We all strive after living a healthy life and to be totally honest – also to look good naked 😉, but weighing food, sticking to diets and being very restrictive is hard and not very sustainable in the long run. Our goal and I guess it is the same for you is to find something that is a bit more sustainable in the long run.
A while back we wrote about 4 tips to break free from the food scale which is a great piece of advice that helps you become more aware of how much you should eat and how to play it safe. This post is on the same topic so if you haven’t read the other post you should 😉
It is not easy to always eat and be healthy but here are our 7 tips for a sustainable healthy diet.
Table of Contents
1. See the bigger picture
Our first tip is that you have to see your meals and your eating habits in a bigger perspective. You eat about 4-5 meals a day, 7 days a week that makes 35 meals a week. So if you have 1 bad meal a week out of 35, that is less than 3 percent. Hardly something to beat yourself up over! A year has 365 days and 5 meals a day gives you the grand total of 1825 meals 😱if most of them are good and healthy you will be fine.
Especially during the holiday’s people get worried. Most people are worried about what they eat between Christmas and New Year but what they should be concerned about is what they eat between New Year and Christmas. One week vs 51 weeks, one bad week of 52 is less than 2 percent! So give yourself some slack and don’t be so hard on yourself. Be mindful and focus on the bigger picture.
2. Learn to feel the difference between hunger and just wanting something
We have all learned that eating is fun, social and it makes us feel better. Those are all great feelings but something totally different than being hungry. It easy to grab something to eat when you feel bad, are bored or just want to do something different. Eating also gives you an instant rush of well being and is something that is easy to give in to. Are you really hungry and need to eat? Or are you just bored or want that rush?
I think there are many ways to get to know your feelings and your intentions better. What has really helped me have been awareness training (mindfulness 🧘♂️) and intermittent fasting. When you become more aware of your feelings and reactions it easier to change your actions. If I am bored I could just change the task, or take a walk instead of just grabbing something to eat.
I have done intermittent fasting for many years, or at least I have skipped breakfast and most of the time no eating after dinner, so more or less a 16:8 intermittent fasting.
It was really hard in the beginning not to eat anything until lunch, not because I was hungry but because I was used to eating. But after a while, you start to separate the habit and the feeling from the real hunger. So even if you don’t plan to do intermittent fasting long term it could be a great experiment to get to know your hunger, your body, and your feelings better.
3. Get your staples
You eat what you have available. So tip number 3 and 4 are in away different sides of the same coin. If you only have good and healthy food available that is what you are going to eat. We always have a few staples at home that can be the base for a lot of meals. This way we have easy access to healthy food and are not tempted to eating any unhealthy foods.
This is what we always have in the fridge and often also get cooked:
- Chicken breasts
- Low-fat Greek yogurt & coconut “yogurt”
- Sweet potatoes
- Fresh greens
4. Throw away all the crap
The other side of the coin, if you have unhealthy food at home you will eat it, if you have healthy food at home you will eat that instead, it is that simple. Just to get to this conclusion is a milestone. We don’t advocate for throwing away food (or anything else for that matter) so the best solution would be not to buy it the first place.
It is a good start to stop buying candy, cookies and other processed and high carb foods. But say that you already have your pantry full of unhealthy food, what should you do? You could try to give it away to a shelter or maybe friends and family. Even though one could be questioning if it is a nice gesture to give away unhealthy food you don’t want to those you love.
5. Don’t grocery shop if you are hungry
If you are hungry you will be less resistant to buy unhealthy things and we are right back at tip number 4. So try to plan to eat before you head to your local supermarket. There are also some studies that show that people that order their food online tend to buy more healthy food, they are just less tempted to buy things they actually don’t want. So if that is possible where you live maybe that is something you could try.
For the times or those who still have to go to a physical store and you are hungry, we still have a tip for you. All the groceries that have a barcode you can eat while you shopping and still pay for it before you leave. So, for example, protein bars and rice cookies you could just grab, eat, scan and pay when leaving. If you are unsure if your local store allows this be sure to ask, and definitely remember to pay before you leave! Otherwise, it is stealing!
6. Learn how to cook
When you are good at something it gets more fun. When it is fun you do it more often. But as with everything you need to practice to get good. And home-cooked food is almost always better than pre-cooked food. There are many ways to be better at cooking but none of them is without practice and time investment. Which way you choose is up to you.
If you like to cook with others maybe attend a cooking class? Maybe you have a chef or someone who is a good cook in your family or among your friends that you could learn from and cook with? Maybe follow a recipe for start to end is your thing? Or go crazy and experiment is your thing? I would say that we do a little of everything but one thing that has become a bit of a tradition is to attend a cooking class at a local cooking school when we are on vacation. This winter we had a whole day at Grandma’s Home Cooking School in Chiang Mai to learn how to cook Thai food. This gives you a lot of inspiration and new ideas.
7. Food prep
The idea of food prep can feel tedious and a waste of time, but when it’s easier to reheat some chicken and sweet potato than to order a pizza, you will likely win and stick to your healthy food. Most of the time we know what to eat or what to do but it feels too hard or too time-consuming to make the right choices. It is important to set yourself up for success and food prepping is definitely one way to do just that.
The last tip is to invest in some great food containers so your food stays fresh throughout the week and that will not be a stopper. We would recommend buying glass ones with an airtight lid.