Eating healthy effects much more than your waistline. Did you know that healthy eating habits can help you stave off serious viruses and illnesses — and even serious health conditions? But what are the most effective ways of implementing healthy eating habits?
The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends sticking to a nutritious diet to help combat COVID-19. Their recommendations are straightforward and simple: eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, consume a diet rich in whole grains and legumes, and aim for mostly whole foods and a colorful plate.
A colorful plate typically includes a variety of foods to ensure you get all the vitamins you need. For best results, it is also best to snack on some nuts to get vitamin E and eat fish packed with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon. If you’d like to find out what is the healthiest nuts to eat click here.
While it is remarkable that eating healthy can help prevent unfavorable outcomes from COVID-19, that is not all it can do — not even close. According to the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, healthy habits can help delay the onset of the neurological disorder Parkinson’s Disease.
In fact, eating a Mediterranean diet or mostly sticking to the MIND diet, a program that “combines elements of the Mediterranean diet and a diet known as Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” U.S News writes, delays the onset of symptoms by eight years in men and nearly 18 years in women.
The decision to have healthy eating habits can make an incredible impact on your life. Enjoy more energy, combat viruses, and mitigate the symptoms of serious health conditions just by cleaning up your diet. Here are some simple pointers to get you started.
1. Clean Out Your Fridge
If you want to have healthy eating habits, it is best to start with a clean slate. Do that by cleaning out your refrigerator.
Clean all shelves and surfaces with a mild soap or non-toxic cleaner. Throw out old leftovers as well as any items that may tempt you to continually or regularly overeat. Put an open box of baking soda in an out-the-way but accessible spot, like a back corner.
Baking soda will help absorb any unpleasant odors. “You’ll find that it’s easier to enjoy diet-friendly foods when they are displayed nicely and when they are easy to find and grab when you’re on the go,” Verywell Fit writes.
Once your refrigerator is free of dirt, grime, and questionable leftovers, get organized by:
- Display healthy, go-to snacks prominently. If you truly want to have healthy eating habits, make it easy — not cumbersome — to snack healthfully. Upon arriving home from the grocery store, rinse and scrub produce. Put fruits and veggies on eye-level or inside accessible crisper and high-humidity drawers.
- To keep the produce as handy as possible, a bottom mount refrigerator would be best. If you plan to eat fresh items right away, cut them up and stow them in transparent, airtight containers. Ideally, it should be as simple as opening your refrigerator and grabbing what you need.
- Use see-through containers and storage bags. If you can clearly see what’s inside your refrigerator, you are much less likely to forget about it. Eat leftover items in five days or less
- Keep it varied and colorful. Keep your fridge stocked with colorful fruits and veggies. Purchase cauliflower, greens, citrus fruits, berries, and bell peppers. Choose in-season produce for items that last and are markedly less expensive. Have lean protein, low-fat dairy, and cooked whole grains, like quinoa or brown rice, on hand as well.
2. Categorize Your Pantry
In addition to a clean and well-stocked refrigerator, it is also important to pack your pantry with healthy staples. In order to have healthy eating habits and stick to them, it is best for households to have healthy pantry items well-organized and at-the-ready. For a healthy and orderly pantry:
- Prioritize nutritious pantry staples. Purchase dried beans, whole grains, whole grain pasta, no salt added nut butter, nuts, no sugar added dried fruits, oil, vinegar, vegetable broth, dairy-free milk, honey, spices, and dried herbs such as za’atar. Remember, za’atar is for sale online, so get only pristine quality. Favor whole foods or foods with as few preservatives and chemicals as possible. Avoid items with a lot of sugar or salt.
- Use like-sized containers and labels. Keep it organized. Draw your inspiration from the local storage company. Bring to mind what that might look like. Generally speaking, storage units are uniform and arranged neatly with units stacked on top of one another and from side to side. Nothing looks especially hectic or out of place.
- Apply the same principles to your pantry. Keep like-sized items next to one another. Stow loose items in containers. Transfer pasta and grains to same-size containers and neatly label them. Avoid stray items, and tossing new groceries into the pantry without looking.
- Organize by zone. Divide your pantry up into several zones. Reserve top shelves for items that you do not plan to use every day. For example, you may have an “entertaining zone” up top. Store red wine, snack items, appetizers, toothpicks, napkins, and trays in this zone. That way, it will be at your disposal if you have expected — or unexpected — company, but you will be less likely to open up these items on a daily basis.
- Keep healthy meal items and snacks on your eye-level and medium-level shelves. For example, designate a “whole grains” zone and a “healthy snacking” zone at this level. Keep brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, and whole-grain pasta in like-sized containers in the grains zone.
- Use the healthy snacking zone to store dried fruits, nuts, nut butter, trail mix, roasted chickpeas, popcorn, veggie chips, and dark chocolate.
On the lowest shelves, create a “kid zone” with healthy snacks, water, flavored water, and plant-based milk.
3. Make A Grocery List and Stick To It
One of the most common gaffes we make when we set out to have healthy eating habits is going to the grocery store hungry, without a list, and without a plan. This can easily lead to splurging — and that means spending more than you would like and grabbing not-so-nutritious items and tossing them into your cart on a whim. For a healthy trip to the grocery store:
- Meal plan and make a list. For the best results, plan your meals ahead of time. Knowing what meals you plan to eat during the week helps you make your grocery list, and it helps you stick to healthy eating habits. Without a list, you can easily be swayed by anything from cravings to Google ads for cookies and other baked goods.
- Know what items are healthy. It helps to know what foods are healthier for you. That information comes in handy whether you are meal planning or whether you inevitably end up at the grocery at the last minute without a list in spite of your best intentions.
- WebMD recommends whole grains and whole wheat products, lean meats (avoid red meat if possible), non-fat or low-fat dairy, and lots of fruits and vegetables. If you struggle with your daily water intake or you are trying to drink more water and less soda, sweet tea, or fruit juice, add some sparkling water to your cart.
- Start in the produce section. The outer perimeter of the grocery store generally contains produce, dairy, meats, and frozen items. These are generally whole foods and foods with fewer chemicals and preservatives. This helps you fill your cart with nutritious foods first. It also encourages you to spend less time in the middle aisles, as you have dairy, meat, and produce that needs to be refrigerated waiting in your cart.
4. Prepare Meals Ahead Of Time
Often, less-than-healthy eating habits can be chalked up to convenience. We order takeout after a busy day at work or when we do not have the time to pack our lunch. Meal prep helps you avoid these everyday scenarios that are bound to come up, and it makes grabbing what you already have in the fridge just as convenient as ordering in.
To speed up the process, designate a day to batch cook items. That may mean spending a few hours cooking rice, chopping up vegetables, and portioning out healthy snacks. Whenever possible, cook meals ahead of time and put them in convenient, microwave-safe containers. This makes it easy to make healthy meals on-the-go for lunch or to heat up quickly after work.
Plus, preparing meals ahead of time gives you the luxury of planning for nutrition, calories, and food allergies. It is much easier to have healthy eating habits when you know exactly what you’re eating. If you want to stick to a certain number of calories, aim for so many grams of protein per day, or avoid allergens, planning what goes into meals and making them ahead easily facilitates that process.
5. Display Healthy Snacks
You would not purchase an expensive classic car only to shut it up in the garage and never take it out again. Think about healthy snacks like you would think about classic cars. Keep them out in the open. Show them off.
You are significantly more likely to remember that you have healthy snacks and eat them if they are within reach.
6. Grow Your Own Veggies
Another way to have healthy eating habits is to make it fun. Challenge yourself to grow your own vegetables. If you are an amateur, start out with easy-to-grow veggies, like spinach, lettuce, green beans, squash, tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers. Many of these staples thrive in full sunlight or partial shade, making them optimal for beginners.
If you are not a beginner and wish to scale your vegetable garden, team up with landscaping companies to clear the perfect spot in your backyard.
7. Keep Recipes On The Fridge
Just like keeping healthy snacks in arm’s reach encourages you to snack on healthy foods, printing healthy recipes and leaving them out in plain sight helps, too. Print out recipes, and make them eye-catching. Use color printing services to print them in full-color.
Having healthy recipes right at your disposal will keep them in front of your mind, and it will save you the time of searching for something healthy to make when you are hungry.
8. Take Your Vitamins
Even those who try their very best to have healthy eating habits are not perfect. You will derive a lot of nutrition from whole foods and colorful foods, but — even then — you may have some gaps in your diet.
Stock up on a daily multivitamin, and take it at the same time every day. Think of your body like a garbage disposal. Even when you use best practices, some items may get stuck from time to time. Likewise, you may have difficulty absorbing some minerals and vitamins naturally from the foods you eat. A quality multivitamin can help bridge that gap.
9. Motivate Yourself
The vast majority of us are motivated by intrinsic and extrinsic awards. In other words, eating healthy for the sake of doing it is not enough. Instead, reflect on why you’re doing it and your reasons behind it.
Are you eating healthier to have more energy during the day? Are you eating healthier to feel better physically or to lose weight? These are intrinsic motivations that can help you keep at it day after day.
Remember, extrinsic rewards work, too. In fact, extrinsic rewards feel more tangible, so they may be more motivating — at least at first — for some.
Set a goal, and promise yourself an extrinsic award if you reach it. For example, if you have healthy eating habits for a week or two straight, buy yourself that new watch or treat yourself to a day at the salon.
10. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself
Too often, people take an all-or-nothing approach to establishing healthy behavior. This makes it difficult to have healthy eating habits, pick up a new exercise routine, or otherwise make healthy changes.
While it may feel counterintuitive to some, it is important to give yourself some grace. If at all possible, do not take your new routine too seriously. Here’s what to do for lasting results:
- If you miss a day or two, pick up where you left off. Don’t give up.
- Be realistic about any limitations you may have. If you are currently undergoing TMJ treatment, it is impractical to make hard, crunchy foods like raw carrots and celery your go-to healthy snack. Make appropriate substitutions, like berries and nutritious smoothies.
- Be kind to yourself. Self-flagellation doesn’t help anyone. If you make some mistakes, know that everyone does. Accepting it, letting it go, and getting back on the wagon is much more effective than beating yourself up over it.
What does it take to have healthy eating habits? Set yourself up for success using the tips and tricks above.