Eating healthier and practicing better nutrition habits is a goal that many strive for, especially after the holiday season. But why wait until then when you can start today?
A lot of people see the concept of getting on and maintaining a mostly healthy diet as overwhelming, which is why it seems easier to pair it with other goals and “go big or go home” with the start of a new year. But, it doesn’t have to be complicated, and that all or nothing type of mindset will only get you so far. It’s not sustainable long-term.
So, today I want to keep things simple and break down some key concepts that can help you get on a healthier track right away!
This list could go on, and it could also include obvious takeaways like making sure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day. You could also keep a food journal for a few days (even if it’s as simple as taking pictures of your food), just to see what your full day of eats typically looks like from an outside perspective. Are you actually eating like you think you are?
While those tips are important and helpful, today’s post features ten major factors that you might not be doing already.
Here are ten huge tips that I would give you as a Precision Nutrition Level 1 Certified Nutrition Coach. I hope they help!
Make time and make it a priority.
Time is precious and enough hours in the day are hard to find sometimes. I totally hear you, however, if we don’t make time for intentionally changing eating habits, nothing will change. Something will always come up.
Like I mentioned above, please don’t think about practicing good nutrition habits as a huge commitment or overwhelming concept! It really doesn’t have to be complicated or even that time consuming. Instead, make time by being intentional with your habits and incorporate short, daily practices that make a big difference overall. Try 5-minute actions. (See below.)
Take a 5-minute action.
A 5-minute action is exactly what it sounds like, the act of taking a few minutes to implement action. Just like most things that we would like to improve on, action often comes before motivation to do something. Goals are great on paper, but you won’t get any closer to hitting them without actual steps to doing so. So, let’s take action!
Think about something you can do – even with five minutes of time – that will progress you towards your goals. Here are some examples of 5-minute actions you can do if your goal is to improve your overall nutrition, health and fitness habits:
- Plan breakfast ahead of time for the next day.
- Write out your grocery list and select ingredients for healthy meals.
- Schedule your workouts and know your plan for exercises before they start.
- Make sure you have clean water bottles and use them. Then clean and re-use them!
When it all comes down to it, even a ten percent effort will produce results. That’s much better than zero, right? Little efforts go a long way, and more importantly, they help your body start incorporating new habits that will eventually become second nature.
Eat slowly and without distractions, if possible.
When I was working full-time and very fast-paced in a fitness studio, I was notorious for eating as quickly as possible and multitasking by doing some type of work on my computer at the same time. I almost never ate distraction-free. We can only control what we can control, but taking even ten minutes to slow down and eat a meal without “shoving it in” can drastically improve your eating habits. Bonus points if you remove distractions like watching television or scrolling your phone, too.
Eating more slowly and mindfully can help you hit your nutrition goals, no matter what they are. Want to lose fat? Want to make wiser food choices? Want to help teach your body to know when it’s actually hungry? Want to manage emotional eating? You can work on all of these things by slowing down and paying attention to your food and how your body feels during and after your meals.
This method can greatly reduce overeating. Eating slowly essentially allows your body to catch up to your taste buds. When you take the time to pay attention the to taste, flavors, and how the food makes you feel, you will appreciate it more and eventually learn that your body actually craves mostly nutrient-dense foods. There really is no down side to trying this!
Avoid overeating by eating until you’re 80% full.
Not everyone has a goal of maintaining/losing weight or eating less, so this section doesn’t apply to everyone. If your goal is to gain weight, I would actually recommend either eating more meals or eating the same amount of meals past 80 percent full. But, typically, if your goal is to maintain where you’re at, lose weight or simply pick up good nutrition habits, eating until your almost but not 100 percent full is the sweet spot.
And yes, eating slowly and mindfully – distraction-free – can really help you with this!
Eat lean protein at most meals.
Protein is essential in maintaining a healthy diet. Generally, you need between 1-2 grams of protein for every kilogram of your bodyweight every day. (For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should consume around 68-136 grams of protein per day depending on activity level.) Also, it’s a good idea to eat food with a 3:1 carb/protein ratio within 30 minutes of working out.
As with anything, it’s best to get your main source of protein intake from whole foods first. If you’re still having a hard time hitting the ideal numbers, that’s where supplements like protein powders, shakes and bars come in.
Great sources for protein include:
- Skinless chicken or turkey breast
- Pork loin
- Lean roast beef
- Salmon, tuna, whitefish, and shrimp
- Cottage cheese
- Greek yogurt
- Plant-based vegetarian burgers
- Meat alternatives like tofu and tempeh
- Nuts, seeds, and nut butters
- Beans and peas
- Bars, powders, and shakes
Don’t skimp on including a good amount of protein into your breakfast. It’s a key meal for most people to start their day, and it can keep you full for hours (just remember that every body and every goal is different)!
Eat colorful fruits and/or vegetables at most meals.
Have you ever heard the term “eat the rainbow” in reference to meal planning? Colorful food is not only beautiful to look at, but brightly colored fruits and vegetables are also filled with phytonutrients that help reduce the risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer, diabetes and more.
Most people do not eat enough fruits and vegetables per day, so looking at it through colors can help. If you want to really optimize your health, you can aim to eat 1 cup of each main color (green, red, orange, white and purple) per day!
Great sources for colorful fruits and/or vegetables include:
- Greens: green beans, green peppers, arugula, snap peas, legumes, broccoli, colards, green peas, salad greens, spinach, chard, kale, green tea, etc.
- Reds: tomatoes, cranberries, cherries, raspberries, watermelon, pomegranates, red cabbage, papaya, etc.
- Oranges: citrus fruits, mango, squash, pineapple, cantaloupe, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potato, peaches, etc.
- Whites: onions, cauliflower, coconut, apples, rutabaga, mushrooms, garlic, green tea, black tea, etc.
- Purples: beets, eggplant, blueberries, grapes, prunes, blackberries, strawberries, purple potatoes, wine (!), etc.
For example, aim to drink more tea instead of that afternoon cup of coffee. Reach for fresh, prepped fruits and vegetables as healthy snack ideas. Add garlic and onions to soups and recipes. Add colorful smoothies into your diet. Add berries to your oatmeal/cereals and more!
Make smart carb choices.
Just like protein, carbohydrates are an important part of your diet. No long-term and sustainable diet will ever eliminate carbs, so please, get cozy with the concept of eating carbs on the regular as your body needs them. And, this is especially true for those who move regularly with intense workouts.
That said, not all carbs are created equal. Sugary cereal bars, pancakes, french fries and pretzels are not as nutritious as potatoes, corn, beans and whole grains. The less processed, the better. If there is an option to cook raw, rolled oats for oatmeal instead of grabbing instant oatmeal, that is ideal. Instant oatmeal, however, is better than a donut. And so on a so forth …
Great sources for healthy carbohydrates include:
- whole grains like brown rice, wild rice, barley, buckwheat, quinoa, wheat berries, etc.
- whole or sprouted grain flour foods like breads, bagels, pastas and wraps
- steel-cut or old-fashioned oats
- beans, lentils and peas
- plain Kefir, plain non-Greek yogurt
- potatoes and sweet potatoes (all colors), taro and yuca
- fresh fruits, frozen fruits and unsweetened, dried fruits
Think about foods that include fiber and a mix of starches!
Choose healthy fats.
Just like carbs, all fats are not created equal. In fact, healthy fats are really good for you and essential to a balanced, nutritious diet. Aim to eat whole-food fats like nuts and seeds, blended whole foods like nut butters and pressed oils like olive and avocado first.
Great sources for healthy fats include:
- oils: avocado, virgin and light, flaxseed, sesame, etc.
- seeds: chia, flax, hemp, pumpkin, sesame, etc.
- nuts: cashew, pistachio, brazil, almonds, pecans, peanuts, etc.
- flavored nuts and nut butters
- pesto made with extra virgin olive oil
- fresh, unprocessed coconut
- coconut oil and coconut milk
- dark chocolate (yes!)
- cheese aged less than six months
- trail mixes (dried fruits and almonds is better than mixes with M&Ms, but live your life)
One of my all-time favorite breakfasts is a slice of avocado toast. I’ll toast whole grain bread, spread half an avocado and top it with tomato slices, hardboiled egg, sprinkled cheese and seasonings. It’s filling and hits all of the main food groups!
Meal plan or meal prep.
I’m not a big meal planner, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. This is totally okay! Instead, I aim to put casual meals together using mix-and-match ingredients that I purchase and prep from the grocery store.
What does that mean exactly? See this post for a rundown along with what my typical grocery list looks like to be able to throw something easy (and healthy!) together by pulling key ingredients from different categories. Granted, I created that list before my certification, but it’s pretty spot on and I wouldn’t tweak all that much today.
If meal planning and prepping intimidates you, start small and make cooking and eating healthy as easy as possible for you. This can include choosing pre-cooked meats, meals and snacks from the refrigerator section of the grocery story (Trader Joe’s has fabulous choices to pick from!), or even subscribing to a meal delivery service. I have used a handful in the past and my favorites are Daily Harvest and Hello Fresh (here’s a discount). I like Blue Apron, too.
Try to prep your fruits and veggies as soon as you can and keep them in air-tight containers to last longer. Or, you can even buy them pre-chopped. Seriously, do whatever works best for you!
Create and stick to a nightly sleep ritual.
Did you know that your eating habits and overall nutrition level could be greatly affected by your sleep and stress levels? It’s true. Our bodies need recovery, and not getting enough sleep can impact the foods we crave and turn to on a daily basis. It also makes it harder to gain and keep muscle and lean mass.
One huge factor that led me to even go for a nutrition certification was hearing the Co-Founder, John Berardi speak at the IDEA World Fitness Convention in 2019. He quickly covered this topic, and learning that these factors subconsciously release different hormones in our body that can ultimately affect our eating habits blew my mind. Sleep and recovery is important for many reasons, and one big one is to help us live and maintain good nutrition habits.
If you struggle to get enough sleep, try incorporating a nightly sleep ritual and stick to it as much as you can.
Try things to help you wind down at night like:
- limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake too close to bedtime
- unplug from screens: place your phone away from your bed, turn off the television 30 minutes before bed
- keep your room as dark as possible and use white noise, if needed
- brain dump: if your mind is racing before bed, write the things that are bothering you or the to-dos out on paper
- de-stress: activities like stretching, reading or meditating
- aim to sleep at least 7-9 hours per night (I know, this can be challenging!)
- stay as consistent as possible (also challenging – especially with little ones, but you get the idea)
And we could keep going! But I think we’ll stop there for now.
Did you learn something new today? I’d love to keep the conversation going in the comments. I’m currently doing some last-minute packing as this gets published and our family is heading out on a road trip!
Take care and stay healthy out there!
You Might Also Like:
- 12 Health and Fitness Myths Debunked
- Typical Grocery List For Healthy, Throw-Together Meals
- All About Habit Stacking And Why You Should Try It
- Cardio vs. Strength Training: Why You Should Do Both