How to Make the Transition to Better Eating Habits
Written By: Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC
The transition to healthier eating can feel paralyzing, overwhelming, and even uninspiring. We know what we prefer, what comforts us, and what we crave. The mere thought that we may have to take such foods out of our lives seems plain awful.
Well, I have life-changing news for you! Eating healthy does not equal eating rabbit food and, thus, giving up all satisfaction in dining. In fact, the opposite is true. Healthy food can be so rich and flavorful—with the added bonus of leaving you feeling great after the meal. Many of my clients comment on how easy the transition to healthy eating is once they learn what foods to eat—which is often different than what they thought—and tips and tricks to stay on track. Here are some tips to make your transition to healthier eating easy as (healthy) pie.
Dump the Junk: Pantry Makeover.
Get rid of unhealthy food in your pantry. Seriously, throw it (or give it) all away. I’m convinced that you need superpowers to resist sweet or salty comfort foods during times of boredom, stress, or extreme hunger. How hard is it not to grab the frozen pizza or processed chicken nuggets when you are scrambling for dinner last minute? You may still go for that snack under stress, or for the quick easy meal, but the choices available will be healthier. Dump the chips, crackers, cookies, pretzels, ice cream, and microwavable foods. Stock up on veggies, fruits, nuts, eggs, avocado, seeds, minimally processed meats and cheeses, and beans. If you want to learn more about real versus processed foods, message me for a copy of Chapter 8: Real vs. Processed Food in my book Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family’s Whole Health in a Busy World.
- Don’t Do Without, Swap it Out! Remember there is a way to make almost every treat, snack, or meal into a healthy version—that tastes good too. This means that the goal isn’t to take your favorite comfort foods out of the mix; instead the goal is finding a healthier way to prepare the snacks and meals you love. What real food product can replace the highly refined or processed ingredients in your favorite recipes?
- Meal Planning: A Game Changer. Being prepared for the week is really crucial. Without a plan when 6 pm rolls around, we reach for the frozen pizza. Online meal planning programs are a lifesaver if you struggle with meal planning—like I do. You get to choose your meal preferences, and voila, your meals and shopping lists are emailed to you weekly. Though I won’t recommend a meal planning program, here are a few: eMeals, Real Plans, Platejoy, and Eat This Much
- Stabilize Blood Sugars. When our blood sugar drops we naturally crave starchy, sugary foods. However, when we eat starches and sugars our blood sugars go up quickly and crash just as hard and fast—sending us on a wild ride of blood sugar instability and more sugar cravings. Break the cycle by eating healthy fats, proteins, and vegetables. These foods naturally don’t cause ups and downs in blood sugar levels and will help get us from meal to meal without feeling hungry. When you snack, grab foods that are high in fat and protein (nuts, seeds, avocado, hummus, cheese, meat) and avoid starchy snacks like chips, popcorn, crackers, and candy.
- Shop With a Full Belly. This isn’t news, right? When we go to the grocery store hungry our cravings are at their strongest and our instinct is to keep our blood sugars from crashing. This instinct can convince us to make poor food choices. With a full belly you will likely make decisions that are inspired from rational thought and your grocery list alone.
- Find a Partner in Crime. Whether it is a spouse, friend, or health coach, find a person with whom you can talk about your successes and struggles. The transition can be a lot more fun and rewarding with a buddy, and we tend to follow through with intentions more when we know someone has their eyes on us. My husband is my greatest accountability partner—he is incredibly supportive and also keeps me on track when I lose sight of my goals and values.
People often change their diets because they are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. But you don’t have to wait until you are in dire need—be proactive with your health before a crisis hits. Food is medicine! Making dietary changes is so doable and I guarantee you won’t regret it.
Sarah Kolman RN, MA, CHPN, INHC is the mom of three boys, a Registered Nurse, an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, and has a master's degree in Contemplative Psychotherapy. Her private practice as a health coach blends her experience and career as a nurse with her passion for nutrition and holistic wellness. She is the author of Full Plate: Nourishing Your Family's Whole Health in a Busy World. Learn more at www.this-one-life.com.