Everyone has heard it: you are what you eat. Having a good diet has a powerful effect on the rest of your life, from health to energy levels to good moods. Of course, a poor diet can have the exact same negative effects. Just about everyone can improve his or her diet, and the improvements will be felt far and wide.
That said, if it were so easy, everyone would already do it. Truth is, unless you don’t have a sense of taste, avoiding the delicious but unhealthy junk food can be a challenge. And if we do avoid it, what do we replace it with? There are so many diets out there, often contradicting each other: high carb, low carb, no carbs, high protein, vegetarian, vegan, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I haven’t even mentioned diets with a specific name, like Atkins or Paleo.
Which one is best? It’s impossible to say. Every person is different, and different life styles require different demands. For example, a professional athlete requires more calories and protein than a desk jockey, and a vegan lifestyle probably isn’t ideal but may be the most ethical (though it is possible to be a vegan athlete). Regardless, my goal here isn’t to promote any one diet; it’s to promote a universal health tip.
Here it is. Whatever your diet or lifestyle, eat more good food.
That’s it. I apologize if it sounds patronizing, but following this principle is far more important than clinging to any diet. Try to find better food than what you are currently eating. For the most part, you know this. What’s better, Veggie Thins or vegetables? Potato chips or potato salad? We all know the answer. Now, is potato salad the healthiest thing in the world? No, but if you swapped out chips, you’d be healthier for it.
This principle also applies to how we prepare our food. I love chicken, and it’s a healthy choice… unless you deep fry it. Delicious? Oh yes, but not the best approach. A step better would be panfrying, and then roasting or baking. And instead of chicken wings, we opt for skinless chicken breast.
None of this is rocket science. We don’t need to check online nutrition charts or compare calories. Take what you are currently eating and try to make it better.
I don’t mean to do this all at once. Tomorrow you could completely revamp your diet and eat only the healthiest possibly options … and in about two days you’d be back to normal. That’s the problem most people face with diets. They go too fast and end up falling, or as Jeff Cavaliere says, if you’re on a diet then someday you will be off a diet. Indeed, our goal should be to get healthy, not to just follow a diet.
I recommend a more scaled back, integrated approach. Find something in your diet you can improve, anything, and improve it. For example, in my case, I didn’t eat enough salad. Or eat any salad, to be exact. Never liked it as a kid. Felt like eating grass. It still does, honestly, but I know it’s healthy. I said I’d eat it twice a week. For only two meals a week, I’d include a small salad. That wasn’t bad. Wasn’t great, but wasn’t bad. I then had it more often, then bigger portions, and now I eat salad virtually everyday. It has become my normal.
Another example would be processed snacks. Things like chocolate bars, granola bars, cookies, those type of things. Again, delicious treats, but not the healthiest. I generally eat these because they are convenient. I can be running late, reach into the pantry and grab a quick bite to eat later. That’s a reality of modern life at times. Of all the options, granola bars are probably the healthiest, so I try to use those more often. Better is trailmix, especially my homemade stuff. That said, I can’t eat that all the time. I get sick of it, so the odd granola bar sneaks in. That’s okay, because on the whole, I’m eating healthier.
That should be your goal. Every week, ask yourself what you can do to improve your diet. It can be anything. Drink more water. Eat more salad. Substitute fruit for ice cream, or smoothies for soft drinks. Try something. Mark it on a calendar and check it off when you do it. If you find something doesn’t work, or you can’t stick to it, that’s fine. Try something else. The goal isn’t to be perfect. The goal is to get healthier every week. Even just a 1% difference each week adds up to 100% in two years. And in perspective of the rest of your life, two years is nothing.
Eat more good food. If you take this to the logical extreme, you probably get something like the Paleo diet. Lots of vegetables, salads, fruits, meats. No processed items. Just good foods. I personally cannot do the paleo diet, not yet. I get too hungry. I eat and eat and eat and never feel satisfied. I need something like bread or pasta to tide me over. And that’s fine. Maybe someday I’ll get there, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to be healthy, and right now I am. I’m the healthiest I’ve ever been, just by consciously trying to eat more good food.
This approach won’t give you the fastest results, but it will give you consistent results, and it’s something you can stick to; it’s certainly easier than a radical diet change. If you have trouble sticking to a diet, try this. You have nothing to lose (except weight, I guess). Every week, every day, eat more good food.