Love healthy eating?
There are many reasons to consider healthy eating. There are the obvious benefits to your cholesterol levels, blood sugar numbers, and your risk for metabolic disease. And then there are the desired benefits to your waistline and your weight. But focusing on the benefits that you could get from healthy eating can make it seem like a chore instead of something that can be enjoyed and loved.
The focus on benefits makes it so easy for you to choose healthy eating pattern that you detest in the name of getting the results you crave or numbers that will make your doctor smile at your next appointment. So today I want to invite you to start your journey to a healthy diet by focusing on the foods you love.
Contrary to what you might think, there is a lot to love about healthy eating. If you’re eating in a truly healthy and balanced way, you’ll enjoy each mealtime and not worry about feeling deprived of the foods you love. So how do you do this? Here are three ideas:
#1 Start with the Healthy Foods You Love
There are some healthy foods that you’re already in love with. When I think of foods that should make it into a healthy eating pattern, I think whole foods like:
- Non-starchy vegetables
- Animal or plant protein
- Healthy fats
- Starchy vegetables or whole grains
These foods are an essential part of a healthy diet and I even turned the list into an acronym that I call VAFs (check out EJ’s awesome weight loss guide to learn more about VAFs and how they can work for you). But regardless of how you choose to think of healthy eating, I want to assure you that you probably love more healthy foods than you think. The thing is you’ve probably resisted the idea of making wholesale changes to your diet to make it healthy that you haven’t taken the time to look.
So start by making a list… What foods do you love? And which one of those foods are healthy? Highlight the healthy foods that you’ll have the beginnings of healthy food options that make up a healthy diet you’re likely to love because it has foods you love.
#2 Include the Less Healthy Foods You Enjoy
Love pizza? How about white rice or white bread? The typical restrictive diets will have you believing that you should not have those in your eating pattern for it to be considered healthy. But that isn’t true. A healthy diet doesn’t mean a perfect diet. Rather, a healthy diet is one that allows you to reach your healthy and physique goals while still feeling like you can enjoy the foods that you enjoy.
Some healthy eating patterns call this cheat foods, but I don’t like the psychology associated with that. It’s implying that you’re being dishonest with your intentions. Rather, I call these 10% foods because they’re a planned part of your everyday eating pattern and are absolutely nothing to feel guilty about.
Figuring out how to incorporate your 10% foods and how much of them to enjoy is more of an art than a science. One strategy that I suggest with these is to correlate how much you’re eating them with the results you’re getting. So if you love pizza like I do, you might find that eating it 3X a week has you feeling like crap and keeps you from your health and physique goals. But enjoying a small pizza with your favorite toppings once a week might have no negative effect on your goals and leave you with an accessible and doable healthy eating plan.
#3 Push Your Edge and Experiment
As human beings, we’re born with a sense of adventure. If you watch an infant playing and exploring, you’ll notice that there’s rarely a sense of fear or danger especially when there’s a loving adult present. It’s amazing to me how babies just grab stuff off the ground and shove it in their mouths to explore it further.
You don’t have to go around acting like my 1 year old son, but I’m suggesting that you reconnect with your inner child and approach your healthy eating journey with a sense of adventure. Try vegetables that would normally not be on your shopping list. I suggest a one-new-thing-a-week rule where you explore a new piece of produce that you haven’t tried before or have given a wide berth because you weren’t quite sure of it.
Exploring this way will allow you to feel less limited in your healthy eating journey AND allow you to practice the thought patterns that will help you get creative about finding healthy options in environments where your go-to healthy options
Take Action with your healthy eating
If I’ve done my job right, by now you’ll see the possibilities that exist with loving your healthy eating pattern. So my challenge to you now is this:
If you’re redesigning the way you eat to make it healthier, I want you start with #1. Start with the foods you love. Here are some guiding questions to help you do this:
- What non-starchy vegetables do you love?
- What animal or plant protein do you enjoy?
- What healthy sources of fats could you eat all day long?
- And what starchy vegetables and whole grains can you see yourself enjoying?
Now highlight which one of these you consider healthy. Starting from the foods you love will help you see this as an opportunity to make mealtime more of a communion with yourself and less of a to-do list that needs to be handled. And once you start to eat more of the foods you enjoy, you’ll be more likely to experiment with other foods within these healthy food types that can broaden your eating pattern.
EJ Ogenyi is a Lifestyle Coach and founder of the Team by EJ Ogenyi. She helps women who want to lose weight and get toned without restrictive meal plans or extreme exercise programs. She helps them get clear about their goals, learn to eat healthy, and create a healthy lifestyle that they love and can live consistently.