If you are anything like the average American, your diet is a complete mess. One of the trademarks of the American diet is that it’s low on the good things like fruit and vegetables, and high on salty foods, processed meats, sugary drinks, and red meat. And no matter how much healthcare professionals, nutritionists, and even health and fitness websites remind you, it’s still hard to give up on your favorite unhealthy treat.
But sooner or later, you will find that a bad diet makes your life worse. It damages your health, it reinforces other bad habits, and it doesn’t save you as much money as you would believe. But you’re in luck because there’s never a bad time to start fixing your diet. You can start right away if you are determined to make some real changes.
Step 1: Learn About Food
You can’t eat well if you’re not sure what you are supposed to eat. But people often choose the food that’s the most convenient, tasty, and downright addictive to them without considering what makes the food so convenient, tasty, and addictive. Most of the time, it’s not something good. Salt, sugar, and other chemicals that are used to intensify the taste of the food have little to no nutritional value, especially in the quantities in which they are often used.
Your understanding of food begins with learning about the different macronutrients and micronutrients your diet needs to include. You should learn about protein, the good carbs, and the good fats. Then learn about vitamins, minerals, and trace elements. Next, you learn about the high-quality sources of these nutrients. That is how you create a group of foodstuffs you can combine to make your meals.
Step 2: Shop Smarter
Now that you know a thing or two about nutrients, you are ready to tackle your next obstacle — the nutrition facts label, also known as the food label. These labels contain a lot of useful information if you know which areas to focus on.
The FDA, the organization which issues food label guidelines, also provides you with a nifty guide on how to read food labels. You would do well to study it, so the next time you go to the store you know exactly what to look for. Also, keep in mind that the best place to find the right kind of food is on the outside aisles of grocery stores. The more you go into the middle, the more processed foods you’ll see. For best results, buy food with a short “best before” date — food that perishes quickly contains less chemical preservatives.
Step 3: Modify Your Habits
Food is not the only problem you can have with your diet. Your habits extend to how and when you eat, as well as how you prepare your food.
Eating smaller bites and chewing them thoroughly will help your digestion. It will also give your stomach more time to figure out it’s full, so you will probably eat less if you eat slower.
Just how many meals you should have a day depends on many different things. Ideally, you will have three meals plus a snack or two in between. One thing you shouldn’t do is skip breakfast because that’s the meal that will fuel the beginning of your day. As for the snacks, you should choose fruit or vegetables, possibly with light sauces or dips if you want more flavor.
Finally, you should try to cook more. When you prepare your own meals from scratch, you have complete control over the ingredients that go into your meals. You can also make smaller portions that you would get in restaurants, and you can cook several meals at a time if you have a nice freezer. If you’re not a great cook, don’t worry — you’ll get better.
One of the biggest misconceptions about fixing your diet is that you have to replace your favorite treats with the kinds of food you cannot stand. You can still have your treats as long as you eat them like treats — only occasionally, and never in large quantities. And no one can make you eat the food you don’t like. If some of the healthier foodstuffs don’t agree with your taste buds, find replacements. It’s that simple.