You’d think that healthy eating would be a simple task, but figuring out what to put on your plate has only become more confusing. It seems like celebrities and influencers are gushing about new “miracle” diets every day, while the news continually discovers brand new “superfoods.” Whole food groups fall in and out of favor (See: The great fat scare of the 1990s) and infomercials scream about amazing supplements that can zap fat and create muscle out of thin air. Cutting through all the noise to figure out how to eat healthy can sometimes feel impossible.
Here’s some good news – healthy eating isn’t nearly as complicated as it seems. Yes, it does take effort to stick to a healthy, balanced diet, but you can do it. The key is to ignore all the latest and greatest miracle diets, pills, and superfoods. Instead, focus on the fundamentals of how to eat healthy. This is the only way you’ll be able to enjoy the considerable benefits of eating healthy.
What are these healthy eating fundamentals? You probably already know them but just haven’t conscientiously implemented them in your life yet. Let’s change that. Here are the clear and simple healthy eating tips you need to nourish your body and protect your long-term health, not to mention fall in love with your body all over again. But first…
Start with Your Mindset
Healthy eating doesn’t start in your fridge or pantry. It starts between your ears. Many people go on diets to change the way their body looks but losing weight or building muscle takes a lot of time. Depending on your genetics, your body may never look a certain way, no matter how hard you try. Instead of basing your eating on a vision that might not happen, focus on an inspiring internal motivation.
Healthy foods nourish your body and give you the energy you need to live your optimal life. A healthy, balanced diet can also lower your risk of many lifestyle illnesses, including heart disease, diabetes, and some forms of cancer. Eating well is a form of self-love, which you absolutely deserve.
When you come to your meals with a mindset of self-love, you’ll feel more empowered and inspired to eat healthy without tying your food to any specific image of yourself.
What Is a Balanced Diet?
The healthy eating tips below will make it easier for you to avoid common food traps and to implement a better eating system into your life. However, they won’t be helpful if you don’t know which healthy things to eat. What does a healthy diet look like in practice?
Here are the fundamentals:
Stay Within a Healthy Calorie Range
Depending on your age, gender, activity level, genetics, and health goals, you’ll need to stay within a particular daily calorie range in order to maintain a healthy body weight. This calorie range is the foundation of your eating plan upon which everything is built. Healthline offers a helpful calorie calculator that can help you determine a realistic calorie target per day to maintain your weight or lose weight.
Eat a Balanced Diet
What is a balanced diet? Seek to eat a range of healthy foods in different categories, including lean proteins, healthy fats, complex carbs, fruits, and vegetables. You may also want to take vitamins or a multivitamin after consulting with your doctor.
How much of each food group should you eat? That depends on your particular health and fitness goals. Many people in the fitness community focus on eating a specific balance of macronutrients: proteins, carbs, and fats. The percentage of each type of macro to eat depends on your goal.
Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks of your muscles. You’ll need to eat plenty of protein, especially if you want to build muscle and are engaging in resistance training. Lean proteins include:
- White-fleshed fish, like cod, tilapia, and flounder
- Skinless chicken breasts
- Greek yogurt
- Egg whites
(Ready to try a high-protein meal? Check out this delish salmon recipe.)
Despite what you may have heard, carbs are very much a critical part of a balanced diet. They provide your body with the energy you need to excel in your workouts, especially steady-state cardio workouts. The key is to eat complex carbohydrates, which break down slowly in your system, and avoid simple carbs that can jack up your blood sugar and make you feel hungry again.
Examples of complex carbs include:
- Whole wheat bread
- Brown rice
- Starchy vegetables
- Sweet potatoes
Healthy fats, such as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, protect your heart and can lower your chance of heart disease. They also make your meals more filling. Healthy fats to eat include:
- Hemp seeds
- Canola oil
- Olive oil
- Chia seeds
- Nut butters
With these basics in mind, you should have a clearer understanding of how to eat healthy. However, knowing something and doing something are two different things. How can you put your healthy eating knowledge to good use and actually implement a balanced diet into your life?
10 Healthy Eating Tips
1. Keep Unhealthy Food Out of Your House
You can’t eat what you don’t have. One of the best ways to keep on the straight and narrow is to take self-control out of the equation. Go through your fridge, freezer, and pantry and get rid of unhealthy foods, especially those guilty pleasure snacks.
2. Replace Unhealthy Foods with Healthy Foods
While you’re removing unhealthy foods from your house, make sure to replace them with healthy foods. Unbuttered popcorn is a fantastic alternative to chips. Fill your fridge with fruits and veggies that you can munch on when you feel snacky. Seeds and nuts are also great to keep in stock.
3. Learn to Love Drinking Water
Keep water with you at all times. Not only will this help you stay more hydrated, but drinking water can also help you feel more full throughout the day. Still hankering for a flavored drink? Add a no-calorie flavoring to your water to give it a delicious taste.
4. Don’t Drink Your Calories
One of the easiest ways to run up your calorie count is to start chugging sugary drinks. Sodas, sports drinks, alcoholic beverages, and coffees filled with sugar can load you up with unhealthy calories that you barely even notice. Are you sabotaging your weight loss goal by drinking your calories?
5. Track Your Calories
It’s easy to go over your calorie budget when you aren’t paying attention, especially during stressful or busy days. Don’t guess. Track your calories. You can download food diary apps on your phone, create an online account with a calorie tracking web platform, or track calories through your smartwatch.
6. Meal Prep
When you’re hangry and low on time, the last thing you want to do is cook a healthy meal. It’s so much easier to order pizza or hit a fast food drive-thru. Take self-control out of the equation by cooking large servings of healthy meals at one time. Divide the meals into individual serving sizes and put them in the fridge for the week. Here’s what you need to know about meal prepping. You can also find tons of great recipes and meal prepping communities online.
7. Use a Healthy Meal Kit Service
Don’t have the time or patience to batch cook? If you’d prefer to trade money for convenience, join a meal kit service. These services work in different ways. Some will deliver fully prepared meals that simply need a little heat. Others will deliver all the ingredients you need to quickly create scrumptious meals. Pick a company that focuses on delivering healthy, well-balanced meals.
8. Stay Away from Fast Food
Most fast-food menus are full of empty calories, lots of fat, and excess sugar and salt. Rather than trying to find something healthy on the menu (even many fast food salads are high in calories), it’s easier just to skip fast food altogether and focus on meals made at home.
9. Snack Healthy
Snacking throughout the day can help you maintain control of your hunger and prevent overeating during mealtime. There’s nothing wrong with snacking as long as you budget for snack calories and make sure to eat healthy snacks. Get rid of the candies, cookies, and chips. Instead, try unsalted trail mix, carrots with almond butter, or a tasty protein smoothie.
10. Moderation in Everything… Including Moderation
Sticking with healthy eating habits all the time will help you maintain optimal health… but where’s the fun in that? Life just wouldn’t be the same without the occasional glass of wine with friends, a slice of apple pie on Thanksgiving, or dessert after a romantic dinner with your special someone. It’s okay to break the rules and treat yourself occasionally. The operative word, of course, is “occasionally.” We are what we do most of the time, so focus on eating well for the majority of the week so that you can enjoy a cheat meal or two on the weekend (or whichever day you choose) guilt-free. Cheat meals taste even better when you know you’ve been good during the week!
How to Eat Healthy
It’s probable that this article didn’t give you any astounding new insights into healthy eating. Instead, it should reinforce what you already know. Focus on the fundamentals of a healthy, balanced diet. Find your calorie range and eat a variety of healthy proteins, carbs, and fats (along with fruits and veggies) to meet said range. Revisit your eating mindset and consider each meal as a chance to nourish your body. Take temptations out of the equation as much as possible and use the healthy eating tips in this article to help create a diet and exercise plan that works for you.
The better you eat, the better you’ll feel. You’ll also be able to kill it in your workouts at the gym. Don’t have a home gym? Search for an EōS Fitness near you and sign up for a Complimentary 7-Day Pass.