Do you look back on your week and regret some of the things you had to eat?  Do you want to be more disciplined and eat healthier but finding it hard?  If you said yes, you’re certainly not alone.

Many of us have great intentions at the beginning of a week.  We want to cut back on our unhealthy food choices but it doesn’t take long for it to all go ‘belly up’ to pardon the pun.  It might be because we are busy and don’t have time to make lunch or cook dinner and we end up buying burgers and chips instead.  Or we might be regularly travelling and good food is hard to find. Or it might be that temptations are too often in your face and you find it hard to say no.

Regardless of how it happens we regret our unhealthy eating and we wish we could be more disciplined.

Sound familiar?

Well here are some tips to help you eat healthier more often.

1.    Minimise the number of temptations stocked in your house.

If unhealthy foods are stored in the cupboard or the fridge you know it’s just a matter of time until you succumb.  If there is a time to be disciplined it’s when you go shopping.  Have a list and stick to it.  If it doesn’t make it home then you have just eliminated a reasonable percentage of your day where you won’t have things around you to tempt you.

2.    Encourage your work mates to surround you with healthy food.  

Work is commonly a place where snacks are brought out at various intervals.  Whilst some will want to share chocolates and cakes, why not encourage team members to share healthier foods like fruit, yoghurt and juices.  Encourage those who organise meetings and celebrations to have healthy foods as the standard menu.

3.    Identify cravings.

If you are eating well but crave sugar or fried food it’s a sign that you’re healthy meal plan might be missing something.  Once you identify the craving you can find something healthy that will replace it and take away the craving.  As an example, craving chocolate is highly likely to indicate a magnesium deficiency in the body.  So increase green leafy foods such as spinach, fish, nuts, seeds and bananas which contain magnesium.

4.     Drink more water.    

According to research noted by the American Chemical Society, water can help you feel fuller and therefore less likely to reach for unhealthy foods.  The study referenced included two groups of adults aged 55-75 years. One group drank 2 cups of water prior to their meals and the other did not. All of the subjects ate a low-calorie diet during the study. Over the course of 12 weeks, water drinkers lost about 15.5 pounds, while the non-water drinkers lost about 11 pounds.

5.    Have a genuine reason for staying on a healthy eating plan.

If you have a good reason for eating healthy foods you are much more likely to be able to say no to temptation.   We often have good reasons but we don’t keep them front of mind and instead allow excuses to supersede them.  A good way to keep your reasons as a motivator is to write them down and keep them handy – beside your bed, next to your computer at work or as reminders on your phone.  The more you can keep your reasons prominent the more likely you are to keep the temptations at bay and stick to healthy eating.

If a good reason doesn’t come to mind you may need to manufacture one.  For instance enrolling yourself in a series of fun runs or a swimming class is a good way to create an instant need to eat healthy.  With these examples, if you set yourself a goal to do a particular run or swim time you know that you will need to eat well if you are going to perform well.

6.    Record what you eat and show someone.  

When you keep a record of what you eat each day and share that record with another person you become much more accountable for your eating habits.   If you eat poorly, not only will you have to remind yourself what you ate, you will also have to justify it to someone else.  On the flip side, recording what you eat and having someone to show it to will provide a great incentive to eat well so that you can show off to yourself and the other person when you do well.  Having said that it is important that you choose someone to show your record to that will be supportive and won’t be critical of you if you do have a bad day.  It is important that you have someone you can trust who will be nothing but encouraging so that you feel motivated to do better tomorrow if you have fallen back into bad habits.

7.    Don’t go overboard.

Work on a 90/10 or 80/20 plan.  This means restricting healthy foods to 80%-90% of your total food intake.  Why?  Because most people (but not all) who try for 100% healthy end up giving up because it’s too hard.  Allowing yourself a little treat here and there is like a reward for doing the hard work the rest of the week.   Better to set a realistic target of healthy eating and stick to it than go hard for 2 weeks and give up and go back to bad old habits.

8.    Plan what you will eat a week in advance.

If you have a plan that lays out what you need to eat and when and you have it prepared and ready to go at that time you are far less likely to find yourself eating unhealthy food.

A plan does the following:

  • Cuts down time preparing meals because you cook in bulk
  • Makes it far less likely that busyness will derail you
  • Ensures you have the right balance of food groups represented throughout the week
  • Helps with portion control
  • Allows you to include a variety of meals
  • Reduces your food bill
  • Helps facilitate a routine of healthy eating, limiting your imagination’s ability to craft unhealthy solutions

Eating healthy is mostly a mental game.  Every time we go to eat something unhealthy we have a choice to make – do we want immediate satisfaction or abstinence to help achieve longer term and ultimately more rewarding goals?  If we can keep that question and a motivating, longer term goal in mind as we go about making eating choices, we are more likely to abstain from unhealthy foods.

Eating healthy doesn’t happen by accident.  It requires us to educate ourselves and apply a disciplined, planned approach.  With persistence and a support structure around us, anyone can turn their unhealthy eating habits into ones that will create the long term benefits that bring us our greatest rewards.