I HATE SALADS (& diets that suggest salads) – just had to get that out there to start. If you’re reading this to learn about how to incorporate more salads into your diet, this blog ain’t it.
Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way: If you’re like me and you can’t stick to any sort of meal plan or diet because feeding your body the “right way” is complicated, I wanted to have a little fireside chat with you about how to *NEVER* have to diet again, but still be healthy.
First, let’s talk about dieting. Your ‘diet’ should just be about what you eat every day, not what you’re eating to lose weight or be skinny. I am a firm believer that ‘dieting’ is what causes us to lose track of healthy eating in the first place. With the onset of New Year’s Resolutions at this time of the year, you couldn’t be given a better example of this. You diet for half the month of January and you’re doing well until you run into your first “diet break.” This is when you start to evaluate how long-term you can continue eating this diet you set out on because:
- Telling yourself you’re on a diet sets your mind to thinking that it’s missing out on snacks or the “good stuff”
- “Diets” have an end date, meaning you’re limiting yourself to whatever time period that you say you’re dieting for and once you’re “off-diet” you feel like there’s no turning back
- Creating lists of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods incite guilt and regret when you eat the ‘bad’ stuff, even when it really isn’t that bad
If you haven’t gotten the picture yet, ‘dieting’ in general just shouldn’t be a thing that you do. Eating healthy in general should be your diet and all that is required is a simple mindset shift. You should essentially be eating only when you’re hungry and stopping once you’re full.
Hungry does not equal bored and full does not equal a finished plate or bag of chips
Introducing: intuitive eating, or listening to your body.
The Simple Healthy Eating Equation
Intuitive eating does not come naturally. Read that again.
If you register every time you think about food as you being hungry, then you’ll be on the fast track to overeating. Listening to your body takes time, especially if you’ve been ignoring those hunger and full cues your entire life. I promise that if you begin questioning yourself every time you think you’re hungry that a good 50% of the time, you’re just bored.
For me, it helps to keep away from the lists of approved and unapproved foods because I am WEAK when it comes to dessert. Having general guidelines makes it much more approachable to eat healthier without focusing on the calorie count, or which good or bad list this food lands on.
Here’s my simple breakdown:
– Subtract some carbs
– Add more vegetables
– Divide your plate
– Keep your portions balanced
Subtract Some Heavy Carbs
Let’s say you’re like most people and at every meal about half of your plate is carbs (on average) considering that is likely what you were taught in your grade-school health class.
Remember the plate diagram?
What your health teacher didn’t tell you was that is wrong. Half of your meal should for the most part never be carbs. Carbs/grains have a place in your diet and they do offer benefits, so there is definitely no reason to remove them entirely (this is for you Keto-ers), but they are not the base of your diet regardless of whether you’re a meat eater or not.
Carbs are normally calorie dense and not even that filling anyway, so you end up having to eat a lot of carbs to fill yourself up. If your goal is feeling full, carbs ain’t the way. Carbs are meant to fuel you and give you energy, so if you’re going to work out or do a lot of moving around, you NEED carbs to feel good – adjust your meals accordingly.
Some healthy carb/grain replacements (that still have carbs):
- Spaghetti Squash
- Cauliflower Mashed Potatos (I linked the Trader Joes ones because they’re my fave)
Add More Vegetables
If carbs are supposed to only really be a quarter of your plate, then what do you replace it with? Veggies! Adding more vegetables to your diet not only loads you up with micronutrients, it fills you up faster. Things like a cup of broccoli will be much lower in calorie than a cup of rice, but it will fill you up much faster due to the amount of fiber and keep you full longer because it takes more time to digest.
Focusing on making sure you have a side of vegetables with every meal isn’t just an old wives’ tale, it’s the cold hard truth. If you don’t like veggies, it’s because you haven’t tried enough of them. I went vegetarian for a couple months and that taught me more about being veggie-adventurous than anything else and apparently sometimes I choose veggies over snacks (CRAZY, I KNOW).
Here are my suggestions for unconventional tasty veggies:
- Butternut squash (a sweet potato, but sweeter)
- Spaghetti squash (basically spaghetti if you put pasta sauce on it)
- Bok choy (a spinach/kale kinda thing)
- Zucchini (can also replace noodles)
Divide Your Plate
You should be looking at your plate at each meal as compartmentalized by food type. I’m bringing back that grade-school health class pie chart of your plate but giving it a little update.
Your plate should essentially be:
- 25% Carbs
- 25% Protein/Meat
- 50% Green or Leafy Veggies
The idea here is not telling yourself that you CAN’T have things that are outside of these categories, just have them in moderation. You want to balance the way that you eat so you’re getting a little bit from each category, but not overdoing it. There’s a common misconception of “the more protein, the better” and to be honest, if your body doesn’t use all the protein you eat, you end up getting rid of it as waste. Feeding yourself extra protein doesn’t mean extra benefit.
So, what does this actually mean?
- Don’t think of diet as a sprint – it’s a marathon
- Healthy Eating is just eating if you’re doing it right
- It’s nearly impossible to eat healthy 100% of the time – you can have the occasional snack
- Cravings are normal, fulfill them in moderation (3 Oreos instead of a sleeve ;))
- Avoiding your cravings (‘bad’ foods) makes you want them more
- Aim for long-term success by gently introducing a healthier lifestyle, rather than going all-in for a couple weeks and giving up
Has this helped your mindset around the most common New Years Resolution?