Whenever we hear the word “healthy” we automatically think no sugar, no fat, no calories, no FLAVOUR… Ahh! But don’t fret, the H word shouldn’t frighten you. Today it feels like “eating healthy” means you need to be vegetarian, vegan, or avoid gluten anything—but we’re humans… omnivores… we were made to eat meat as well, and that’s okay! There are all kinds of trendy diets floating around the internet now, it feels like we can’t escape it. And it just got me thinking: what does “eating healthy” actually mean?
It’s easy to say, “sugar is bad for you” and cut meat from your diet. But some people forget is that you still need protein in your diet and how you replace meat is important. And let’s be real—simply cutting food groups out of your diet isn’t that simple at all. If I were to tell myself, “no more chocolate,” I’d be craving chocolate every minute of the day. But having a little chocolate every now and then isn’t going to make you “unhealthy.”
It’s all about moderation.
Yeah, yeah, we’ve all heard it before; but it’s true. Moderation is key. And it’s not about cutting foods, it’s about choosing the right food. The amount of artificial ingredients in our food today is astonishing. It’s so easy to eat bad because the bad stuff is so easily accessible—and cheap! But there are small changes you can make in your day to day life that will keep you feeling good (and healthy!) without giving up your favorite treats.
(As a disclaimer, I am no expert in health and nutrition and everything I say here is based off my own research and experience). I grew up an athlete and I still exercise regularly and am very enthusiastic about my health and fitness (because it makes me feel great!). So here we go…
Look at the Ingredients!
This is something I started making myself do a few years ago, and I’ll explain why. Calorie counting means nothing. If you were to choose between a pack of banana flavoured bites and an actual banana based off calories, you might go for the bites because the fresh banana has more calories. But the banana is natural, and your body knows how to deal with it and digest it. Whereas the flavoured bites might not have any sugar and less calories, but your body doesn’t know what to do with the processed ingredients, so it stores it away in the problem areas you can never seem to get to.
Stop eating chemicals! Next time you go to the grocery store, look at the label and see what you’re about to eat. And if you can’t read it, don’t eat it. That’s the rule. Buy the bread with 4 ingredients opposed to the one with 30. This is also true with things that say “low-fat.” Because the reality is, the low-fat item has to compensate with artificial ingredients to make it taste as good as the regular thing (which might have a healthy fat). So look! Your body will thank you later.
I know, I know, it’s more expensive (I’m a student, I understand). But I found it very alarming just last week, when I opened the fridge to find that a tomato, that has been sitting there for almost 3 months, still looks fresh and ready to eat. 3 months! It didn’t look squishy or rotten in any way, and all I could think was that is not okay. Can you imagine what kind of chemicals and hormones they put into that poor tomato? Then it gets eaten and it goes into your body. Gross!
So stop eating mutant tomatoes and spend a few extra cents on the organic one.
Cook at Home
The wonderful beauty of cooking is that you know exactly what you’re putting into the food you’re about to eat. And you can make it as flavourful as you like, however you like! So instead of going to McDonald’s and getting a triple cheeseburger, get some fresh meat and (organic) veggies and make a bigger burger in your own kitchen. It’s so easy to go for a quick or frozen meal—and nowadays it’s cheap and there’s plenty of it on the street and in the grocery store. Get on some easy recipes (they’re all over the internet) and you’ll be on your way!
Stop Cutting Food Groups
I’m guilty of doing this, because I once got completely obsessed with fixing all the insecurities I had about my body. For a while, I didn’t eat any dairy or bread whatsoever, but later I realized… humans have been eating milk and bread for centuries. It just depends on what bread and milk you choose to eat (look at the packaging!). Cutting complete food groups from your diet isn’t normal. Your body might not react to the change well because it’s so drastic. And in all seriousness, we need to stay healthy mentally. Don’t deprive yourself of things you like out of the blue. Which leads me to my next point…
If You’re Craving Something, Have it
If you really want a brownie, go get yourself a brownie. Don’t go have 10 brownies or waste the rest of your day stuffing your face with junk food—just have the brownie (moderation!). Making changes to your life takes time. After eating well for a while, I stopped wanting donuts and greasy hotdogs. You just stop wanting it. And when you do have it every once in a while, it’s really not so bad.
Enjoy Your Food
Dad, this one’s for you: taste your meal, don’t inhale it. It takes longer for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full than it takes to fill your stomach. So if you’re scarfing down your food because you haven’t eaten anything all day, you’re going to eat yourself sick! Chewing your food thoroughly will give your brain the message, and that way you don’t overeat. (But do keep in mind that you should eat consistently throughout the day!) My dad is the worst at this. I look away for 2 seconds and he’s already vacuumed his dinner into his stomach. Chew chew chew.
Walk Walk Walk
No, this isn’t about what you should or shouldn’t eat, but it makes eating a whole lot easier. If you’re looking to jump over that mountain of guilt, walk to the bakery instead of driving. And walking in general is going to keep you that little bit more active. If you’re feeling up for it, exercise for 30 minutes every day! Whether it’s a run, or a 30-minute HIIT session—it’ll influence your cravings so much. And it lessens my guilt when I’m walking to get myself a bubble tea.
So there you go. You don’t have to eat less (in fact, you shouldn’t) or give up cupcakes to be healthy. It’s important to look after your body! But also don’t forget to enjoy the pleasures of life (um, food).