There’s never a bad time to start eating healthily. Which is why we’ve got some tips to help you stay on track with your eating habits all the way to swimsuit season and beyond. All it takes is a little planning, some motivation and a couple of foolproof tricks you’ll wish you knew about sooner.
Clean out your pantry
The best way to start fresh is with a clean slate, and when we’re talking about healthy eating, that applies to your fridge and pantry too. Even though it’s hard to throw out stuff you spent good money on, keeping it around just means you’ll eat it. So give yourself some tough love, roll up those sleeves and toss out every package of chips, cookies, white pasta and ice cream you’ve got hanging around. Or, if you’d prefer, give it to a food shelter.
Set aside every Sunday for meal planning
We all know the devil’s (food cake) in the details. So if you want to stay on track, the best way to set yourself up for success is to sit down every single Sunday (or Saturday if you’d prefer) and plan out exactly what your food week is going to look like. Start with dinners, incorporate leftovers for easy lunches, and don’t forget breakfasts and snacks. Then get to work preparing everything you can in advance (boil eggs, whip up a batch of quinoa, chick peas or other legumes and wash and cutup veggies and fruit) so that you don’t have to think about what you’re eating again until next week.
Invest in portion-control containers
Speaking of not thinking about your food, mindless eating’s one of the toughest hurdles to overcome when trying to eat healthier. Portioning everything out ahead of time in containers or sandwich bags is a great way to avoid overeating, and it also saves you time throughout the week (all you have to do is grab it and go).
Keep snacks on hand
Worried you’re going to hit up the drive-through, or that a major snack attack is going to hit you while you’re on the road? Keep extra snacks on hand at all times. Stash healthy granola, fruit or veggies in your car, purse or gym bag before you leave the house to make sure that you’re covered if sudden hunger strikes. If you don’t need them, keep your debit, cash and credit cards at home as a bonus measure–that way, even if you’re tempted to buy something unhealthy, you won’t be able to afford it.
Sign up for a motivational site or Facebook group
There’s power in numbers, and sometimes all you need is a good support group to keep you accountable. There are various online resources, tools and apps in which you can track food, share tips and keep each other in line with your overall goals. But we find the groups that work best are the ones you’re in with friends. After all, these are the people you’re going to socialize with too–having them on the same page just makes everything that much easier.
Stick to the outside square of the grocery store
This is an oldie, but it works: when you’re going shopping for the week, stick to the store’s outside perimeter (that’s where the fresh produce, lean meats and whole grains are typically located). Venture into the aisles for some legumes and the odd canned staples, but make a list of exactly what you’ll need from those aisles beforehand to stick to. It’s a great way to avoid a whole lot of temptation. Also, never–we repeat never–grocery shop when you’re hungry.
Invest in a food service
Worried that you’re still going to be tempted to buy a lot of unhealthy things as soon as you get to the store? Then don’t go. Consider signing up for a local food box or a delivery company instead. There’s a slew of meal delivery companies near major cities across Canada, although they do tend to be a bit on the pricier side. Meanwhile, organic produce services ensure you’ll get plenty of fruits and veggies at a fairly reasonable price, and they’re delivered right to your doorstep each week.
Eat on a schedule
Most of us take a lot of pleasure from food–that’s why it’s so hard to stick to only healthy things. But if you put yourself on a pretty standard food schedule, suddenly the spontaneity is gone and eating becomes more of a routine thing. Try to have breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time every day, and schedule in snacks for those hours when you know hunger typically hits. The trick is to avoid ever feeling super hungry, which is when we usually tend to make bad decisions for ourselves.
Consider your cutlery
You might know that putting food on a smaller plate makes you feel like you’re eating more, and that eating off of white plates makes you less hungry than eating off of yellow, red or black ones. But did you also know that your fork size matters too? One study showed that people who used larger forks tended to eat less because their brains were tricked into thinking they were making a bigger dent in their meals. As a result, they felt fuller quicker.
Add spinach to everything
Looking to up your iron intake? Want more leafy greens in your life, but can’t stand another spinach salad? You can seriously add spinach to almost anything. Pop some into your breakfast smoothies, cut it into a quinoa pilaf, wilt it onto a pita pizza or toss a couple of handfuls into your next soup. In most of these cases you’ll barely notice it’s there, but you’ll reap all of the health benefits.
Here’s a clean, green smoothie recipe to get you started:
Look beyond the scale
Sometimes in order to stay motivated you need to see results. But one mistake people often make when trying to eat healthier is by weighing those results rather than thinking about how they feel overall. When you’re starting out, create a list of goals for yourself. Do you want more energy? Are you looking for clearer skin and less brittle nails? Perhaps you simply want more consistent bowel movements. At the end of each week, write down how you’re feeling in a journal–it doesn’t have to be a major novel entry either, bullet points are just fine. Then after a month look back and see the small changes you’ve already accomplished; you’ll be jazzed to keep going.
Set a countdown… with rewards at the end
Another great way to stay on track is to have some sort of visual countdown. Know how some workplaces have a sign indicating the number of days they’ve been accident-free? Do your own count of how many days you’ve been junk-food free. Hang it on the fridge or kitchen and use it to motivate yourself to keep going. Set rewards on milestone days (30, 60, 100) and be sure to treat yourself, too. Avoid using food itself as a reward though–think along the lines of a manicure, a new outfit or even that awesome tattoo you’ve been talking about getting.
Order that pizza
We all have a food vice, and usually that vice comes with crust and cheese. It’s important to give in every once in a while and not deprive yourself, but it’s equally important to align your choices with your health goals. If pizza’s your thing, order it with half the cheese, lean chicken and double the veggies. If it’s sushi, opt for sashimi, a small side of rice and forego the tempura. If you’re eating out, choose a lean protein, ask for a double side of veggies (or a salad with dressing on the side), and skip the breadbasket–don’t even let them put it in front of you.
Plan non-food related dates with friends
Speaking of restaurants, how often have we been forced to break our willpower with that delicious temptation called a menu? When everyone else is splurging, it’s easy to feel like you can (or should) too. That’s why it’s often easier to avoid restaurant dates with friends and suggest alternatives like coffee dates (skip the fat-laden lattes), hiking or snowshoeing, trips to the mall (avoid the food court) or a good old-fashioned drive through the country. Can’t avoid a restaurant? Stick to the eating out strategy as noted above.
Eat your calories
Notice we said “eat” and not drink. We all know pop, alcohol and juice add up to give us extra calories we don’t want or need. Stick to water (take your current body weight and divide by two–that’s how many ounces of water you should drink per day), and leave the calories for eating. If you get bored of regular H2O, add fruit, veggies or herbs to create flavoured water, or drink herbal tea instead.
So now, what are you waiting for? This really is the year you’ll conquer the world… or at least your kitchen.