For most people, the word “diet” sounds intimidating. It brings on feelings of boring, lifeless meals that have little to no flavor. Many of us also think of severe restrictions, but honestly, it really doesn’t need to be that way. Simply “cleaning up” your eating habits will make a huge difference.
Often, this is a two-part process. Some foods are omitted while others take its place. These changes don’t even need to be dramatic or done all at once, of course. Gradually taking on new habits is the best way to help them stick.
Most importantly, slow and steady changes will make way for healthier weight loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counts this as losing 1 to 2 pounds per week. In the long run, you’ll be more likely to keep that weight off, once and for all.1
With that said, try these ways to spring clean your eating habits, and wave traditional dieting goodbye.
1. Ditch Refined Carbs
You need to eat carbohydrates every single day. In fact, they should make up 65 percent of your daily caloric intake, but these macronutrients get a bad reputation. It’s all because of refined carbs and their lack of nutrients.
Because refined grains are so simple, the body quickly absorbs them, causing an intense spike in blood glucose. It’s the ideal scenario for type 2 diabetes and weight gain! Replace refined carbs with whole grains whenever possible. This means less white pasta, bread, and rice and more brown rice, wheat bread, and quinoa. Start the habit one day a week, and slowly increase from there.
2. Limit Salt
Sodium is so common that it’s lurking at every corner. In America, the average person eats 3,400 milligrams a day, almost double the recommended 2,300 milligrams.2 This kind of high intake significantly increases the risk for high blood pressure, and ultimately, heart disease.3
Clean up your meals by avoiding added salt. Instead, use fresh herbs and spices to amp up the flavor.
3. Avoid Processed Foods
While you’re at it, limit or avoid processed foods. They make up 75 percent of your sodium intake, so cutting back will make a huge difference.4 This includes everything from boxed meals to frozen dinners.
Reach for whole food whenever possible. Homemade is the best way to go, but if you choose to eat out, look for low-sodium options.
4. Eat A Rainbow
Fruits and vegetables are great for the body. However, if you eat only one or two kinds, you’re missing out on a rainbow of nutrition. Instead, aim for a variety of both fruits and veggies. The more colorful your plate is, the better. As a general rule of thumb, experts recommend filling half your meal with plants.5
5. Drink More Water
When you’re thirsty, drink water instead of sugary sodas and bottled drinks. The simple switch will spare you the calories, sugar, and preservatives. For instance, a single can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar, equal to 150 calories.6
The simple act of drinking more water will help the body detoxify. You’ll also avoid dehydration symptoms like headaches, dry skin, and mental fog.7
6. Skip Red Meat
Are you a meat eater? Limit or avoid red meat whenever possible. For every 3-ounce serving, the risk of death from heart disease shoots up by 13 percent.8 High intake is also linked to cancers of the breast, colon, and prostate, especially if it’s cooked well-done.9
Get your fill of protein with lean poultry or fish instead. Plant sources like nuts, chickpeas, and kidney beans also offer quality protein. By cutting out red meat just a few times a week, your risk for chronic disease will improve.
7. Eat Breakfast
Eating breakfast is one of the best things you can do. Otherwise, skipping a meal only lets hunger grow and grow. You’ll be so much more likely to overeat later on.
The effects are even worse if you skip breakfast, a habit that’s linked to poor glucose control and weight gain.10
Is the morning rush an issue? Make things easy by preparing breakfast in advance. Overnight oatmeal, homemade granola bars, and hard-boiled eggs are delicious ideas.
|↑1||Losing Weight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.|
|↑2, ↑4||Sources of Sodium. American Heart Association.|
|↑3||Sodium And Your Health. American Heart Association.|
|↑5||How to Eat Healthy. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.|
|↑6||Sugar Drinks. Harvard T.H. Chan, School of Public Health.|
|↑7||Dehydration. MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑8||Pan, An, Qi Sun, Adam M. Bernstein, Matthias B. Schulze, JoAnn E. Manson, Meir J. Stampfer, Walter C. Willett, and Frank B. Hu. “Red meat consumption and mortality: results from 2 prospective cohort studies.” Archives of internal medicine 172, no. 7 (2012): 555-563.|
|↑9||Zheng, Wei, and Sang-Ah Lee. “Well-done meat intake, heterocyclic amine exposure, and cancer risk.” Nutrition and cancer 61, no. 4 (2009): 437-446.|
|↑10||Neumann, Brianna L., Amy Dunn, Dallas Johnson, J. D. Adams, and Jamie I. Baum. “Breakfast Macronutrient Composition Influences Thermic Effect of Feeding and Fat Oxidation in Young Women Who Habitually Skip Breakfast.” Nutrients 8, no. 8 (2016): 490.|