Everyone has room for improvement when it comes to healthy eating. Whether you are just starting out, or you are a nutritional rock star, below are six actions you can take to start improving your nutritional habits. But before taking action, you need to identify your goal.
Set A Specific Goal
We are such an appearance driven society, and it’s very easy to get caught up in the “fit into your skinny jeans” or “look good with your shirt off” mentality. Instead of an appearance-based goal, choose a specific goal that focuses on long-term health and quality of life (see Creating A Workout Plan you Can Stick To). For example, rather than a goal to “lose 50 pounds,” target a specific reason such as:
- I want to go up the stairs without losing my breath
- I want to get off my medication
- I want my knee pain to go away
- I want to be able to comfortably sit with my legs crossed
Concentrate on quality of life goals, and you will discover positive bodily changes happening without the need to obsess over them.
Six Actions Steps
From the list below, choose just one thing to work on. Once you have mastered one item, add on another one. This will keep you from getting overwhelmed, and it will help you create sustainable life-long habits.
1. Track Your Food
- If you are not tracking your food, you are, at best, estimating how much and how healthy you are really eating each day. Tracking your food provides a personal baseline of your overall diet. It keeps you accountable for not only the quantity of food but also the quality (whole, natural, unprocessed) of foods you are eating. Various apps make food tracking incredibly easy. I love My Fitness Pal which use to track my own food.
2. Focus On One Dietary Change At A Time
Choose one small thing to change in your diet, master that one thing, and then work towards changing another. Small changes keep you motivated and really add up over time to benefit your overall health. Some examples:
-Commit to eating at least one serving of vegetables at every meal.
-Eat one less serving of dessert per week.
-For fat loss, start with a small, doable calorie reduction. A piece of bread or one small cookie are both about 100 calories. Cutting just one of those items from your diet is often enough to elicit fat loss.
3. Don’t Keep Treats/Trigger Foods In The House
If you are craving something, wait an hour to see if the craving goes way. If it doesn’t, ask yourself again if this something you REALLY want. If it is, give yourself permission go out and get a small, single-serve portion of whatever you are craving. I’ve been known to make a midnight run to the Baker’s Square drive through on more than one occasion because I was craving a piece of pie. The key here is that I was forced to ask myself if this is something I really wanted, then I had go out and get it. Keeping a stash of treats in the house does not allow this barrier. Thoroughly think through your decision, enjoy the small treat if you really wanted it and move on with your life.
4. Prioritize Whole, Natural, Unprocessed Foods
This includes vegetables, fruits, high-quality animal products, nuts, and dried legumes/beans. Limit items in your diet that come in a box, jar or can.
5. Limit Alcohol And Sugary Drinks
Put these items on the same level as dessert. They should be occasional treats and not part of your everyday diet.
6. Don’t Use Exercise As Punishment
Exercise should never be viewed as a punishment – even if you have had a rocky day, week, or month nutritionally. Rather than punishing yourself with a grueling workout, or saying “I’ll start again tomorrow,” accept the past and restart immediately. Maybe you didn’t stick to your nutritional goals that morning, but you definitely can that afternoon. You don’t need to wait until tomorrow to continue the practice of changing your habits. Also, examine your diet from a weekly or monthly view rather than a daily view. Focus on consistency over time rather than on the daily ups and downs life may throw your way.
The information found on this blog is based on my own personal thoughts and opinions. I am not a doctor or registered dietician. Please be sure to consult your health care professional before starting or changing any fitness or nutrition program.
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