One of the reasons why people don’t even start a healthy lifestyle is because they don’t even know where to start, I was there too. But on today’s blog, I am sharing with you how you can get started on eating healthy once and for all and never go back to your old habits. Starting to eat healthily can feel tricky but once you start implementing these steps that I am going to share with you and you keep doing it, you will be a pro and not even recognize you are simply following steps, I promise it will feel like a lifestyle and not a diet routine.
On my journey to finding what is the best way to start eating healthy, I learned that there are three steps to start the change. Each step is as important as the next, without any of these your body will simply crash. Eating healthy is something everybody wants but not everybody succeeds at because they don’t know how to do it, either because they don’t understand what food really is ( YOU SHOULD READ MY BLOG “FOOD, A LOT MORE THAN JUST FUEL” ) where we got our eating habits from or simply don’t have the knowledge on how to start eating healthier. But before we start I want to ask yourself why you want to start eating healthy, why is this important to you, and how you are going to create a healthy relationship between you, your body, and food. After you have these answers you will have clarity on why to start so you don’t get discouraged by the new changes you will start to implement.
But don’t get scared, starting to eat healthily is really not hard, what can be hard is your old habits, rituals, and beliefs of food, that’s what can make the process harder but once you know why you need to make those changes then following these three steps on how to start eating healthy will be a light at the end of the tunnel and the best life-changing decision you are about to make.
STEP 1: Fill Your Nutritional Requirements
You are going to be shocked when I tell you that no matter how good your diet is almost everybody (even very healthy athletes) have at least three nutrient deficiency. A study made by the “Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition” showed that people who were following one of the most popular diet plans, were in fact also having nutrient deficiencies, especially six of them. It is very important that you start by fixing these deficiencies because without the proper nutrients required by your body your physiology won’t work properly making you feel tired, sick, and not good at all.
Nutrients are necessary to keep your energy levels at it’s best and energy is a very important thing that you need to keep on point. You need energy for absolutely everything from thinking, analyzing, reading, moving, digesting food, talk, I mean the list could never end. Another important reason why you need to start with your nutrients is that they are key for strength and endurance, if you pretend to go workout, go to the gym, go hiking, run behind your kids all day, work, etc, you need to fill your nutrients needs. When you don’t have these nutrients things start to break down inside your body.
Infographic from our old website
LEARN TO IDENTIFY YOUR RED FLAGS
Your body talks to you in many amazing, but you have come to the point where you see these red flags so often that you learned to see them as “normal” and ignore them, I mean, skin breakouts, hair loss, broken nails, feeling tired are many of nutrient deficiency signs and we don’t love this fact about us, but, we learn to live with it. However, not always your body is able to show you some signs, this is why it is very important that you go to your preferred nutritionist and ask for your nutritional rates, so that way you know where to start fixing your diet and start eating healthy. The most popular deficiencies are water, such a simple and cheap solution, and essential fatty acids. A paper published in “Nutrition Reviews” showed that giving children healthy oils and a multivitamin improved both their behavior and intelligence scores, how amazing is that?
Some nutrient deficiency signs can be:
Pallor, or pale skin
Unusual food cravings
Brittle hair and nails
Periods of lighthead
So the first thing to start eating healthy is to go to your doctor and ask for an exam to know what nutrients are you deficient in so that way you can know what food you need to start implementing more on your diet to fill those gaps. For example, if you are Iron deficient then you know you need to add more iron-rich foods to your diet, such as pumpkin seeds, collards, spinach, Brussels sprouts, etc.
STEP 2: How To Serve Your Food
The next step and another very important step is to start implementing the right foods for you, in the right amounts. I was horrified when I found out I spend all my life eating not only the wrong foods but the amounts of it were horrible. I just spend the weekend on a little (20 of us) family vacay and as a nutrition coach all I can do was observe what they were serving for breakfast, lunch and dinner, that’s when I understood that food is so much more than just than something we eat, it is culture and it comes from our ancestors and the way I used to eat it was not my fault and I need to be okay with who I used to be with my food, and how now I have the clarity I need to eat according to my body’s needs and now I am about to help you to do same. So before I teach you how much you should eat I want to give you this bonus, forgive yourself for how you have eaten until right this moment, doesn’t matter if it made you sick, ill, overweight or it cost you relationships, all those experiences took you to where you are now, a woman seeking for knowledge, to love and understand her body, strong and a fighter (if you make it to this blog, it means you didn’t gave up so you are a fighter).
Anyways back to my family, so the first day we had pasta with either veggie (my family knows I’m a veggie girl) or with spam do we need to talk about processed food?) but when you serve that dinner it was all CARBS! with little veggies, what a big no-no, oh and top of if it was served with bread, more CARBS! and fried plantains, now how many of you do that? Guilty! I used to and did that day, but carbs should only be a small portion of your meal and the big focus should be the veggies. By the second day lunch was rice soup, again, CARBS! with shrimp which I ended up eating the pasta with veggies from the night before and by dinner it was a little better, my aunt made her delicious beans (again, my family knows I am not a meat eater) with white rice and some chicken that we Puerto Ricans love to cook, and even that it does have potatoes (um, carbs) and carrots, when we serve that meal the plate is half rice, CARBS!, and the other half chicken, and little beans and carrots, the total opposite of what it should be. About the breakfast? you do not want me to get started on that, HORROR!
So take a minute and as yourself:
How am I been serving my meals?
How many carbs do I eat?
How much protein and how much veggies and fats?
Which group goes above the rest?
Do I think I should keep eating it like that?
How can I start making changes to my meals?
What can I start eliminating?
What can I start adding?
You see when you take the time to analyze these questions and answer them, you might be surprised by the answers and realize on your own what’s been wrong in your diet before I even start explaining it to you.
FOOD AMOUNT AND CALORIES
I had never been a fan of measuring foods when I serve them and less counting calories, more dirty dishes (I hate dishes), and too much math (I know, my best grades were always math) that’s not the life for me, living worrying how much I am serving, it is right or not, is it too many calories, I mean blah, I don’t have time for apps and typing the amount of what I added to my recipe, (by the way I am a baker and that is pure science you need to measure or it will total fail), but I cannot tell you how happy I felt when I learned that there is a better, easier and faster way to measure your food without measuring cups and calories counting apps.
Counting calories might not always meet our natural needs and will not always be accurate and neither our bodies process them all equal, we both might eat 500 calories of the same food right now but our bodies will process them differently resulting in one of us storing the 500 calories while the other will only store 450, plus, we can do measurements or typing mistakes. Another problem with calories is that not all labels are correct, again people are behind labs and factories which means they can make mistakes and there are different food qualities, different ways to prepare them, and more errors.
So what’s the best way to count calories? I am happy to say the hell with that! Seriously. Your focus should start with the food groups you should be eating on each meal (in this order of importance):
Have you noticed how people had been afraid of carbs and fats, but yet, I am still recommending them? This is because carbs and fats are not our enemies, as a matter of fact, they are your body’s favorite source of energy, which makes them necessary. The problem is that we eat them in the wrong portions, remember my family’s meals? Well, this is the same mistake everybody does, we serve carbs first, fats second or even first (french fries, fried chicken, fried plantains, chips, etc) and we barely have any veggies at all, not to mention how much protein people are adding, it is a horror movie.
The amount of each group will depend on your body size, I mean, I am 4’09” and barely weigh 100 pounds and I can’t pretend that you eat the same amount if you are taller and heavier than me, so using the same measuring cup for everybody is not right. What you can do is simple, use your own hand to measure your food, I know!
Start by eating:
1 fist of vegetables
1 palm of protein
1 cupped hand of carbs
1 thumb of fats
The best way to start is like this, no craziness, just using your hand, but of course there might be variations as you go. Start with testing how you feel after you eat, if you feel that you are still hungry you might add a little bit more of each, but again, a little. If you are used to eating too much it will take time for your body to adjust, so I recommend drinking a cup of water 30 minutes before your meal, eat, and then drink water 30 minutes after your food. If you are physically active like me, then you might need to go half more or double your portion, by example instead of 1 fist of veggies you might need 1.5-2 fists of veggies, same with protein and fats. Enjoy your meal, stay away from distractions, and listen to your body, if you feel hungry, full, or you are active or not, just listen and make adjustments from there.
Step 3: Meals Frequency
Even though you already know what foods and how much you should eat, it is very important to know how often you should eat. Not eating the right amount of times or frequency can have a negative turn at your mealtime. Let’s say you did not have breakfast or/and your snack before lunch, you will be starving, then when you finally seat down to eat you will be craving lots of carbs, sugars, fats and you will definitely overeat. Now the frequency and the amounts of food will vary of your goals and your physical activities.
If you are trying to gain muscle like me then you might want to add more carbs and fats to your diet, if you are trying to lose weight you might want to add more veggies and fats to your diet, and so go on. Another point to take into consideration is your workout days, if you are working out high weights or insane cardio then again you will need more carbs those days, but if you are on your free day then you might want to go low on carbs. Carbs are your body's main source of energy, which means you need them for high-intensity days.
Breakfast should be very nutritious, you are breaking a fast of 8 hours so your body needs lots of water and lots of nutrients to get back on and thrive during your day. Then your meals can go down in portion size as you go in your day. Something that helps a lot to avoid cravings and overeating is having small snacks between meals and again, lots of liquids. But it is important that you are clear on your schedule to know how you should eat, by example if you workout in the mornings like I do, then I just go with water, coffee, and a tbsp of PB before my workout and then have my first meal, but, if you workout later in the afternoon then you need to consider the fact that you need to eat a good meal (probably higher in carbs) 1-2 hours before your workout and then eat a lighter (probably higher in vegetables) last meal 30-60 minutes after your workout.
Most importantly listen to your body, if you feel too fatigued you might be working out too much or eating too little if you are hungry then have something more, if you are feeling too full then have less, it is all up to how your body feels and needs.