How many times have you told yourself that you’re going to “eat better?”
You’re not going to eat any carbs or treats. You’re going to do nothing but drink water and eat kale for the next month?
And how often have you been successful following that “all or nothing” mentality?
My guess is never. Maybe that’s because it’s never worked for me but studies prove that when you make sweeping proclamations denying yourself entire food groups, you increase your weight loss failure rate exponentially.
Because of the “all or nothing” approach I took to dieting in my 20s and 30s, I didn’t just have the emotional diet mentality failures…I actually crashed and burned my endocrine system and ended up gaining 90 pounds in 2 years in my mid 30s! Yikes! There is a lot more to that story that I’m sure I’ll share another day, but I learned a lot over the next decade.
What finally helped me turn the corner and end up losing about 40 of those pounds and keep it off for over a decade was to take baby steps. There wasn’t one simple answer. It took a lot of little puzzle pieces to start seeing the bigger picture. I’m living proof that small changes can add up to a whole new lifestyle.
Starting can be as simple as looking at your favorite foods and choosing a healthy sub. I am NOT suggesting that you give up everything you like to eat. I’m saying 80% of the time, make the healthy choice. And the other 20% won’t kill you. Over time, even the other 20% will naturally start leaning towards slightly healthier choices.
Let’s begin with Six Simple Suggestions to improve your diet by eating this and not that:
Starting with the big guns because who doesn’t love carbs? The issue here is that many carbs will spike your blood sugar, increase your appetite, provide little nutrition, and derail your good efforts to eat better.
Why do you think restaurants bring you that basket of bread before dinner? Because they like you? Nope. It’s simple marketing: if they can help bump up your blood sugar, they’ll increase your appetite, and therefor increase the sales. I’m sure that they also like you, but you’ll want to limit your portions and try a few of these swaps:
Protein is the magic fairy dust for losing weight. It fills you up, sustains energy levels, helps build and maintain muscle, and will keep you on track. The problem with some proteins is that they can be very high in fat, carbs, and sodium. Make sure you are eating enough protein and choose the leaner options to boost your bootie into weight loss mode (if that’s your goal).
Fruit truly is “nature’s candy” and it lives up to that title with all the pros and cons you might expect. It’s sweet, delicious, succulent, and packed full of natural sugars and calories. So enjoy fruit in moderation and try to choose lower sugar options eight times out of ten. (Did you see how I snuck that 80/20 rule in again?). Don’t get me wrong! I love mangos and bananas, but they are my 20% choice in my morning smoothies! I’ll load up on watermelon and blueberries as my primary smoothie fruit, and throw in half of a banana when I want it to be creamier.
If protein is dietary fairy dust, then vegetables are the superheroes of better nutrition. Almost every vegetable is worth eating but alas, not all vegetables are created equal. Some, like the first couple on my “Not That” list, are heavy on the pesticides. The next few on the list are members of the nightshade family and can be seriously inflammatory (and should be on the “almost never” list for anyone with autoimmune disorders). And the last two? Well, come on guys, those are starchy carbs masquerading as vegetables. Load up on organic dark leafy greens, nutrient dense, and cruciferous veggies to get the most out of your plant food!
Fats are your friend. Many of us have trained ourselves to fear fat but it’s essential to a healthy diet. When you see the words “fat free” you’ll usually see a whole slew of chemicals plus higher sugar and sodium to compensate for the missing ingredient (and flavor).
I was guilty of being very “fat-phobic” in the 80’s and 90’s. But learned my lesson the hard way that my body NEEDED more healthy fats. Stop trying to avoid fat! Fat isn’t what makes you fat (sugar is…but I digress). Choose small portions of healthy fats that add nutrition to your diet, improve flavor, and keep your skin and hair supple and moist. As a rule, your best bets are fats that are liquid at room temperature and or found in a single ingredient food. Simple right? (My favorite grass-fed butter is Kerrygold….from Costco! Yum!)
Life without dessert is not a life I want to live. That's why my dietary philosophy includes the “Planned Indulgence” concept and I truly believe that the healthiest and most sustainable diets incorporate treats. But let’s choose treats that contribute to better eating rather than sabotage it!
The truth is that if you want to improve your diet and eat better, you’re probably going to need to make some changes. The good news is that if you weren’t ready to do that, you wouldn't be reading this. And change doesn’t have to be painful!
Start simple. Make it easy on yourself.
Just substitute a few items from the “Eat This Instead” column and 8 times out of 10, give up the foods in the “Pass on This” column.
You got this!