by Lauren Cave
The start of each New Year brings feelings of motivation and anxiety, as many of us are simply trying to better ourselves. It is very common to hear of resolutions that have to do with changing our everyday habits, like eating healthier. It is easy to say we are going to change the way we eat, but in reality it can be inconvenient to alter the way we live our lives. Many people think that changing their eating habits means having to completely restock their pantry with all new earthy food that does not taste good. This can be the case if you are an extremist, but in most cases this is not what we actually want. We want food that tastes good because we are human, and that desire is instinctual. Here are ten tips to begin taking baby steps towards a more substantial and healthy diet:
1. Don’t completely cut out your favorite foods! Sure, if your favorite food is French fries then maybe don’t eat those everyday. But if you are craving them, go for it. Depriving yourself of what you love is only going to make you want that food more. Moderation really might be the key to happiness.
2. Eat a balance of each food group. The five main food groups are fruit, vegetables, protein, grains, and milk. Each of these food groups contain so many different yet vital nutrients that our bodies need, which is why it is so important to maintain a well-balanced diet.
3. Drink more water! Staying hydrated is so important for our overall health. One of the first signs of dehydration is being tired. When you wake up in the morning try to drink a glass of water since we lose body water in our sleep. Also random side note —it is really weird how drinking more water actually helps get rid of excess water weight. So if you feel bloated, try drinking water first!
4. Try cooking at home more. This is one that we always hear, but cooking at home is very different from eating take out food. If you are busy then keep your recipes simple and it will not be as time-consuming. Your body will thank you later in life for not eating all those added ingredients found in commercial foods, and if you are on a budget this is the way to go (most of the time).
5. Use naturals flavors from herbs like rosemary, thyme, or dill. If cooking is your thing, try to stay away from sodium-packed seasonings like flavored salts. Fresh herbs, garlic and onions all make for tasty flavors, and they can even add nutritive value to your meal as well!
6. Include a variety of colors in your diet (not food colorings). Bump up on the colorful foods by increasing your fruit and vegetable intake. Naturally-colored foods are high in nutrients like antioxidants, which are great for your body in so many ways, including helping fight off cancer-causing free radicals. (Don’t forget that white is a color too! Cauliflower does have a lot of nutritional benefits!) Fun fact: each natural color of food contains different antioxidants, and eating them together allows for a stronger effect.
7. Shop mostly around the perimeter of the grocery store. Try to stay away from the inside isles since those are where the more processed foods are located. Stick to the outside isles where your essential foods are found and grocery shopping will become less of a burden, and you will probably be less tempted to buy those Twinkies.
8. Get away from fad diets. These are diets that we read about in the media that everyone and their mothers seem to be partaking in. I encourage you to stick to the basic guidelines of healthy eating and listen to your body. Everyone is different and our bodies need different things. Just because Suzy Q is on a gluten-free diet and it seems to be working for her does not necessarily mean that is what is going to work for you.
9. Ask yourself if you are eating out of boredom? If you do find yourself eating because you are bored (no shame, we all do it), try to remove yourself from the situation. I personally try to distract myself by doing something else or removing the food from the room I am in—unless it’s the kitchen, then just leave the kitchen.
10. Make sure you do your research. There are countless sources out there telling us what is good and what is bad for us to eat. My best advice is to do your own research on foods, and use credible sources. The best source to use is www.eatright.org, the official website of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. (Also, make sure you are taking nutrition advice from a professional in the field, like a Registered Dietitian. It is easy for people to fool you who are not actually permitted to be giving out nutrition advice).
Lauren Cave is a senior at the University of Alabama from Mobile, AL. With a major in food and nutrition, Lauren has always been passionate about maintaining a healthy lifestyle through both diet and exercise. For even more tips, follow @delish.nutrish on Instagram for more ways to stay on top of your health game.