I may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. Full Disclosure
It can be intimidating when trying to make the switch to healthier eating. When I first started changing out our usual foods for healthy ones, I remember not knowing where to start or what replacements to choose. I just wanted some sort of guide.
Today, I want to share some tips on how to begin eating healthier. As I’ve mentioned before, healthy eating is going to look different for each person. The basics are switching to real food; food that was not made in a factory or lab; food whose ingredients you can pronounce and if you were able you could grow/raise yourself.
Now some people need a vegetarian diet, some need a traditional diet (not traditional like the Standard American Diet aka SAD… traditional like the way foods have been prepared for centuries.), and some people will need to exclude certain food groups like grains or dairy.
Take these tips and make them work for your requirements.
Tips for Eating Healthy
Shop the Perimeter
This is a fairly common tip but it’s still a great one. The concept being that if you shop only the perimeter of a grocery store then will avoid most of the processed foods.
Think about it, what is located on the perimeter of the grocery store? Dairy, produce, meat, and the bakery. You aren’t likely to find any foods with scary ingredients in there. The center aisles are what hold the processed foods.
Now of course, some items are in the center (especially if you aren’t a DIY type) so you will have to venture in for condiments, baking soda, and pasta… just try to stick to the perimeter as much as possible.
You Can’t Eat What You Don’t Have
When I started eating real food, I knew that I would have to put a ban on certain foods from coming into my house. I decided to no longer buy soda, chips, or cookies. I knew that if I bought these things then I would indeed consume them.
Now, I’m not saying I have banned these items from my life but at home I try to keep them out of the house. Does this mean we never have cookies in the house? It means we do not have Chips Ahoy cookies but we still bake cookies from scratch.
Thus, this tip has two perks; less junk in the house and when you do want something, you make it from scratch with real ingredients.
Convert the Whole Family
Switching the way you eat should be a whole household affair. For one reason, it would be a good choice for everyone to eat healthy and for another reason, it’s just plain easier.
Nobody wants to cook multiple meals for different family members. Nor does someone want to open the fridge to see soda when they are trying to avoid it.
It might take a while; you might have to start slow on the changes so your spouse or kids don’t stage a mutiny but everyone will be healthier and happier if everyone is on the same page.
As I said above, it’s intimidating to give your diet an overhaul. Start small! Don’t clear out the kitchen off all your foods only to find out that you have no idea what you are going to eat.
Start with a few items or areas and keep changing as you feel comfortable. Maybe you can only start buy getting rid of sugary drinks. Maybe you start buy changing your breakfasts to breakfasts made with real food instead of processed cereal and pop-tarts. Perhaps you’d rather focus on getting rid of all foods that have high fructose corn syrup and go the ingredient route. Whatever you do, start small so you do not get burnt out.
There are a few switches that are easy to change and you won’t notice a difference. Easy switches are switching margarine for butter, coconut oil or olive oil for canola oil, and salt for real sea salt.
These changes you can make and nobody is likely to notice the difference. I’ve got a list of more natural swaps if you want to see what other items are easy to switch out.
Make Your Own
If you avoid shopping the center of the grocery store, suddenly you no longer buy items like salad dressings, soups, or cookies. This does not mean you can’t eat any of that, it just means that you get to start making it yourself. Don’t worry, you can do it!
Recipes really aren’t hard to follow. Just read through the recipe entirely before you start so you know what you are getting into then slowly proceed step by step. Thanks to the internet, you can find a recipe for anything and everything.
That favorite salad dressing you normally buy probably has a copy cat version online. In addition to avoiding yucky ingredients, you also will save a lot of money because more often than not, processed foods will cost more than homemade.
Replace as You Run Out
This ties into the Start Small tip; when you find you are running low in flavored oatmeal, start thinking about what the healthy replacement will be. In this case, buying plain rolled oats would be an easy choice. When you finally run out of the processed item, buy the real food replacement when you go grocery shopping.
If you ask yourself if there is a healthier option as each food item runs out, you will slowly but surely convert your entire kitchen to being stocked with only real foods!
Realize There are Depths of Eating Healthy
There are different depths or shades of eating healthy. The first level is just removing all the crazy ingredient foods but still allow the natural processed foods.
Then there’s switching to organics; organic real foods but organic processed foods too. Next, there’s the make it yourself level. This level you slowly start moving away from the processed foods and make them instead (homemade sunbutter for example), and lastly you hone your healthy eating but really digging deep and making sure your food is grass-fed, cage-free, pasture-raised and all that. Seeing how things are fed and raised.
There are many levels and sometimes those levels may merge a bit but start at the first level and work your way deeper.
Decide How Far You Will Go
Many people use the 80/20 rule. This means that they eat perfectly 80% of the time but the other 20% they can relax a bit. Whether this means that 20% is in the home during dessert time or if the 20% applies to when the family is out of the house is up to each individual.
My family tends to apply the 20% to when we are out and about. We eat pretty well at home but on grocery shopping days or days that I know we won’t be home for a meal, I cut us some slack and we eat food that is likely not really food at all. It’s not ideal of course but I can’t afford to eat out at super healthy places and sometimes we can’t go home or pack a lunch.
Decide how strict you are going to be with your healthy eating and then stick with it!
Give Yourself Grace
Making the switch to eating healthy is likely to be a long change and one that will ever be evolving. There will be days when you feel like such a “bad person” for having chips in your house whether they are organic or not, there will be days when you feel like sneaking through the grocery store hoping nobody spots your not quite “perfect” cart.
But you know what, nobody is perfect! It’s a journey. The point is you are trying to eat better and that is the important part.