The Beginner's Guide to Healthy Eating
Free Companion Checklist: 17 Tips to Becoming a Healthy Eater
The Beginner's Guide to Healthy Eating was thoroughly researched and put together to help you become and stay a healthy eater (healthy-er).
There is something useful for everyone on this guide. Whether you are an absolute beginner to healthy eating, a mom of three who is short on time, or a healthy-er veteran looking for new ideas - this guide is for you.
Because Healthy Eating is a large subject, we broke this Beginner's Guide into two easy parts.
On Part 1 we will analyze healthy eating in general and the motivation required to maintain this type of lifestyle. We'll dig into the why and how to get started your healthy-er journey.
On Part 2 we tackle the Action Steps of your Healthy-er Journey. Here you will find my 17 Tips to Becoming a Healthy Eater with detailed explanations.
Don't forget to grab the free companion checklist, towards the end of the post. Download it to your computer, print it and stick it to your fridge, or save it to your phone to have as a quick reference and guide to staying on the healthy-er path.
Good luck on your new journey. It gets easier with every step you take.
Part 1 - The WHY (Motivation)
Why should I become a Healthy Eater?
In fact, that is a very good question and should be the first question you ask yourself.... and of course Google. It will help your mind to visualize what eating healthy feels like. It will also give you a vision of what healthy eating habits can do for your health, happiness, and success.
Try this Google Search: Why Should I Become A Healthy Eater
Skim through the answers, and take a few minutes to explore the ones that caught your eye immediately - or that are from reputable sources. Avoid "research rabbit holes," or "indecision paralysis" - where you feel you must know everything before you apply anything.
Don't worry about not having a definite answer, as there are many opinions on what healthy eating is. Even science recognizes that while we are very similar on a species level - we are all different an an individual level - we have different nutritional needs.
Learn about the benefits of healthy eating. Be curious how certain foods affect your body. Find out how to improve your health with food.
Don’t forget to research consequences of NOT eating healthy. That will be even more eye-opening. Find out what happens when you eat fast food, drink soda and don't pay attention to your body's nutritional needs (macro & micro nutrients).
Here are some more resources to save you time on research:
Who Is Healthy Eating For And How Do I Start?
Healthy eating is for YOU and everyone else who wants more control over what they eat, and how they look and feel. Yes, that's right, food not only affects your body shape, but it also dictates which emotions you feel the most in life.
Often you will hear that healthy eating starts by practicing the right habits and gradually adopting one habit at a time. The truth is that healthy eating does not start with the right habits, but it starts with the right MINDSET.
First, you have to decide TO DO IT!
Decide, that there is no going back.
Decide, that your body deserves better.
Decide, that there won’t be any cheat days (they are for cheaters to feel better about themselves).
Decide, that you are starting on your new healthy eater path and that you are ready for it (keep reading to find out how to get ready).
Healthy eating is not a diet. It is a lifestyle. Ready to adopt your new healthy eater lifestyle?
What's Next on the Healthy-er Journey?
After you have finally made up your mind about becoming and staying a healthy eater for life - “what’s next?” you ask.
Gradual shifting to healthy eating doesn’t work for everybody. It didn’t work for me, and my husband either.
You see, when you follow the old mantra of adopting one healthy habit at a time, it becomes okay to reward yourself with unhealthy things.
For example, you quit drinking soda and substituted it with sparkling mineral water. Then - about a week in - your mind tells you that it is okay to eat an extra cookie. “I’ve been doing so well this week - and I’m still technically allowed to eat cookies”, you tell yourself.
But, that doesn’t make any sense, does it? You know what happens next. That one cookie leads to one more, and all of a sudden, the whole box is gone.
Don’t have the cookies home - stop putting obstacles on your way to your new lifestyle.
(Un)fortunately, there is no such a thing as gradual transformation, because we are not talking about a fad diet or new type of cuisine.
Healthy eating is your new lifestyle - the way your body NEEDS you to eat - to be healthy, strong, energetic and disease-free. The faster you switch to healthy eating, the faster your body will thank you by clearing out all that build-up toxicity over the years.
There is not such a thing as Monday. Do not tie your success to a week day. Do it because you’ve decided to do it NOW and FOREVER.
That’s what happened with me. One day I decided to do it “now”, so I grabbed a big trash bag, went into my kitchen and cleared out all the junk from my fridge and pantry.
Once I got rid of the trash bag I started a new life and never looked back.
If you've made it so far, you are off to a great start. Keep going.
When you go over Part 2 below don't forget to download the 17 tips To Becoming a Healthy Eater companion checklist to your phone - further towards the the end. Print it out and stick it to your fridge, or simply save it on your desktop or phone for quick reference, and to keep you on track.
Part 2 - The HOW (Action Steps)
1. Plan Ahead
Pick a day of the week (it is okay to pick Monday 🙂 ) and plan your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. It is okay to cook some extra food for dinner and leave some of it for tomorrow’s lunch. You don’t have to plan snacks for each day. Just get a variety of nuts, seeds, fruits for a week.
Also, you can repeat your meals. Please, don’t eat the same things 7 days a week, but twice a week it is okay. I usually come up with a few choices for breakfast for a week, 5-7 choices of dinners and try to come up with creative ways to plan lunches (like leftovers from yesterday). I do not attach a meal to a day of the week. I just have a variety of meals and pick one option when it’ time to cook.
Menu planning sounds a little bit overwhelming, but it will take you 20 minutes a week after a few weeks of practice.
After you’ve planned your healthy eating menu, make a shopping list according to it. When you go shopping, do not go off the list!
Benefits of menu planning are numerous. It will save you time at the supermarket and will prevent your headaches which happen when you don’t know what to cook. On top of that, it will prevent you from eating smth unhealthy just because you can’t figure out what to cook.
And remember, planning does magic!
2. Research New Recipes
Don’t eat the same stuff every week. Make it fun! Find easy healthy recipes online. The Internet is full of them! Save your favorites and you can rotate them after a while. Start by checking our favorite vegetarian recipes.
3. Be Curious
Read labels when you go grocery shopping. Don’t just grab a product if it says “low sugar” or “low sodium” on its package. It might be processed, full of additives and preservatives. Read the ingredient list. If you can’t pronounce them, put the package back (my rule).
Try to shop as close to 100% in the produce section as you can. Start with fresh fruits and veggies, then move on to dairy, cheese, fresh meats and fish (if you are not vegetarian).
Avoid plastic packaging and other synthetic packaging as much as you can. They pollute the environment worse than we thought.
Speaking of avoiding, try and avoid the middle aisles of grocery stores as well. That's where the processed and chemically loaded stuff lives. They put it in the middle aisles, so that you have to walk through them to get to the important sections of the grocery store: produce, fish & meat, dairy and eggs. They hope that you will fall for some of the labels on the fancy plastic packaging.
The way you go around that is to literally go around the store, instead of through aisles. Get your most important and healthy-er items first, then and only then, go through the exact aisles you need: dog food aisle, paper towel aisle, spices aisle etc.. Forget the other aisles even exist, as far as your healthy-er body is concerned.
Try to get organic products as much as you can. Buy in bulk whenever possible.
4. Do Not Shop on an Empty Stomach
If you’ve ever gone grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you know exactly what I’m referring to here.
Everything seems delicious, the excuses are easily available, and you leave the grocery store with double your usual bill. You don’t get half of what you need, instead you load on a variety of snacks and processed junk.
Bad, bad, bad habit. Tell yourself that you will never go hungry-grocery-shopping. It’s just not a healthy habit for both your body and your wallet.
Spare yourself some regret, and if you can’t have a quick meal, grab a healthy snack instead - a piece of fruit or some nuts. Then, go and follow that list. Don’t let the marketers dictate your lifestyle.
You are in control.
5. Avoid Eating Out - All the Time
Cook your own food. Enjoy the process. Love for cooking comes with practice.
When you prepare your food at home, you can control the quality and freshness of the ingredients in your food. You can even buy a slow cooker, which will make your life in the kitchen easier.
If you must eat out, do your research, read the reviews and only eat at reputable and trustworthy places.
6. Eat ALL your Meals
Never skip breakfast! Just a cup of coffee in the morning is not enough. Even though it might suppress your hunger momentarily, it doesn’t do you good.
Starting something on the right foot is half of the battle - as they say. In that sense, breakfast sets your body up for success for the rest of the day. If you can’t push yourself to have full breakfast, just stick with something light like plain yogurt with fruits and berries, for example.
Eat at regular intervals.
7. Eat on a Timely Manner
Your body gets used to a routine with eating just the same way it does with sleep, exercise and work. If you eat every day at the same time for a few weeks, it will become a habit and you might not even get hungry in between meals.
Of course, it is hard to implement as everybody has a busy life. On the flip side, the improved metabolism, energy levels and fat-burning capability, are definitely worth the effort, and will help you succeed.
Just trust the process and stick to it till it becomes a habit.
8. Eat Your Fruits and Veggies - Daily
Fruits and vegetables are essential for healthy eating. You won’t be able to replace essential nutrients found naturally in fruits and vegetables with supplements and energy drinks.
Find creative ways to consume fruits and vegetables by researching creative recipes online. Try to eat at lest 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruits daily. And make sure that your diet has variety. It is important to receive a wide range of nutrients.
When you do your healthy eater grocery shopping, first, fill up your cart at the vegetable section, then fruits - those are your essentials.
Then, anything else you might need. Stay as much as possible clear from the middle aisles - that's where the processed junk lives.
9. Track & Record What You eat - Be Mindful
Years ago, somebody challenged me to do this to improve my eating habits. It seemed like a waste of time to me because I was in good shape and I thought I was eating fine.
But I accepted the challenge, and needless to say I was shocked with what I wrote down. I was in fact far away from being a real healthy eater…
First of all, I was eating way too much. Secondly, my food choices weren’t healthy at all. When I looked back I couldn’t believe that I had consumed all that!
I consider myself a disciplined person, but that experience was eye opening. Make a special section in your notebook to record what you ate during the day (what kind of food and the amount).
For example, lunch: 12 oz bowl of lentil soup and a slice of whole wheat bread.
Read through your food choices at the end of each day and figure out if you are happy with them. Thinking you are doing something wrong is not enough - visually seeing it, is a better way to eliminate bad habits.
10. Snack Up - Do Not Ignore Hunger!
Hunger is a beast. You can’t reason with hunger. Snickers said it best: you're not you when you're hungry.
It controls you because it is your instinct. Only if you are prepared for it, you will win the game.
Have some nuts, fruits, seeds with you every day, to keep the beast tamed. This way you don’t have to eat unhealthy food or overeat when you are hungry.
11. Drink Up - Do Not Mistake Thirst For Hunger
If you hydrate yourself enough on a regular basis, you won’t need to guess.
12. Eat Slowly - Chew & Enjoy Your Food Thoroughly
Chew every bite of food carefully. Eat slowly.
Firstly, you will chew your food better and it will make it easier on your stomach. Secondly, it will help you stretch time as it takes 10-15 minutes for your brain to receive the information that your stomach is full.
That’s why eating slowly and purposefully is a great habit for any healthy eater.
13. Use Smaller Plates
Do not serve your dinner on huge plates. And, please don't listen to men and serve it on a pan or a cooking dish.
Pick a smaller plate for yourself and use it on a regular basis. What happens is that, we tend to fill up our plates to the fullest - no matter its size. So, use smaller plates, and leave the food in the kitchen.
If you are still hungry, get up and go get a refill. This way you give your brain time to catch up and get the signal from your stomach that it's full (Takes about 15 Mins to realize, according to research). Follow rule 12.
14. Skip Dessert - You Don't Really Need it
If you can name one healthy dessert recipe you love, you can be proud of yourself. But most people can’t.
Usually, when it is time to eat dessert, your stomach is full. Dessert is a custom in our western culture, and we came up with a million excuses for it to be okay. Is it okay, though?
We don’t have a nutritional need to eat desserts. Sugar, flour, unhealthy fats, additives….There is not much for your cells to feast on there. Be strong enough to skip it. Practice saying a firm “NO”.
15. Disconnect Emotions From Food
Many people are emotional eaters. They try to reduce their stress, disappointment, sadness with food. Food becomes an escape.
Emotional eating can be a big problem on the way to healthy eating. One of the solutions to this problem can be a switch in activity. When you feel food cravings, go for a walk or talk to somebody instead.
Get out from your house and change the environment. I had this problem in the past myself and walking, while listening to music at the same time, worked out for me.
Just find YOUR activity. Something that relaxes you and gives you energy. And drink a lot of water!
16. Follow Your Food Lists
Also, check out my list of super-foods.
You can save it to your favorite Pinterest board to always have it as a reminder. And don’t forget that sharing is caring! Share these food lists with your family and friends!
17. Forgive Yourself
Don’t get discouraged if you had given up on your healthy eating lifestyle. We all have our weak moments and make mistakes.
Love yourself and forgive yourself. That is okay. Whatever has happened is already in the past. The only thing you have is your present. The only thing you can change is your future.
Look back and try to figure out what triggered your bad habits. Try to work on those areas and come back even stronger! You can do it.
P.s. What do you struggle with? What works for you?
Ask any questions and share your answer in the comments below.