Eating a healthy diet is now more confusing than ever, and it’s getting worse. Aside from what we hear from social, doctors, friends, and family, there’s one big contributor to this rise in nutrition confusion.
In the 1990s grocery stores carried a modest 7,000 products on average. Today? It’s over 40,000 products . Knowing how to navigate the grocery store environment is practically a life skill now. To simply some of this mess, here are 15 ways to eat healthier every day.
1. Drink Enough Water
From transporting nutrients and oxygen to our cells, to regulating body temperature, water is essential to our body’s daily functions. If water needs aren’t met, dehydration can occur. Some warning signs of dehydration can include low blood pressure, dizziness, weakness, confusion, or dark urine .
And it doesn’t take as much water as we might think. According to a PubMed study, “The recommended total daily fluid intake of 3,000 ml for men and of 2,200 ml for women is more than adequate.” .
A good strategy to drinking enough water in the day is to carry around a water bottle. 32-64 fl oz bottles are pretty effective as they don’t need to be refilled as often. Even better–if you like cold or iced water, getting an insulated bottle is probably a good idea. Some insulated bottles can keep water cold for 12-24 hours.
2. Eat Whole Foods
You can skip shopping at Whole Foods (unless you’re a fan, like me). Eating whole foods simply means eating unprocessed, fresh foods.
For example, instead of eating apple sauce, which usually has lots of added sugar and other ingredients, opting for an apple can be just as tasty and much healthier. The fiber and the fresher nutrients from the apple makes it more bioavailable, meaning your body is likely to absorb more of the nutrients than it would from something more processed, like apple sauce.
3. Choose Organic/Pasture-Raised/Grass-Fed/Wild-Caught
There’s a lot of confusion around what kinds of food to buy. Hell, I still get mixed up with all the names and labels. Here’s a quick breakdown of how these labels apply to foods you buy at your local grocery store.
- Organic: Fruit, vegetables–pretty much any produce
- Pasture-Raised: Usually in regards to poultry. Organic, pasture-raised is even better.
- Grass-Fed: Beef, milk, butter, and any other dairy products
- Wild-Caught: Fish and seafood
If these are available to you, consider buying them over more conventional options (don’t forget–local butchers and farmers’ markets are options too).
4. Buy Fresh Meat
In addition to the above, buy fresh meat whenever possible. Fresher meat has a higher quality of protein and fats and your body will likely be able to feel the difference.
A good tip is to find out when the animal was slaughtered to find out how fresh it is. Buying responsibly and ethically sourced meats are also a win.
5. Check the Nutrition Label
When you buy processed food, a nutritional label is like a window into its manufacturing process. It can tell you if there’s hidden sugars, chemicals, and more.
If you’re new to reading nutrition labels, a good starting place is to check the serving size and total servings. That way you know how much you’re getting from it. To know what you’re getting from it, the ingredient section is a good place to check.
6. Cook More and Have Fun
A couple of years ago, I saw cooking as a chore. Go to the store, drive home, quickly cook, do the dishes, and rinse and repeat. And as a result, the food didn’t taste all too good. It was not a fun way to live life.
But cooking is so vital to our species that it deserves more thought and intention. Cooking for others or trying new recipes can be incredibly meditative. It takes you away from life’s problems and rewards you with something super tasty. Plus, cooking also allows you to know exactly what goes into your food. If you’re like me and have food sensitivities, cooking is even more rewarding. CMHF.
7. Leftovers Are Your Friend
As amazing as cooking is, most people don’t have the time to cook every day. And that’s where leftovers come in.
Not only can leftovers taste better the next day (soups, salsas, stews, I’m talking about you), but they can also save the bank. By cooking larger meals and storing leftovers, also known as meal prepping, you can save some serious dough (pun intended).
8. Reduce Sugar and Carbohydrate Foods in Your Pantry
This is where most people have trouble. Pantries contain the most processed foods out of any other part of the house. And most contain high amounts of sugar and carbs, which is a main factor in today’s obesity and overweight rates.
By checking the nutrition label (see number 5), you can get a better idea of what’s behind the alluring brand labels. Remember, whole grains are much better than refined (think of it as getting closer to the “whole food” as mentioned in number 2 of this article).
9. Don’t Skip a Meal
You and I both know hunger is a bitch. Really, it’s not fun. And eating excess sugar and carbs is making us hungrier and hungrier. Skipping meals can exasperate this feeling and make us more likely to cave to less healthy options.
While OMAD (one meal a day) is emerging as a popular option for achieving health benefits, most of us were raised on three meals a day, and it seems that still works for most.
Aside from not skipping meals or not, making sure you’re getting enough healthy fats, protein, and most importantly–water, can satiate those hunger pains and keep you moving forward with your day.
10. Keep Healthy Snacks Around
By mindlessly snacking, calories can sneak up, and over time, become a leading factor to weight gain.
To reverse this trend, keep around a few healthier snacks you like. The biggest skill one can develop to eating a better diet is to learn how to substitute foods. By finding healthy options that are also tasty, then what else is standing in the way?
For example, next time someone in the office brings in a box of donuts, try opting for an apple and almond butter. Not only will it taste great, but your blood sugar won’t spike (and crash) and that 3 pm sleep spell will be less likely to come around.
11. Limit Sugary Drinks
Substituting can also be used for sugary drinks. The amount of sugar and calories in most drinks can be disastrous for health.
By finding replacements like carbonated water or fruit-infused water, you can remove one of the most dangerous parts of the Standard American Diet. Hoping on that La Croix bandwagon might not be such a bad idea after all.
12. If You Can’t Get Fresh Fruit, Buy Frozen
Grocery shopping for fresh fruit is tough. Most fruits have different rules you have to remember to see if they’re ripe. And some, like avocados or berries, can spoil within a day or two.
When it comes to berries, and most fruits, buying frozen is a viable option. The cost isn’t much more (and sometimes it’s cheaper), and it stays good for much, much longer, making your dollar count that much more.
Yes, buying frozen can limit how fresh your fruits are, but not by much. Most grocery stores have to ship fruit over long distances from its source, so by the time you see it in the store, it can be a few days old, to a week or more.
13. Choose Real Fruit over Fruit Sugar/Fruit Flavors
Fruit juice and fruit sugar are used in many foods, including sugary drinks. Manufacturers often use many different types of sugar so they can cover the real amount in their products. And for most people, one type of sugar isn’t better than others . Sugar is sugar, and our bodies see it as the same.
Checking a nutrition label can be the biggest tool you can use when it comes to identifying sugar. Not only checking the grams under “Sugar”, but also by reading the list of ingredients to look out for sugar’s many names.
By choosing the whole fruit, you’re not only getting the tasty sugar, but you’re also getting the fiber and all the nutrients that come along with the real fruit.
14. Savor Your Food
We often hear the term mindfulness thrown around a lot now. It’s overused, and that’s pretty unfortunate because it can do so much good when it’s actually used. One of the best areas in life to apply a bit of mindfulness is when you eat.
Whether you want to call it mindfulness, or savoring your food, not only will you get more pleasure from eating, but you’ll also feel more full. According to a comprehensive study, eating over 30 minutes can vastly increase satiety while decreasing hunger, compared to 5 minutes .
15. Be Compassionate to Yourself
Along with mindfulness, practicing self-compassion is still underrated. Everyone has lapses when it comes to their goals, especially health goals, and it’s important to understand this and not beat yourself up about it.
By preparing for slip-ups and practicing self-compassion, you can set yourself up to achieve the goals you want. Even with those lapses, there is something to be learned for next time. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Remember, how you grocery shop is how you vote for your food. Grocery stores pay attention to sales. By buying responsibly, ethically, and healthier sourced food, you’re helping promote those brands and methods for others too. And don’t forget–local butchers and farmers’ markets are always options too!
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