When you are looking to make serious life changes, it often makes sense to start taking action incrementally instead of jumping in immediately. I often find that people who engage in swift, drastic diets and fad diets, often are much less successful in the long run compared to those who change small habits in their eating and look to make them permanent habits over time. I often recommend that people start out changing their diets with small incremental steps, before trying a complete overhaul. After all, if you can’t eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread, then the chances you’ll be able to adhere to a strict macro nutrient ratio and remove all carbs from your diet are very small.
The first step has to do with the quality of what you are eating. Without really changing what foods you eat you can make some changes that drastically increase the quality of the food you eat. For instance, perhaps you have frosted flakes every morning for breakfast, by simply having a whole grain cereal like granola instead of frosted flakes, you have changed a habit for the better. You still get to keep your cereal every morning, but now instead of sugary processed cereal that leaves you feeling a sugar crash an hour later, you eat a whole grain cereal that can give you sustained energy throughout the morning. I would like to point out that the changes I have listed below do not represent the “best” eating habits that I recommend, but they are often a change in the right direction, especially compared to the average American’s diet.
- Use cane sugar, turbinado and a mix of stevia instead of regular table sugar. Table sugar is completely devoid of all nutrients due to heavy refining. Many people believe that sugar is actually toxic to your body, and most of us are no stranger to the number of ill effects of sugar on our bodies. Tooth decay, obesity, liver damage, type 2 diabetes, energy crash, and depression are all associated with high sugar consumption. If you have to use a sweetener its best to use stevia since as it has no impact on blood sugar and won’t cause weight gain, but if you hate the taste, try half cane sugar and half stevia until you can get used to it.
- Stop drinking soda. Soda pop is one of the worst things you can put into your body. Not only is it loaded with sugar and preservatives, but it is also highly acidic. Mounting evidence is pointing towards the fact that soda may be the culprit behind the high incidence of osteoporosis in the United States. Soda is nothing but empty calories and it doesn’t add anything of benefit to your health.
- Eat only whole grains. Whole grains are much better for you versus refined carbohydrates. The fiber in whole grains is beneficial for digestion and also lowers the effect of the food you eat on your blood sugar levels, because of this, whole grains cause less fat gain than refined carbohydrates. Don’t eat white bread, no regular pasta, no white rice, instead, use whole wheat breads, whole wheat pasta, whole grain rolled oats or steel cut oats (not instant oats), and whole grain brown rice.
- Change your cooking oils. Don’t use corn, vegetable, or soybean oils, avoid vegetable oil spreads and margarine as well. These oils used to be considered healthy but mounting evidence suggests they can lead to a host of health problems including: high cholesterol and heart disease. Use olive oil, coconut oil, walnut oil, and or canola oils instead. Also, opt for real butter as opposed to margarine or vegetable oil spreads.
- Eat a vegetable and a protein source at every meal. Most of us have been told to eat our vegetables and eat more of them, so this tip should come as no surprise. By eating a vegetable at every meal, not only do you increase your fiber and nutrient intake this way, but the fiber also helps to lower the impact that carbs have on your blood sugar levels. Eating protein with your meals also lowers the impact of carbs on your blood sugar, and protein also promotes muscle growth and repair which can help you maintain your muscle mass. The combination of protein and veggies at every meal will help you feel full sooner, so you will be less tempted to eat a ton of carbohydrates, it will keep you feeling full longer so you are less likely to snack on junk food later, and it will also prevent your blood sugar levels from rising and crashing too rapidly.
- Replace junk food with health food for snacks. The next time you snack, instead of eating chips or other unhealthy junk foods, opt for something lighter. High protein and high fiber foods will help you feel full longer and avoid overeating. Avoid prepackaged and processed foods, opt instead for quality cheeses, yogurt, nuts, fruits, vegetables, and lean meats.
- Drink more water. Drinking additional water has many great effects on your health. It keeps skin hydrated, reduces hunger, speed metabolism, aids in digestion, and keeps the kidneys and liver healthy. Always drink 16oz in the morning, 8 oz before every meal, 16oz before and after exercise, and 8oz before bed. You should aim to get at least 80oz of water per day for optimal health.
All of these dietary modifications can be done with very little to no effort. They don’t require you to stop your current eating habits or exercise high amounts of willpower in removing foods completely from your diet. All it takes, is sticking to these minor changes and you will definitely see and feel a difference in your body within a few weeks. Though there are still improvements you can make to your diet after these changes have been implemented, it will help you to get a step in the right direction and remove a lot of the more processed and unhealthy foods from your diet. Implementing these changes will leave you feeling accomplished and ready to exercise additional self control as you grow closer to having the body you have always wanted.
Remember that your daily actions must reflect your goals, if you just want to eat better, lose some weight, and have more energy, these steps will have you well on your way to those goals; however, if you want to look like a fitness model, then your daily actions will need to be much more precise and much more challenging. You typically get what you put in, so it is important to know what your expectations and goals are, and then build your plan to reach your goals.