Healthy eating habits go far beyond a diet – it’s about creating a lifestyle. Here are six things I’ve learned since losing weight that have completely changed my thoughts about food.
Until recently, I had always considered myself a healthy person; I never ate fast food, white bread, or drank soda. But, that wasn’t enough to help me reach my weight loss goals.
Healthy eating habits mean more than just buying a loaf of whole-grain bread.
Healthy eating is a lifestyle, and it’s about educating yourself on health, exercise, and nutrition and then gradually incorporating positive, healthy changes into your life.
The operative term in that last sentence is the word gradual.
Removing bad habits and replacing them with better ones gradually is essential. Many people fail at any weight loss strategy or healthy lifestyle change because they use a method that is too drastic and quick. Good habits take time. Eating healthy is not a race; it’s a journey.
Here are six things I learned about food since losing weight.
#1. Calories do count.
The first week I started counting calories, I lost 8 pounds (I use My Fitness Pal to track my food). After that, I lost on average 1-3 pounds a week.
The foundation for my weight loss is knowing exactly how many calories go into my body.
Some people shudder at the thought of counting calories. In all reality, it is necessary for anyone wanting to lose weight permanently. You must know what is going into your body.
The great thing about building healthy eating habits is that you will most likely not have to count calories forever. It is a great skill to have and one that I always come back to when I find myself getting off track.
Check out my post on counting calories for tips to get started.
#2. Fresh, minimally processed foods are better.
Our country is filled with highly processed and nutrient-deficient foods heavily explicitly marketed to busy parents and kids. These foods may seem harmless, but plenty of evidence shows these foods contribute to numerous health problems.
It’s no secret that millions of Americans today suffer from obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer due to a poor diet.
I was utterly ignorant of my diet’s importance to my body’s overall wellness. Given that processed foods are found everywhere in our society, it’s impossible to expect people to give up processed foods altogether.
However, I feel that reducing your family’s consumption of processed foods will positively affect their health. Learn to read labels and the ingredients list. If you see many ingredients you have never heard of or can’t pronounce, you may want to pass and find a less processed, natural version.
#3 Just because a food says it is low-fat, low-calorie, and diet does not mean it is healthy.
This lesson piggybacks off #2. Many foods that claim to be better for you may not even be healthy.
Often these foods are filled with harmful additives and other chemicals to make up for the loss in fat and sugar. This reduction is usually only a difference of a few grams and thus, making the original version much healthier.
#4 Eating healthy does not cost more money.
I was among the many people who thought eating healthy would cost me a fortune, and I was wrong. My grocery bills have decreased since starting to purchase more nutritious foods and cooking at home. Controlling the portions I eat has also helped reduce the cost of eating. Usually, the difference in price between a healthy food choice and an unhealthy one is small. It’s all about making health a priority.
Check out this post on clean eating on a budget.
#5. Cooking homemade meals from scratch can fit into my busy life.
At this point, many of you may be thinking, “When in the heck do I have time to cook a homemade meal?”
I run a business, have two very active teenagers, and my family eats a homemade meal for dinner every night. And, fun fact, I started my weight loss journey while working full time outside the home with two little kids.
“How is this possible?” you ask? I rely heavily on meal planning, meal prep, and freezer cooking as my key strategies for feeding my family healthy meals.
I spend about 8 hours twice a month cooking meals for the next two weeks and then freeze them.
I also meal prep food every Sunday for the entire week.
Check out my post on beginner meal prep for more tips and recipes.
#6. Healthy eating does not mean sacrificing or giving up “bad foods.”
I would be a hypocrite if I said I never ordered a pizza or ate chips, which are delicious! And of course, I love Italian food! See my sister blog, Gluten-Free Italian Eats, for all my Italian favorites.
The key is moderation and being mindful of the food you’re eating.
In a nutshell, healthy eating to me means filling your body with wholesome, fresh, minimally processed foods every day without exceeding the number of calories your body needs.
It is about learning what habits you need to change and slowly replacing them with ones that will enhance your health.
In time, you will see the benefits of these positive changes, and they will become a part of who you are.