Small Changes to Eat Healthier All Year
As a Registered Dietitian, I can see why people struggle with sustaining “healthy eating” as they sift through mixed messages about nutrition. It feels as if people go from struggling to manage their weight to eventually struggling to manage disease. There’s very little in-between. The dieting industry pushes the all-or-nothing approach which only leaves people feeling unsuccessful and confused about the meaning of “healthy eating.” The truth is everyone’s “healthy lifestyle” looks different depending on your circumstances. Creating habits that are enjoyable and that are in alignment with your beliefs will keep you inspired. A journey that involves balance and positivity will keep you consistent.
Creating sustainability in your eating habits can be as big or small as your journey allows, which is why taking advice can be difficult as it may not meet you where you’re at on your journey. So here are a few ideas to get you thinking about what you can do to create healthy habits for the long-term.
1. Make a mindset shift. In most cases, our desire to become healthier is evolved around our weight loss goals, which then correlates “healthy” with “weight loss.” That becomes hard to sustain because you’ve jumped over the actual hard work of improving your mindset around “healthy eating.” So, on this note, I’d like to kindly remind you that healthy eating is a way to heal your body, give your body the tools to prevent disease, and position you for a better quality of life! Once you become more passionate about your “health” (before your weight), the rest falls into place!
2. Put the focus on fiber. We have been conditioned to focus on, or dare I say obsess about, protein. Unfortunately, not enough people are talking about the importance of fiber. This swap can be a complete game-changer for your journey. Fiber helps improve your gut bacteria, produces crucial short-chain fatty acids that play a role in your immune system, and, of course, keeps the “yuck stuff” movin’ on out! The best part: MOST foods that have fiber also have protein. So, get this—you can increase fiber intake without sacrificing protein! Some high-fiber foods are black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lentils, whole grains, and even chia seeds. Add beans to your salad, lentils in your soups, and seeds to your breakfast.
3. Think of nutritious foods as an “add-on.” This will create sustainability in your health journey by omitting the feeling of deprivation, which usually triggers guilt. This guilt is the biggest reason for inconsistency. If you enjoy ice cream, add berries to it. If you eat scrambled eggs, add black beans to them. If you like sandwiches, add dark leafy greens (or as many veggies as you like) to it. That will help you create healthy habits that fit in with your circumstances and meet you where you’re at on your journey. Eventually, you might start to swap out ice cream for a healthier option when you’re ready, but doing it because you “should” probably won’t last.
Preventing disease with your eating habits doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul in your food choices. However, learning the protective properties in food can take your choices from a “should” to a “want.” I left the clinical field of managing disease to start a business, Wholesome Endeavors, to offer unbiased nutrition education to help people prevent disease. We offer new perspectives and empower people on how to create a lifestyle without guilt or deprivation. Freedom or happiness doesn’t come from weight loss; it comes from creating a lifestyle you love on your terms and with confidence in your food choices.
This article was originally published in the January/February 2022 issue of our bi-monthly newsletter, The Morsel. If you’d like to read more stories like this one and stay up to date on the latest co-op news and events, pick up a print copy in-store on your next grocery run or find more news on our website here.