’re feeling stressed, it’s important to address the root problem.
Here are a few tips for how to deal with stress healthily:
-Talk to a therapist or counselor who can help you productively manage your stress.
-Exercise regularly. Exercise is a great way to release endorphins and get rid of stress.
-Spend time with friends and family. Social support is crucial for managing stress.
-Meditate or do deep breathing exercises. These practices can help you calm your mind and body.
How to eat whatever you want without feeling guilty?
Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you love!
Think of the 80/20 rule. Eat healthy 80% of the time and have fun 20%!
Let’s be honest…would we all be better off if we ate chicken, vegetables, and white rice at every meal? Yes! But that’s not realistic or sustainable.
80/20 is a much better approach because it will still help you reach your goals, and you’ll be much more likely to adhere to it in the long run because it allows you the flexibility to continue to eat and drink the things you like.
Healthy restaurant options
When you’re trying to eat healthy, restaurants can be a minefield. But it doesn’t have to be that way!
Here are a few tips for how to make healthy choices when dining out:
-Start with a salad. A big green salad is a great way to get veggies and fiber. Add a lean protein like grilled chicken or fish to make it a complete meal.
-Ask for dressings and sauces on the side. That way, you can control how much you’re eating.
-Share an entree with a friend. Most restaurant portions are huge! Splitting an entrée will save you calories and money.
-Choose grilled, baked, or steamed options over fried. Fried foods are higher in calories and unhealthy fats.
One of the best ways to set yourself up for success is to meal prep. Meal prepping is the process of cooking and portioning out meals ahead of time.
Meal prepping has a lot of benefits:
-It saves you time. You won’t have to cook every day, which gives you more time to do other things.
-It saves you money. It’s cheaper to cook at home than it is to eat out.
-It helps you make better choices. When you have prepared healthy meals, you’re less likely to make unhealthy choices when you’re hungry.
Here are a few tips for how to get started with meal prepping:
-Start small. Don’t try to prep all your meals for the week in one day. Start with one or two meals and work your way up.
-Invest in some good storage containers. You’ll need containers that are microwave-safe and leak-proof.
-Plan your meals ahead of time. Decide what you’re going to make before you start cooking. That way, you can ensure you have all the necessary ingredients.
-Make simple meals. Meal prepping doesn’t have to be complicated. Start with basic recipes and build from there.
Making healthier choices doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to be all or nothing.
Small changes repeated enough times will make a big difference. By following the tips in this blog post, you can make healthy eating easier than ever before.
Remember, the key to success is consistency. So make a plan that you can stick to, and soon enough, healthier eating will become second nature!
About the Author
Edward Getterman is a Certified CrossFit Trainer (CF-L3) and the owner of Twin Bridges CrossFit in Waco, Texas. If he can’t be at the gym or at home, he’d prefer to be at Walt Disney World. He loves deadlifts, hates running, and believes above all else that CrossFit is for everyone.