The end of the summer is upon us; soon the kids will be back in classes. And you’ll be back to your ‘eating healthy’ goals.
But, there’s that one question. Where to start eating healthy?
There are numerous benefits to a relaxed – or even absent – schedule in the summer. But if you’re anything like me, you fell off the ‘healthy eating wagon’ several picnics or pool trips ago.
Relaxed schedules tend to allow bad habits to slip back into self-care routines, so it’s not surprising that getting back into a routine creates questions as to where to start eating healthy.
But, that’s where I can help.
I know exactly where to start eating healthy. (And I have a convenient shopping list tool to help you too! It’s available for you in the My Life Nurse Library).
Ready for the answer to where to start eating healthy?
Start right where you are.
Seriously. I recommend you start right where you are now – no matter where that is on the healthy-eating continuum. Do something simple, maybe even something that seems too simple.
Doing just one simple thing, if it’s the right thing, can be the foundation for your success.
For instance, take skiing. Learning how to ski down the bunny hill is essential to a new skier. Before the novice can ski down the bigger, steeper hills they have to learn how to stop, turn, and go again. Knowing how to do these basic things are critical to their success on the more challenging hills.
In that same context, there are basic things you should implement when starting to eat healthier. Starting with ‘the basics’ will help you start to build the skills that will be critical to your success in the future.
So Start Smart
While it’s tempting to add a uber-trendy or even a strict healthy-eating routine into your ‘about to be over-filled’ schooling schedule, I think that is a set up for disaster.
Because no matter how familiar your back-to-school schedule may feel, you’re still going to need time to re-implement the schedule (& any changes) and you’ll also need time to rebuild your healthy eating habits.
So, for now, just make a small and simple change. Then, in 2-4 weeks, add another small, simple change and advance slowly. In 6-8 weeks you’ll have made some great healthy eating changes!
But, think carefully about that one simple change.
I like to paraphrase Gary Kelly’s philosophy and comments in his book The One Thing. Mr. Kelly touts that choosing just one thing at a time is paramount to your success. But, be thoughtful about the one thing. Choose one thing you can do now which not only helps you move forward but is also so valuable that it may avoid the need for some other steps later.
So, I’ve put together some ideas or a ‘one thing’ list for you to consider as a starting place.
Listed in the rest of this post are several small changes you can consider implementing-depending on where you are right now. Take a look through these, and if you’re already doing the first one, start with the second one.
Where to Start Eating Healthy
As I’ve mentioned above, my goal today is to help you find the ONE thing to do so you can start – and then succeed – without being overwhelmed or discouraged.
I want you to be able to fit this into your busy life today and feel like you can succeed doing it again tomorrow, and the day after that.
The things on the list below have been shown (through scientific research) to be things that will make a significant impact on your health and wellness.
While I am going to say you can choose any order to apply the changes, based on my experience as an RN and a personal health consultant, if you’ll start where you are (and proceed in the order listed), you’ll experience little discomfort and thus, more success sticking to the task.
The reason is simple; these incremental changes will not feel too much different than what you are currently doing.
How great is that? Well, let’s get started!
1 Eat a Proper Serving Size
In my professional opinion, eating a proper serving size of whatever you are eating now is where to start eating healthy.
Measure your food portions so you can start eating the recommended serving size of whatever you usually eat (don’t change anything else in your diet).
It’s a great one thing step – eating a proper food serving can save you between 300-500 calories a day.
But, more importantly, it starts a couple of foundational habits.
The first one is being mindful of what foods you are choosing, and thus knowing how much you are eating. Mindfulness is a foundation for taking better care of yourself.
The second habit – it gets you looking at food labels.
How to Apply This:
In general, a serving of meat or protein is equal to about 3 ounces, or the size of a deck of cards or the palm of your hand. A serving of grains or fruit is equal to about 1/2 of a cup or the size of your fist.
There are a couple of inexpensive kitchen tools that help with measuring your food portions. You may already have some of these in your home. FYI – I wrote some more detailed information about measuring serving sizes, the tools needed, and reading food labels to find the serving size in another post on my blog – you can find it in this post.
Look at menus or ordering boards in restaurants to get an idea about serving size. Very likely a ‘small’ is still more than a recommended serving, but if you normally order a larger size, ordering a small is your one thing while eating out.
2 Add Healthy Snacks
Adding healthy snacks into your day is another place where to start eating healthy. What is necessary to make healthy snacks?
The right food.
The right serving size.
And, the right recipe.
The trick is getting the right food, in the right amount, to keep you from feeling hungry without a lot of calories.
So use the right recipe! It’s simple. It’s just: a protein OR dairy AND a fruit OR vegetable.
Any lean protein or dairy and any fruit or vegetable can be considered a healthy snack if it is in the right amount. There isn’t a ‘set’ list of snack foods. Sometimes, even some of your leftovers in your frig can make perfect snacks!
The only rule: A healthy snack is a total of 100-150 calories.
This post has information about finding calories in foods.
How to Apply This:
Follow the recipe and make ‘snack packs’ ahead of time. Don’t forget to add the snack choices to your shopping list so you always have some healthy snack options. And, if you are a person or family who is always on-the-go, I have some additional tips in the link.
3 Where to Start Eating Healthy – Lean Proteins
Try more fish, salmon, chicken, turkey, and eventually meat substitutes into your diet to enjoy.
Salmon and tuna burgers can be purchased fresh from the meat section of many grocery stores and taste amazing when all dressed up and in a bun.
Got a big beef eater? Begin buying leaner cuts of red meat but DON’T OVERCOOK THEM. Leaner meats typically taste better with less cooking time and on lower heat (ground beef and meat should always be thoroughly cooked). Leaner cuts usually have round, loin or sirloin on the package.
How to Apply This:
The two biggest hurdles to where to start eating healthy: knowing which proteins to eat ‘more of or less of. and ideas to get started. But don’t stress it; just try a couple of options a week.
If you need to take it really slow, you can start by replacing ground beef with chicken or turkey in chili or other familiar family recipes. Then move to new recipes with the leaner options after you’ve eaten the leaner proteins for a while.
4 Add Fruits & Veggies – Where to Start Eating Healthy
First of all, when you add more fruit and vegetable servings to your day, you add fiber and real food. Therefore, more fruits & veggies in your diet reduce the need for less healthy, refined, or processed foods.
But another benefit is the richer nutrient value. I’m confident no one has ever told you to eat fewer fruits and vegetables so you don’t receive too many nutrients! The nutrients in fruits and vegetables help all of our body systems function well.
How to Apply This:
Honestly, I can’t say too much more. But, if eating vegetables is a challenge for you or someone in your family says they don’t like them, there are some strategies to try – primarily alternative cooking methods.
5 Eat Healthy Grains
If you are already doing all of the things above, I encourage you to work towards consuming at least 50% of your grains as whole grains.
Whole grains provide your body with fiber which can help you feel full and may decrease constipation, reduce the risk of heart disease, and help with weight management.
If you are eating less than 50% now, start to add whole grains into your diet a little at a time.
How to Apply This:
An easy way – bring popcorn into your family’s diet as an after school snack or packed in a lunch. Other quick wins are to switch to whole grain bread and brown rice, eat a bowl of oatmeal, or whole-grain pasta (pasta & bread are now made with multiple grains so you can choose wheat or gluten-free).
Eventually, try bringing cooked grains into your diet. Offer them as sides (often recipes call grain sides ‘salads’) until you have at least 50% of your grain intake as whole grain.
6 Another Place to Start Eating Healthy – 3-F Diet
If you’ve gone through the list above, doing this next step shouldn’t be difficult because you have a pretty solid eating plan right now – how great is that?!
The 3-F diet is not a glamorous name, but it sure can pack a punch when deciding where to start eating healthy next. What do you do? It’s simple:
- Reduce fake food intake.
- Reduce fat food intake.
- Reduce fast (fried) food intake.
If you work through the list above before you get to this one, you will have already started working on this task. But, you can do even more if you know what to look for!
Reduce Fake Food
The easiest way to approach this strategy is to start eating more real food, and less processed or packaged food. If you do buy packaged foods, look for real ingredients on the ingredient list-words you recognize and not chemical names. These foods are usually high in sugar, sodium, and fat – and low in nutrient content.
Reduce Fat Food
Fat food is going to fall under store-bought baked goods. There’s a lot of tempting foods in this category. And, I know they taste good! The thing is, the fats used in these foods are not healthy fats. These foods are usually high in unhealthy fat, sugar, and sodium.
One thing you can try is making baked goods at home – from scratch. When you use real ingredients at home two things happen. 1. You use real ingredients. 2. You will eat less because you will likely not make as many baked goods as you buy. Win-win!
Reduce Fast (Fried) Food
The problems with eating too much fast & fried food are not a secret. Fast food is high in fat, sodium and even sugar. And, the portion sizes are sometimes 3-4 times larger than a serving size (a proper serving size of french fries is about 8 fries!).
It’s okay on occasion but work hard to either eat at a restaurant so you can order real food, pack your lunch, or use menu planning to reduce your fast food trips. If fast food is necessary, choose a salad and drink water (drink water with all of your meals and snacks to make sure you get enough and feel full).
Take Care of Yourself While You Take Care of, or Serve Others
Caring for your children, spouse, and maybe even your ill or aging parents can keep a mom (or dad) busy. Sometimes, too busy.
And, for parents who find caring for their children and family their primary focus or even their life’s purpose or mission, self-care can easily be pushed aside.
I’ve talked to and surveyed hundreds of people like this; because of that, I know the top three reasons people who serve and take care of others their ignore self-care.
It isn’t made a priority, they don’t feel like they have enough time and they don’t feel they are worthy of self-care (compared to taking care of the people they love-who need it more).
If these reasons resonate with you – or you feel your life calling is caring for and serving others, you may be interested in my faith-driven self-care post.
Don’t Forget to Get Your Shopping List Tool!
When you make your shopping list be sure to check the thing (or thing(s) if down the road) you are working on so you remember to look for specials, sales, and opportunities at the store to help you succeed on your goal! Be sure to make one out for every story you visit. Make notes about items related to your goal. Over time, you’ll have a paper trail showing you the best bargains or favorite things in each store for each strategy!
In conclusion, I know that there is a lot of information to take in here. These activities will place you on a path of continual learning and success as you move forward.
So please know that measuring your food portions and eating proper serving sizes is exactly where to start eating healthy because it will benefit you on your very first day (which I hope is TODAY!).
Whatever you choose as to where to start eating healthy, try to do it every time you eat over the next two-four weeks. Then consider adding another step.
Friend, I know you can do it!
If you think someone else would benefit from this post, please share it on social media. Thank you!
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Hi, I’m Lisa! Thanks for visiting My Life Nurse, where we provide people who serve and take care of others with easy self-care plans and systems, wellness strategies, and scripture-based encouragement so you can stay happy, healthy and rejuvenated. I’ve found that many people struggle with caring for themselves while taking care of others, but they also feel called to serve others, so they keep working even when they’re stressed and exhausted. That’s why I combine my nursing expertise with Scripture-based teaching. Our readers love learning how to walk closer to the Lord to improve their self-care – so they can begin their journey to feel better – without feeling guilty. Be sure to grab your FREE Self-care StarTer Guide!