A healthy diet has numerous health benefits from reducing risk of chronic disease and keeping your body healthy as you age. When you begin a fitness routine, your diet becomes all the more important, as you’re not just eating to survive, you’re fueling your body for exercise.
While making changes to your diet can be overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be complicated. It all comes down to making smarter choices, and exercising willpower. With these 9 tips below, I aim to make those choices a bit easier for you. Choose a few off the list and get started today!
1. Choose Healthy Carbs
Carbs have really gained a bad rep in recent years but including healthy carbs in your diet can improve your gut health and help with feelings of fullness. Better yet, carbs are the body's preferred energy source for exercise, so if you’re looking to bring your all to your fitness routine, the carbs you eat matter.
When it comes to selecting carbs to eat, it’s best to avoid refined carbs when possible - white bread, pastries, cakes, etc. Instead opt for whole grains, such as wheat, oats, brown rice, and quinoa. These have a high fiber content and will lead to feelings of fullness, as well as give you long-lasting energy to power your workouts!
Also, don’t forget fruits and veggies are carbs too! Maximize dark leafy greens, and a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet to get much needed vitamins and minerals, and to decrease overall calorie intake while adding plenty of volume to your meals!
2. Opt for Healthy Fats
Healthy fats are so important for proper brain function, formation of hormones like estrogen and testosterone, healthy skin and nails, as well as essential for absorption of vitamins A, D, E and K!
It’s important to stay away from trans fats which are often included in store-baked goods or packaged treats like crackers and cookies to increase shelf life. Trans fats increase LDL cholesterol levels (bad cholesterol) and decrease HDL cholesterol levels (good cholesterol), as well as increase triglyceride levels in the blood. This also includes margarine and shortening.
Instead opt for healthier options such as fatty fish like Salmon or Halibut, chia seeds, flax seeds, avocado, olive oil, and many nuts and seeds!
3. Increase Your Protein Intake
Protein is amazing for increasing satiety levels and will keep you feeling fuller for longer. Better yet, if you work out regularly, protein plays an important role in both increasing and maintaining lean muscle mass. Individuals who have a higher muscle mass enjoy an increase in metabolism - meaning they burn calories faster.
Increase protein in your diet to keep your feeling full and preserve and fuel your muscles for activity. Healthy sources of protein include dairy products like Greek yogurt and cheese, nuts, eggs, and lean proteins like chicken, turkey, and bison.
4. Don’t Shop Without a List
There are a few easy steps you can take when it comes to putting your willpower to practice in the kitchen, and it starts at the grocery store. Create your grocery list ahead of time, scanning the list to make sure it includes a variety of healthy choices - lean protein, healthy fats, whole grains, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Stick to the list! Throughout the week you’ll find it’s much easier to exercise your willpower when unhealthy snacks aren’t within arm’s reach, and healthy options are at the ready.
5. Bake or Roast Instead of Frying
Fried foods sure are yummy, but can be damaging to your health, especially when eaten regularly. Healthier cooking methods include boiling, baking, roasting, broiling, slow cooking or pressure cooking, or searing and simmering on the stove. Choose healthier methods to reduce calories, and limit trans fats in your diet!
6. Try at Least One New Healthy Recipe a Week
Many people find it hard to stick to a healthy eating plan because they tend to eat the same things over and over. Once they tire of the same boring meals, it’s easier to give up. Well, don’t give in just yet!
Cooking one new recipe each week will help you increase your options and learn more about the healthy foods you do enjoy. When you can enjoy what you eat, it makes it more fun and will help you stick with a healthier eating plan! Not sure where to start? We have plenty to healthy recipes on our nutrition page.
7. Replace Sugary Drinks with Sparkling or Regular Water
Sugary beverages may just be the unhealthiest thing in your diet. Sodas and even fruit juices send a shock of sugar into your system and do absolutely nothing for your overall satiety levels. A 12-ounce can of Coca Cola contains 39 grams of sugar, which exceeds the recommended sugar intake for males of 36 grams a day, and women for 25 grams a day! And that doesn’t include any other added sugar to your daily intake.
Choosing a sparkling water, or sugar-free alternative is an easy way to decrease calorie and overall added sugar intake.
8. Choose Healthy Oils
Vegetable oil and canola oil have become a popular household staple over the years, but these oils are highly processed. Instead, cook your food with healthier alternatives such as olive oil, coconut oil, and avocado oil - that way you’re adding a healthy and clean component to your meal rather than unhealthy, processed ingredients.
9. Cook at Home
Cooking at home might take more time than grabbing food out. However, eating at home has its major benefits. First and foremost, when you cook at home you have total control over the ingredients going into your meal. This way you won’t have to worry about sneaky ingredients you may be trying to avoid.
Also, when cooking at home, it’s easy to cook larger portions so you’ll have healthy leftovers to eat from for a few days to come. Finally, eating at home is awesome for your budget - spend less, and eat healthier? It honestly doesn’t get any better than that.