A major goal during a lifestyle transition is to get to a point when eating healthy is as second nature as your old unhealthy eating habits were. You want to be able to eat without over thinking the whole process. The following guide will show you how to make healthy eating into a daily habit so that you can think less about food and more about the important things in life.
Both healthy and unhealthy eating take planning. You still have to get groceries whether you eat healthy or not. A little forward thinking will save you a lot of trouble when it comes to deciding what to eat later in the week. I’m a big fan of keeping most of my meals the same during the week and only changing up 1 or 2 of them each day.
For example, I’ll usually eat the same breakfast, lunch, and snacks each day, but change up the dinner each night. I might allow myself a couple of different lunches too to keep things interesting. This way I’m able to cook in bulk and I only have to reheat and eat when it’s time to eat.
Calorie counting can be a tedious job, so if you want your healthy eating to seem second nature, you’re going to have to do away with it, and portion control is the solution to your problem. You’d be surprised how much easier eating becomes once you understand proper portion sizes.
With enough practice you will be able to look at a food and know the macronutrient and calorie breakdown. I don’t have to tell you how handy this skill is when you’re going out to eat or eating places where the menu is out of your control.
How Many Meals?
A lot of people get tripped up when planning their meals because they’re not sure how many meals a day they should be eating. Conventional wisdom says 5 small meals (or 3 meals and 2 snacks), while other people have great success eating 1-3 meals a day or following intermittent fasting protocols. So who’s right?
Well, everyone is. It does not matter how many meals you eat each day so long as you’re meeting your calorie, macro and micronutrient requirements. We all have different jobs and lifestyles that demand our attention, and forcing yourself to eat 6 meals a day when your work/home schedule doesn’t align with your eating plan is a recipe for stress and a reversion to old, convenient eating habits.
If you want to make healthy eating as easy as brushing your teeth, you need to find a meal frequency that will suit your lifestyle – one that will enable you to stick to your plan for the long term so you aren’t forcing meals into a busy life.
Picking the Right Foods
Other than portion control, the other best way to naturally keep calories under control is to stick to eating whole foods. It is very difficult to overeat on a diet that consists of at least 80% of its calories from whole foods. The food is just too full of fiber and water to eat too much of it.
Instead of making a decision based on how many calories a food is, turn your food choices into a “is this a healthy, whole food?” yes/no decision. Simply making a shift in your food quality to more whole foods will naturally cut your calories. This is something anyone can start doing right now a little at a time.
Everything in Moderation
In your transition to “mindless” healthy eating you will want to be a little more relaxed with your food choices here or there. Having 10-20 percent of your calories coming from “fun” foods allows you to remain flexible with your diet while keeping you mentally sane. I like to save those calories for times that fit my social schedule like eating out, birthdays, holidays, or some other kind of occasion.
By moderating your restriction a little bit it will keep bingeing under control and help you develop regular eating patterns. Overly strict diets have a much higher failure rate. People usually end up falling off their plan and gaining back all their weight and then some.
Remember though, moderation means just that – moderation. It is not a free-for-all. You must combine moderation with portion control, and then mix that in with proper meal planning. Do that while picking the right foods 80% of the time, and you have a recipe for eating healthy like it’s second nature.