So, you know which healthy foods you want (or need) to be eating. The next question is how to incorporate these healthy foods into your every day meals. The good news is this is quite simple and easy to implement.
Step 1: Your Healthy Food Lists
The first step is having an actual list of the healthy foods you would like to incorporate into your diet. Not just for the day or week, but overall. Look at your health goals for this list.
Start by asking yourself, what foods are healthy and would add to your goals of good health? Which ones boost your immune system? Which ones help fight cancers? Or fight obesity or diabetes? You get the idea here. Which foods would be ideal to add to your diet to boost your health, mental and physical well being and your longevity?
Make sure to step outside your comfort zone here. You want to be broad and choose a variety of healthy foods that you could add for your health, not just your favorites.
And, when you make your lists, make sure to include healthy greens, colorful veggies, healthy fats and proteins, plus healthy condiments.
Step 2: Take Stock
The next step is to take stock of what you currently eat on a regular basis. Look at the last 2 weeks and write down what you ate and where.
What was missing when compared to your new healthy foods list from step 1? Also, take note of where you obtained your meals. Did you cook at home, eat out for breakfast, lunch and/or dinner? Make a note of how often for each one.
Now look at that list and determine if you are currently likely to eat items from that healthy list at home or outside the home? Ask yourself why.
Step 3: Identify Places for Change
In step 2, you identified some patterns and made note of changes that may be needed. Here in step 3 you will begin the plan to making a shift.
One of the easiest and best ways to consistently include healthy foods in your meals is by cooking and eating at home. Is this possible for you? Is there a way to make that happen? Could you schedule out 1 hour two times per week for meal prep for the entire week to make it easier? Even if you just increase the number of meals cooked inside the home, you will be a step ahead.
If eating out is a large factor in your food consumption, look at your list from step 2 to see what you are eating (and not eating) when you eat out. Are there certain places you need to remove from your go-tos eateries to help you make better choices? What restaurants offer foods from your list in step 1? Make note of those.
Step 4: Schedule it!
You can have the best intentions in the world, but without scheduling it, it simply won’t happen. Especially, when it comes to changing habits. And that, after all, is a large part of what you are dealing with when it comes to your diet. The foods and places you eat are largely part of your daily habits.
Start small. If you are currently eating out most days of the week, it is highly unlikely you will immediately switch to cooking all meals from home every day. In this case, choose the meals that countered your health goals the most (which ones had the least amount of healthy foods in them). Start with those meals.
Perhaps it is breakfast. Your go-to is that yummy bacon and egg biscuit from your favorite place on the way to work. Or maybe it’s lunch out with friends or co-workers where you grab so-so meals, maybe even salads (but they could better, with dark lettuces instead of iceberg; no croutons or cheese, or maybe it’s the fried or even heavily char-grilled protein or the salad dressing or tiny amount of added veggies). Perhaps it’s the take-out or eat-in dinner.
Remember, we are all at different levels in our healthy eating. And, to progress takes steps if you want it to stick. At each level something that may seem perfectly fine to you now, may not be a month from now once you’ve progressed.
Pick the lowest hanging fruit—the changes it would be easiest to change first. What is one more meal you could cook from home? What are 2 more veggies you could add to your weekly line up? What are two things you could buy organic? What is a restaurant you could mark off your list, at least for a while (maybe you eat there too often or the choices do not match your new list)?
You get the idea. Pick the easiest ones to change and start there. Now, schedule those changes. Actually think about when you will grocery shop, what meals you’ll make and what ingredients you will need. Schedule time for the meal planning. Schedule time to make the grocery list. Schedule the day and time to grocery shop. Schedule the day and time to cook each meal. Schedule the new eat-in or take-out destinations.
The goal here is to make each meal intentional and schedule it. Pick a day each week to think and decide and plan and schedule your meals for the entire week. Give yourself a calendar of meals. Make it intentional. If you are going to eat out, know where and when. Take it a step further and scope out the menu ahead of time and know what you will order that fits your list before ever arriving.
Without the plan, you will likely work all day and find yourself at dinner time with nothing to eat and no plan. That is exactly when you'll grab what is not-so-good for you. You’re hungry at that point and just want to eat. You don’t want or can’t think about it. This is when you end up grabbing take-out or eating at those go-to restaurants that you’ve already identified need to be removed.
The plan is essential!
Step 5: Take Action
You have identified your healthy eating goals and the foods you want to eat (and not) to reach those goals. You’ve made the list. You’ve taken stock on your habits and are clear on what changes you’d like to make. You’ve identified the places for change and scheduled those changes.
Now, it is time to take action. A plan without action is only a dream. You’ve done the hard work. It’s on your schedule. Now, commit to the small changes you have made. Follow your schedule for this week.
The following week, on your designated food planning day, set your new plans for the new week. If you breezed through the first week, add in another upgrade or two. If not, not to worry, start again. Pick an easy thing to change and commit to it. Rinse and repeat each week. You will continue to up level each week if you follow these simple steps.