Eating healthy is one of those things you know you should do, but probably don’t know where to start. Between all the fads, trends and gimmicky routines, it can be hard to make sense of it all. Below are some simple and easy ways you can make healthier food choices immediately.
Eating healthier doesn’t have to be difficult. If you make a few of these changes to your habits, you’ll find it’s not so hard after all.
1. Fool Proof Your Pantry
A surefire way to make unhealthy food choices is to buy things you know aren’t good for you in the first place. If your pantry is stocked with potato chips, pasta, bread and sweets, you’re going to have a hard time resisting those things and choosing something healthier.
When has anyone ever chosen celery sticks and dip over a bag of potato chips when presented with the option?
If you’re serious about making healthy food choices at home, follow these three easy steps:
- Don’t buy it in the first place.
- Go through your pantry and weed out all the unhealthy foods that are already in there. (You can give away the food, so it doesn’t have to be thrown out.
- If there are members of your family who insist on having those foods around, keep them in a pantry box, so you don’t see them.
2. Stick to the Perimeter
The best tip I ever heard about grocery shopping really changed the way I shopped and, ultimately, the way I ate.
When you go grocery shopping, try to stick to the perimeter of the store, which is where you find all the fresh produce, diary, and meats.
If you stay away from the inner aisles, you’ll avoid all the processed, dry goods with with high-carbs and tons of preservatives.
3. Cut Out Refined Sugars
Refined sugars refer to sugar that go through heavy processing, such as white granulated sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Obviously, on a low-carb diet, sugars like those are really not allowed. But you have to look for them, because oftentimes they are hidden in foods.
For instance, products like bacon, lunch meat, and yogurt – which you wouldn’t really think have sugars in them – actually do! Check the back of the package to look for hidden sugars.
One great way to avoid hidden sugars is to make your own at home. For instance, making yogurt in the Instant Pot is easy and delicious, without the added sugar. I also make all my own salad dressings at home.
Just because you’re cutting out refined sugar doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sweet foods anymore. In fact, there are many sugar substitutes (like monkfruit and erythritol) that mimic sugar and can be used for baking, with none of the downfalls of sugar.
4. Eat Meals Regularly
Many people choose to skip certain meals as a tool for weight loss, like in intermittent fasting, where breakfast is often not eaten in order to maintain a longer period of fasting. I’m a fan of intermittent fasting, if that’s something you’ve chosen to do. It has it’s place in the struggle for weight loss, for sure. But that doesn’t mean you should skip the meals that are included in the diet you’ve chosen.
Sticking to any kind of healthy diet depends on eating the right number of meals every day. Skipping meals deprives your body of the energy it needs to run, and can lead to gorging at your next meal.
It’s best to decide on a calorie deficit you’re aiming for and then making sure you eat the meals you need to achieve that. For instance, with a low-carb diet, it’s important to replace the carbs with healthy fats and protein. If you’re skipping meals, you may not be eating enough to fuel your body properly.
5. Read Ingredient Labels
One of the easiest things you can do to make healthier diet choices is to read the nutrition label on everything you buy, particularly processed or boxed foods.
Check the ingredients to make sure they’re not hiding anything. For example, some brands advertise as being Greek yogurt, but actually use corn starch as a thickener instead of real active cultures. And speaking of yogurt, they can pack a LOT of extra sugars in there!
Dressings are another product that often get packed with extra sugars and undesirable stabilizers and preservatives. If you must buy pre-made dressings, be sure you know what’s in it.
6. Choose Healthy Meats
The supply of meat you can purchase at the mega grocery often comes from unhealthy sources of meat that were fed a poor diet packed with antibiotics.
It’s always best to purchase farm-raised meat, including grass-fed beef, free-range organic chickens and eggs, and high-quality pork. One of the easiest ways to do this is to buy from online sources like FarmFoods, where you can choose what meats you want and it will be delivered directly to your door. That’s how we do it!
7. Limit Processed Carbs
Carbs are one of the three basis nutrients that you need in your diet, so you shouldn’t cut them out completely on a low-carb diet, but you should definitely try to limit the processed ones.
When starting a low-carb diet, it’s good to focus on decreasing the amount of highly processed carbs you eat and looking for sources of carbs in healthy sources like vegetables and fruits.
Check out our list of 148 low-carb foods to see the carb count for the main foods you’ll be eating on a low-carb diet. You’ll be amazed to see how many foods have healthy unprocessed carbs.
8. Rethink the Drinks
If you’re regularly drinking soda and sweetened drinks or juices, you’re going to be shocked at how much sugar is in it. Many sodas contain a high amount of refined sugar, which can not only cause you to pack on the pounds but increase your risk of diabetes.
For instance, just one 12-ounce can of coke contains nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar. You heard me right: 10 TEASPOONS. That equates to 39 grams of sugar.
Before you go getting all high and mighty because you don’t drink soda, a single 12-ounce glass of orange juice also contains 9 teaspoons of sugar, the same as that can of Coke.
You already know this, but most alcoholic beverages contain carbs and sugar. Probably the worst choice you can make is a pint of beer that contains 208 calories and 17.6 grams of carbs. In contrast, a 5-ounce glass of dry red wine typically contains about 125 calories and 4 grams of carbs.
The best alcoholic drinks when on a low-carb diet are clear spirits, like vodka or gin, and if you need a mixer go with no-sugar tonic water.
9. Focus on Natural Sugars
While it’s not good to eat too much of any sugar, when you do make sure it’s naturally occurring sugar and not added sugar.
The sugars that come from fruits are always going to be better for you than eating refined sugars, since the fruits also offer valuable nutrients as well.
10. Raw Isn’t Always Better
Some fruits and vegetables have a higher nutrient content when eaten raw, which is the basis of the raw food movement. For instance, steaming and boiling causes a 22-34% loss of vitamin C. However, if you were to microwave or pressure-cook vegetables, they can retained 90 percent of their vitamin C.
When deciding whether to eat vegetables raw or cooked, always consider the other side of the coin. Cooked spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, cabbage, peppers and many other vegetables supply more antioxidants when steamed or boiled than they do raw.
11. Cut Out the Extras
There are healthy snacks, and then there are just extras. What do I mean by extras? Well, eating a slice of cheese as a healthy, low-carb snack is a purposeful thing. But adding extra dressing to your salad at lunch or adding extra cream to your coffee in the morning – those are extras. And all those extras can add up quickly.
If you want to stick to your diet goals and lose the weight you’re expecting to lose, you have to turn down the extras and curb extraneous snacking. You can do that by always being mindful of what you’re eating.
Making healthy food choices doesn’t have to be a tedious thing that takes too much brain power. In fact, most of these ideas can quickly become habit and don’t take any extra planning once you’ve adopted them as your new norm.
What other ways do you find helpful for making healthy food choices? Share your ideas with us in the comments.
Laura is an avid home cook and recipe creator. She shares her favorite low-carb recipes here that are both easy to make and full of flavor, so you don’t even miss the carbs.