Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to give up all the foods you love or spend your life cooking in the kitchen. Despite what you may assume, eating wholesome, nutritious foods is easier than you think!
If you’re searching for easy ways to eat healthier, we’ve compiled a list of six tried and tested strategies that anyone can use to reset their eating habits.
1. Cook most of your meals at home.
Cooking your meals at home is one of the easiest and most effective ways to eat healthier. By making it a habit, you’ll drastically improve your health and save money in the process.
Most foods at restaurants or fast food establishments plate meals in large portions that are sometimes double the recommended size for adults. In addition to the extra calories, restaurant food is typically also higher in fat, sugar, sodium, and refined grains, which can contribute to unwanted weight gain.
While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a meal out, it’s best to do so sparingly and view it as a treat rather than doing it every night.
2. Increase your protein intake.
Eating more protein is one of the most important ways to eat healthier. Since it keeps you fuller longer, it may help you avoid overeating, reduce your overall caloric intake, and manage your appetite.1
Additionally, upping your protein intake will help you retain and build muscle as you exercise, whether you prefer to run, cycle, swim, or do something else. Researchers have found that eating more protein can even help you burn more calories daily!2
And if you’re actively trying to lose weight, increasing your daily protein intake will also help curb cravings.
3. Find healthy swaps for your favorite treats.
Finding healthy substitutes for your favorite treats is one of the simplest and most effective ways to eat healthier. This often includes making small daily decisions that add up to significant results!
To make healthy swaps, replace less nutritious foods and beverages with more nutritious alternatives. Examples might include:
- Drinking fruit-infused water or unsweetened carbonated water instead of soda or juice.
- Topping your salads with homemade salad dressing instead of store-bought dressings.
- Baking sweets with maple syrup or honey instead of refined sugar.
- Enjoying frozen fruit or yogurt in place of ice cream.
- Eating raw vegetables dipped in hummus or dressing instead of potato chips.
- Opting for dark chocolate instead of highly processed sweets like gummy worms or hard candies.
- Making your own pasta sauce instead of buying store-bought sauce.
Replacing a favorite with something that’s similar but more nutritious can help you feel satisfied and avoid binging.
4. Use a visual plating method.
Logging all your calories with a tool like MyFitnessPal is a great way to understand your macronutrients and keep track of everything you’re eating. Unfortunately, it can also be very time-consuming.
If you’re looking for ways to eat healthier but it feels too overwhelming to track all the food you eat constantly, another option is to use a visual plating method. Instead of weighing, measuring, and logging all your food, you follow a consistent plating routine when dishing out your food.
For instance, you might cook chicken, brown rice, and sheet pan vegetables for dinner. Before getting your food, mentally divide your plate into fourths. Fill two-fourths with veggies, one-fourth with chicken, and one-fourth with rice.
You can also customize how you plate your food and divide it up differently depending on your needs, preferences, and dietary restrictions.
5. Exercise regularly.
Cravings for sugary or processed junk foods make it really hard to stick to a healthy diet.
Unlike whole foods, junk food is designed to be ultra tasty, and it’s filled with unnatural ingredients that hard-wire our brains to want more, often resulting in overeating and excess weight gain.
However, regular exercise makes it easier to resist these types of foods by improving your brain function and cognition. Hence, you can better manage stress and resist the temptation to binge on junk food.
For example, one study found that people consumed less processed food, such as chips or milk chocolate, after 20 minutes of moderate-intensity treadmill walking.3 Researchers have also found that people are less likely to prefer and crave high-calorie junk foods when regularly engaging in moderate aerobic exercise or strength training.4
So whether you lift weights every morning or run with Vingo while exploring the world, you’ll likely reap the psychological benefits of fewer junk food cravings. Although you may still eat high-calorie junk food occasionally, you may not experience such a powerful desire to eat them regularly or in excess, which will help you in your healthy eating journey.
6. Be consistent.
Even if you implement all these ways to eat healthier, they won’t have a significant impact unless you’re consistent. You don’t have to be perfect, but if you stick to your healthy eating guidelines at least 80 percent of the time, you’ll see physical results and feel better, too!
If you know you’ll still want certain foods that are less nutritious for you, schedule it into your week to maintain control over how often and how much of it you eat.
For instance, if you love cheeseburgers, you can still get away with having one every week. Just make Wednesday nights a special occasion. Every Wednesday evening, cook a cheeseburger at home for dinner. Pair it with homemade sweet potato fries and sparkling water, and you’re already leaps and bounds above and beyond the average fast food meal—and you won’t feel deprived!
Key Takeaways:Whether it’s weight loss you’re after or you’re trying to increase your muscle mass, fueling your body with nutritious, whole foods will help you achieve your goals. These six foolproof ways to eat healthier are easy to implement and maintain, and they won’t make you feel miserable or deprived. In fact, if you follow the above tips for healthy eating, you’re bound to have more energy, get sick less often, and reach your fitness goals faster.
- Moon, J., & Koh, G. (2020). Clinical Evidence and Mechanisms of High-Protein Diet-Induced Weight Loss. Journal of Obesity & Metabolic Syndrome, 29(3), 166–173. https://doi.org/10.7570/jomes20028
- Carbone, J. W., & Pasiakos, S. M. (2019). Dietary Protein and Muscle Mass: Translating Science to Application and Health Benefit. DOAJ (DOAJ: Directory of Open Access Journals), 11(5), 1136. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11051136
- Lowe, C. J., Kolev, D., & Hall, P. (2016). An exploration of exercise-induced cognitive enhancement and transfer effects to dietary self-control. Brain and Cognition, 110, 102–111. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bandc.2016.04.008
- McNeil, J., Cadieux, S., Finlayson, G. D., Blundell, J. E., & Doucet, É. (2015). The effects of a single bout of aerobic or resistance exercise on food reward. Appetite, 84, 264–270. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.10.018