First of all, let’s not paint an overly rosy picture or sell anyone’s hard-fought sacrifices short — eating better sometimes means making tough choices. Admitting that to yourself right now is probably a good idea.
Eating smart can mean, for example, replacing that beloved slice of peach cobbler with a simple peach. Or it can mean skipping that second serving all together. Neither of these possibilities are particularly thrilling. However, with time, they do get easier — and they can help lead to a longer, healthier, and even happier life.
All that being said, not every diet change is soul-crushingly difficult. In fact, there are a few simple changes you can make in your eating habits that will improve your diet almost effortlessly. Here are three ideas you should consider implementing.
1. Eat slowly – and enjoy your meals fully.
It’s no secret that modern lifestyles are increasingly busy — and if you find yourself scarfing down meals between meetings, classes, or other obligations, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, eating quickly has a number of negative health effects.
First of all, you should know that your stomach and your brain experience what you could casually call lag time when it comes to communicating with each other. You do not physically realize how full you are for about 20 minutes after eating! People who eat too quickly, therefore, oftentimes end up consuming in excess because they don’t give their brains time to communicate fullness.
Secondly, our cravings for food don’t come solely from nutritional needs. They also come from a desire to enjoy taste and smell. Various studies have shown that fullness and satisfaction are actually different factors driving people to eat — and slowing down to enjoy your food improves your odds of being satisfied by a healthy amount of food.
Last but not least, chewing is the first step in the digestive process — and the better you chew, the easier of a job your digestive system will have.
2. Make gradual adaptations to your diet.
The aforementioned importance of satisfaction is also an important reason why people have trouble sticking to changes in their diets. If you feel unsatisfied by healthy foods, sooner or later you are going to crack and go back to those unhealthy comfort foods you’ve been craving.
To overcome this challenge, it is important to develop your palate so that you can begin sincerely enjoying healthier foods. One painless way of doing this (and actually sticking to it) is to make gradual adaptations to your diet. Mixing in a bit of whole grain rice or brown pasta with your normal white rice or pasta meals is one good way of doing this. Reducing the amount of salt you add to food and replacing it with other spices is another. The truth is that healthier foods oftentimes do have richer and more complex flavors — the secret is simply learning to love them!
3. Beat temptations before you ever face them.
Last but not least, remember that a healthy diet starts at the grocery store, not at the kitchen cupboard. Filling your home with healthy snacks will force you to make healthier choices when you are hungry. Don’t be afraid to splurge a little bit and pick healthy snacks that you really love — the odds are good that, with an absence of junk food, you will find that the quote unquote need to snack simply doesn’t occur as often!