Do you fail your diets after a couple of days or only last a couple of weeks? Feeling demoralized or hate what you’re eating in order to be healthy? If healthy eating has you down and discouraged, there’s an easy solution. Here’s the #1 secret to success in adopting healthy eating habits for life and it will probably surprise you.
All you have to do to remain motivated is to eat the foods that you love. That’s it.
Eat What You Love
But before you think this is a license to double fist McDonald’s Big Macs, chocolate cake and Pepsi every day, let’s clear up a few assumptions people mistakenly make when “going healthy”.
Healthy eating has so many misconceptions wrapped around it. In truth, healthy food is everywhere. There are so many amazingly delicious healthy foods and meals that we can never hope to eat all of them in a lifetime.
We make eating healthy harder than it has to be, thinking that we need to stick to salads for lunch, munch carrots and celery for snacks, suffer limp and bland veggies for dinner and avoid desserts. In truth, that’s not at all necessary. Immediate health results come from two key actions:
- Avoiding processed food and processed ingredients for the majority of our foods and drinks and
- For the majority of our meals, eating foods made from real ingredients like fresh fruit and vegetables, fresh meat, whole grains, beans, tubers, and nuts and seeds.
That’s it. Do that and you’ll be living like the longest lived and healthiest cultures in the world. You won’t have to worry about counting calories, struggling to eat low fat, or monitoring if you have enough protein.
Good Food is Everywhere
To stick with a new food lifestyle, the secret is discovering foods that you love and enjoy eating. Focus on that and work to find more over time. By doing so you will naturally begin to squeeze out less healthy foods more and more while enjoying the journey.
This is key. If you hate the new foods you are eating, you will feel deprived, resentful and tortured. That’s a recipe for throwing in the towel. No one wins that game.
If you hate salad, don’t make yourself eat it! I’ve been eating a whole foods based diet for two years and I rarely eat salad. If I had to eat salad all the time, I’d hate my life. Luckily so many wonderful whole foods exist that I never have to touch lettuce.
Neither do you. If you hate salad, put the fork down and stop buying lettuce. Hate carrots? Fine, don’t make yourself eat them!
There are delicious healthy foods for everyone. You just have to discover yours.
Takeaway: To succeed in healthy eating, you must enjoy the foods and drinks you’re consuming.
Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew or forget to think out of the box. Here are some great ways to eat what you love and increase the percentage of healthy foods that you love over time.
Tip #1 – Start With Breakfast
Sometimes it’s best to begin change with the first meal of the day. Many tasty breakfasts exist for any pallet. Ditch the health-killing bagels, donuts, processed cereals, and pastries for any of the following:
Eggs any way. Most people love eggs. They come scrambled, poached, over easy, sunny side up and make wonderful omelets you can stuff with favorite veggies like spinach, tomatoes, onions, mushrooms and even potatoes.
Oats. Don’t think this has to be tasteless and boring! You can add berries, nuts, peanut butter and various milks to make this a tasty and healthy breakfast. I like to add a spoonful of cocoa powder to mine for a decadent treat.
Yogurt with nuts and fruit. Pick your favorites but steer clear of the processed yogurts with cookies and fake flavors and artificial ingredients. Remember, you want real food for real health.
Smoothies. You can make these a thousand ways – from chock full of berries to made with yogurt, milk, or almond milk. Some swear by their kale and spinach while others are all about their banana and peanut butter shake. Add vanilla or cocoa powder to make it decadently amazing.
Hate all these suggestions? Go online and look for recipes that excite you. They are out there.
Tip #2 – Rethink Snacks
If you’re addicted to candy, cookies and baked treats, and can’t get enough sugar or salty chips, a good way to wean off these health and waistline hurting foods is to find other snacks you love. Here are 4 beloved snacks that are actually pretty healthy.
Salsa. Switch out your sugar or candy for tortilla chips and fresh salsa. Fresh salsa is key. You don’t want to be grabbing the processed jars full of sugar, preservatives and unpronounceable ingredients. You want the salsa that looks like it was made this morning with diced tomatoes and fresh onion and cilantro. Or make it yourself. This is actually a fairly healthy snack, comparatively speaking. It’s certainly better than spiking your blood sugar and ruining your metabolism, among other risks, with sugar.
Guacamole. Similarly, it’s hard to hate guacamole. Try it with tortilla chips or whole grain crackers. It’s easy to make or buy fresh. Avocados are amazingly healthy and filling. Hit the guac over sugary and salty snacks. It will be more satisfying and won’t result in the sugar highs and lows that lead to reaching for another sugary snack two hours later so don’t sweat the extra calories or the good fat from avocados because you’re actually coming out ahead.
Hummus. You can’t go wrong with hummus and veggie dippers or with whole grain crackers as a snack. Hummus, made with chick peas, gives you protein and fiber along with needed minerals. It’s filling and delicious too. Just steer away from the sugary versions with those weird, unpronounceable ingredients. Or make it yourself to control what’s in it. It’s actually pretty easy.
Cheese, fruit, olives. Get classy with some probiotic Gouda and brine cured olives. Eat them with whole grain crackers and slices of apple or with grapes. These make wonderful snacks.
The point is to find snacks you enjoy but which incidentally happen to be healthy or at least far healthier than your current habits.
Tip #3 – Everyone Loves Something
Another way to focus on eating more of what you love is to find at least one or more items from each category of whole foods and find recipes for them: fruit, vegetables, whole grains, beans, tubers, nuts and seeds.
When it comes to fruit, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t love at least one sort of fruit. Maybe you hate bananas but love watermelon. Focus on the watermelon! If you’re a berry person, look for more recipes for using them. Don’t feel you have to eat fruits you hate.
Similarly, eating a handful of nuts or seeds each day will provide you with a host of beneficial bacteria-feeding fiber and mind nourishing minerals. Look up lists of nuts and seeds for ideas. If you love sunflower seeds, pop a handful at breakfast or mid morning or add them into rice, oatmeal, bean or whole grain salads, etc. Just remember to go for the raw and unsalted versions so you’re actually getting the nutrition and not killing off your beneficial bacteria with the salt. Like pecans? Add them into baked goods or throw them into your oatmeal and yogurt.
The key is to find the ingredients you love and look for the dishes that contain them. Your happy stomach will thank you.
Sometimes people don’t realize that hearty dishes like many curries, stews, stir fries and burrito bowls are actually really healthy for you. These make wonderful dinners and leftovers for lunch. Skip the frozen meals or canned soups though. These are processed and heavy on preservatives, sugar, salt and bad fat, let alone a plethora of strange additives only a chemist can understand.
Make these meals yourself. You don’t need to slave all day in then kitchen! Most of my meals take 12-30 minutes to make and I don’t skimp on flavor or heartiness.
When it comes to curries and stir fries, the sky is the limit. You’ve got Thai style, Chinese versions, Indian types, fusion explorations. Veggies can be anything and it’s not like you have to forgo meat or seafood!
Burrito bowls are just as versatile and you can easily turn them into tacos. Just skip the heavy flour tortillas for corn tortillas and enjoy. Meanwhile, the varieties of soups and stews are endless.
These meals are all classic crowd pleasers and anyone can find a favorite. Maybe you have more than a few? By focusing on those you love, you’ll feel full and happy – and less likely to give up the diet change.
The hardest part of switching to a whole foods based lifestyle was weaning myself off my sugar and refined carb addiction. I loved sugary baked goods and ate pizza several times a week along with pasta – all of which is highly processed, low in nutrition, and certain to destroy my metabolism. Once I weaned off them, my inflammation disappeared, as did my joint stiffness, acne, anxiety, digestive issues and more. See my article What Happened When I Gave Up Bread.
I managed to switch to close seconds in order to wean off these heath debilitating foods without feeling too deprived. I did this by finding near enough replacements that I loved and ratcheted down my sugar and refined carb intake over weeks and months.
For instance, I ate a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios instead of pastries and cookies in the evening when the sweet tooth hit. They don’t contain wheat or as much sugar so I was cutting down my sugar grams for the day and avoiding the addicting gluten. Or I would make chocolate bars with 100% cocoa, coconut oil, a dash of salt and a tablespoon of honey. These also helped sate my sweet tooth when I ate a few bites at night.
Often I stirred in cocoa powder into yogurt and added fruit to make a sweet but healthy smoothie treat in the evenings. This really helped break me of buying and eating cookies which I loved in the evenings after dinner.
When it came to pizza and pasta, I made curries, stir fries and other dishes that I loved or stopped in at Chipotle and Moe’s for burrito bowls over burger and fries or fried chicken at McDonald’s and KFC.
Takeaway: The trick is to find tasty replacements that are healthier than what you’re currently consuming. They don’t have to be completely healthy, just better. Over time swap them out for other, healthier treats that you discover and love to eat.
Enjoyment Over Deprivation
The key to success is to enjoy what you’re eating and not feel deprived and resentful. Healthy eating when it becomes a lifestyle is a fun adventure. Basically you become a heath food foodie – and there are more delicious and healthy foods to eat than you will ever have time for. You start realizing this the longer you research whole food and real food recipes. It’s actually pretty reassuring!
But sometimes we still want that slice of cake or that bowl of Lucky Charms. Should you never eat them? That’s for you to decide. In the beginning we all slip and no one’s diet is perfectly healthy 24/7. I save most of my cheats for birthdays or special occasions or limit them to once a week or less. Because I love so many healthy dishes, I really don’t have time for the less healthy ones. My palette has shifted and the processed foods I once loved now taste weird or unfulfilling. That’s a great place to be and it’s achievable.
When we focus on the good foods we love and look for opportunities to eat more of them, we naturally start crowding out less healthy options. We also start remapping our taste buds, our brains, and our digestive tracts so that over time we no longer crave these fake foods. Better, healthy foods satiate us so we feel full and naturally begin to limit our intake as our metabolisms recover from the harmful bombardments of sugar and processed foods.
Reclaim your plate and your health by focusing on real foods as your ingredients – the fresher the better. Avoid processed foods while eating real foods and your health can only improve!
To create lasting change in your eating habits, remember the real secret to eating healthy: enjoy the foods you eat. Maybe you only have a few right now. It may also take time to discover new ingredients and recipes if you don’t already have favorites. Keep looking and exploring. You’ll be surprised by all your discoveries.
Eat what you love and you will succeed.
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