One of the biggest reasons why people resist starting to eat healthy is they don’t want to give up the food they love. They look at “healthy” food as something that isn’t tasty, desirable, or something they would love.
I mean, the thought of never having another pizza, coke, or cheesecake again can be very, very difficult concept. This is especially if you’re changing to a lifestyle where you’re just eating carrots and celery sticks and can only have bland chicken breast for dinner, right?
Except, there’s this one thing… It’s just not true.
The good news is you can totally have the things you love AND eat healthy. You just need to have a plan that makes sense and works for you. In this post, I’m gonna show you how to eat healthy and not hate your food.
So, let me start by explaining what my plan is and what has worked for me. Because, if you’re here on this blog, I know one very important thing: you enjoy food.
Good news: I enjoy food, too. A lot. And I refuse to eat bland chicken breasts for dinner with bland broccoli and bland carrot sticks for snacks.
Making Healthier Choices
One of the first steps in eating healthy is making better, healthier food choices. I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time going cold turkey and removing things that I’m used to. I have routines and dependencies on things that need to be weened. Or I won’t be successful.
Take coffee and creamer, for example. I used to drink at least one cup of strong coffee every morning with about 2 tbsp. granulated sugar and sweetened, Hazelnut creamer. There was a time when I would have said I would never function without it.
Nowadays, I don’t even think about coffee in the morning. I don’t crave it. I don’t need it to wake up. I don’t even really like it when I randomly have it on a cheat day.
How did I accomplish this? While I was inclined to go crazy and cut it out at first, I found that just didn’t work. So, I started slow. The first day, I removed about 1/2 tablespoon of sugar from my normal amount. The, when I got used to that after a few days, I removed another 1/2 tablespoon. Then, I started using unsweetened creamers, like half and half. Each time, I removed a small piece of what was unhealthy and, slowly, I became less and less dependent on the coffee and creamer I had become so obsessed with.
Then, one day, I didn’t even feel like drinking my coffee. I didn’t feel like I “needed” it. I finally felt in control over the coffee, in control of my thinking and my body. And it was amazing.
Other Ways To Make Small Steps
Taking baby steps works for other things, just like it did for me and my coffee. Here’s a list of ideas for how to get started taking small steps towards eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet and taking control of your food and your health:
- Mayonnaise: First, try to remove 1/4 of what you normally use. Then, remove a little more. One day, you might even try not even using mayonnaise or replacing it with avocado spread or full fat plain greek yogurt
- Soda: If you drink 4 sodas a day, try not finishing your first one or waiting just a little longer in between when you have them. Then, remove one soda one day until you’re able to work on eliminating the next one and so on.
- Salt: Slowly, start removing just a little salt here and there when you’re cooking or seasoning your food. Choose foods that aren’t as high in salt and you’ll start craving salt less and less.
- Sugar: First, start reducing the amount of sugar you use in your foods. Even if it’s just a teaspoon here and there, that’s an improvement. Once you start removing processed sugar, you can try raw or unrefined sugars that aren’t overly processed, like turbinado sugar or coconut sugar (two of my faves).
- Bread: Garlic bread, sandwiches, french toast, croutons can all be made with whole wheat and whole grain breads. First , try reducing the amount of sandwiches you eat. Start getting used to foods without bread, then slowly start adding in whole grain breads that use unrefined flours and aren’t highly processed.
Healthy Food Replacements
There are so many ways to eat healthier and still enjoy your food. Making the choice to eat healthy is to remove unnecessary fats, sugars, and carbs from your diet. It’s about making better, more nutritious choices for your body. This means embracing vegetables, whole foods, unrefined grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, even if a little at a time.
Here are some examples of healthy food replacements you can start using to eat healthier:
Carbs To Look For:
- Old fashioned (rolled) oatmeal
- Steel cut oats
- Fruit (raw produce)
- Ezekial and other 100% whole grain breads
- Sweet potatoes
- Brown rice
Carbs To Avoid:
- Instant oatmeal
- Granola bars
- Sugary cereals
- Fruit juice
- Ice cream
Fats To Look For:
- Almond butter
- Natural peanut butter
- Olive oil
- Coconut oil
- Flaxseed oil
Fats To Avoid:
- Bottled salad dressings
Proteins To Look For:
Proteins To Avoid:
- Chicken skin
- Processed deli meats
- Fatty ground beef (below 85% lean)
- Hot dogs
- Breaded or fried chicken or pork
You may have noticed on the blog that I still share sweets and breads and tasty foods like burgers and pasta. And, you’ve probably noticed that I refer to these recipes as “clean” or “healthy.” The way I do this is I’ve become very creative at making delicious foods using sneaky ingredients. Once you get started, it gets easier and easier and you find yourself being able to enjoy all the foods you love, but in a healthier form. How cool is that?
For example, let me break down some of my favorite healthy recipes and explain to you how I used creativity to make the recipe healthy.
4 Ingredient Cantaloupe Sorbet
- I take fresh cantaloupe, freeze it, and then puree it without needing any preservatives or additives
- I use honey to sweeten, rather than a simple syrup made out of refined sugars
- The recipe only includes water, cantaloupe, honey, and lemon juice so it’s basic, but a delicious, sweet sorbet and is a great replacement for ice cream
Healthy Chocolate Zucchini Bread
- I added shredded zucchini which adds fiber and nutrients
- I use unrefined, organic, virgin coconut oil instead of processed vegetable oil
- To replace additional oil, I used unsweetened applesauce
Slow Cooker Chicken Burrito Bowls
- Instead of rice, I made cauliflower rice that is high in fiber, low in carbohydrates, and full of nutrients
- I braised the chicken in the slow cooker and didn’t need to add any fats or oils
- Instead of adding a high-calorie and high-carb tortilla, I put all the ingredients into a bowl
Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcakes With Whipped Cream
- No refined sugars at all – instead, I used a little coconut sugar
- Instead of making the shortcakes with refined sugar, I used high-protein and high-fiber almond meal
- I made a whipped cream topping using coconut milk and no butter or powdered sugar
Baked Eggs In Spaghetti Squash Nests
- Instead of using refined flours for the “muffins,” I made them out of roasted spaghetti squash noodles
- I used chickpea flour instead of all-purpose flour which is high in protein and nutrients (and is gluten-free)
- The spaghetti noodles give the feel of hash browns and are super good
Chocolate Chia Pudding
- I use no refined sugars, but used pureed dates to sweeten
- Instead of real pudding, I use chia seeds which have the same texture and are high in protein, antioxidants, and fiber
- The topping is made using greek yogurt and pure maple syrup so it is high in protein and avoids refined sugars and heavy cream
Lemon Blueberry High Protein Pancakes
- Instead of flour, I use protein powder, cottage cheese, and oats
- I use a greek yogurt topping sweetened with honey instead of syrup
- I use egg whites for added protein and less fat
The Glory Of Cheat Days
Guess what? I eat pizza and fried chicken and cheesecake and doughnuts and I drink coke and coffee and all those greasy, fatty, high-carb, unhealthy foods. BUT I eat them only on cheat days at most once a week. What’s a cheat day? Well, every week, I set aside one day where I allow myself to enjoy the foods I used to love before starting this healthier, cleaner lifestyle. Basically, I forgive myself for eating these foods because it’s planned and part of my diet plan and I’m rocking it on all the other days.
And, once I have my burger or pizza or margarita or whatever, I go back to my normal healthy eating. And this works well for me. The funny thing is I usually don’t even enjoy the cheat days as much as I think I will because I find the foods too salty or too sweet or too greasy. I actually can’t wait to get back onto my normal, healthy foods as soon as possible.
Some people choose their cheat days to actually be cheat meals. So, one day they could have a cheat breakfast (i.e. pancakes), then a cheat lunch on another day and then a cheat dinner or dessert, and so on. While this works for some people, I found this allows me too much flexibility in my eating schedule and I start to cheat more and more because I justify it’s a cheat meal. Rather, on a cheat day, I have the whole day to get it out of my system and then move on. And it’s pretty darn glorious, let me tell you.
How To Eat Healthy And Not Hate Your Food
What Do You Think?
Now, it’s time to get started. If there’s a certain unhealthy food you love that you want to make into a healthier version, let me know in the comments! If you’d like to get started eating healthier, click here to learn about how to eat clean for beginners.
This post was last updated on January 13, 2016 to include new images.