Eating healthily can seem daunting, especially with all the conflicting messages about food and nutritious eating that bombard us daily. Such confusion can even cause some to doubt their food choices or make drastic diet shifts. According to IFIC’s 2022 Food and Health Survey, 52% of people reported trying a new diet or eating pattern in the past year, up from 39% in 2021. If you read that and think, “I’m not interested in adopting a whole new diet!”—don’t worry. There are a few easy changes you can make to improve your health without any strict added rules. Read on for some quick ways to eat healthier without a complete diet overhaul.
1) Add color
Sometimes we get so laser-focused on not eating all the “unhealthy” stuff that we lose sight of the healthy additions we could be making. One of our Fast Take articles highlighted that what we’re not eating enough of (e.g., fruits and vegetables) might be more detrimental than focusing on the less-healthy options we eat too much of. If you’re looking to start somewhere, try adding some color (think fresh, frozen, or canned produce) to your meals or snacks in whatever way possible.
2) Tune in to hunger
You may have heard of mindful eating, which involves listening to our physical sensations—like hunger, fullness, and satisfaction cues—and taking time to notice our thoughts and emotions while eating so that we can have a more enjoyable and healthful eating experience. Listening to your body’s hunger and fullness cues (instead of external cues for eating like seeing others eat or eating at a certain time of day regardless of hunger) can help avoid overeating. If we can trust that our bodies can tell us when we’re hungry, we can also learn to stop when we’re full. Check out our eat-mojis for a visual guide to help you tune into your own hunger.
3) Utilize the inner aisles of the grocery store
Have you ever heard that you should “only shop the perimeter of the store”? While it’s often well-intended advice, it’s not exactly the most evidence-based. There are many healthy packaged foods found in the inner aisles of grocery stores: whole-grain pastas and breads, cooking oils, nuts, high-fiber cereals and oats, canned fish, and dried and canned beans. Some people narrowly define “healthy” as “fresh” or “unprocessed,” with anything outside those categories considered “unhealthy.” But broadening your definition of healthy beyond its location in the store can help you make more affordable, flexible, and enjoyable food choices that also happen to contribute to good health.
4) When in doubt, remember the macronutrients!
You might have read the last few points thinking, “Okay, but how do I actually build a meal?!” There’s no black-and-white answer, but a lot of registered dietitians recommend building your meals to include a variety of food groups or all three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. Fiber and protein are thought to aid in fullness, so including those is a good place to start. Examples of breakfasts using this logic are: (1) a banana, peanut butter, and yogurt or (2) oatmeal with a hard-boiled egg and half an avocado on the side. Lunch might be a spinach salad topped with chicken breast, cheese and quinoa.
Eating healthy shouldn’t be too complicated—it should work for you, your schedule, and your budget. We hope these few additional tips will make building healthy meals and snacks a little bit easier and more enjoyable for you this season.