From rotating diet fads to misconceptions about healthy eating to unrealistic body goals (I’m looking at you, thigh gaps and v-cut abs), numerous factors make eating healthier seem complicated, and maybe even impossible. But I’m here to tell you that healthy eating doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) be so overwhelming. PSA: there is no miracle diet. There is no one method or magical list of guidelines to automatically get us all to achieve health goals, get more energy, clear up the skin, and lose weight. For one reason, while one way of eating might cure one person, it could be limiting to another. Plus, dieting is never sustainable. Ditch your diets and try these 15 ways to eat healthier this year that you can stick with for your whole life (and not one of them is to restrict an entire food group):
1. Have leafy greens with two meals a day
If you make one change to your diet in 2021, consider eating more leafy greens. From spinach to arugula to watercress to romaine, leafy greens are packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Plus, they’re so easy to sneak into meals, there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t be eating multiple cups of greens a day. Try adding spinach to your smoothie, putting kale in your pasta dish or any sauce, or ordering a side salad when you’re eating out. If all else fails, try these delicious ways to eat more greens.
2. Get healthy food delivered
Some weeks are just so busy that you don’t have time to plan, prepare, or shop for meals, making healthy eating difficult (Postmates is much more tempting). Blue Apron offers health-conscious options like vegetarian, carb-conscious, 600 calories or less, etc., so not only can you select meals that you’ll look forward to all day, but you’ll be eating meals that help you achieve health goals. Plus, with 23 weekly recipes and the new feature to customize your meals, there is something for everyone, no matter your tastes or diet preferences.
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3. Find plant-based alternatives of your favorite foods
Listen, if you don’t like salads, don’t eat salads! Forcing yourself into bland meals and boring dishes will lead to binges, excessive cravings, and worst of all, an unsatisfying life. Instead of eating foods you don’t like, get creative with healthier versions of your favorite foods. Try adding in more veggies or making simple swaps like opting for cauliflower pizza crust or chickpea pasta. For recipe ideas, check out these healthy alternatives to your favorite comfort foods and plant-based recipes for every craving.
4. Make mealtimes sacred
Healthy eating is not just about what you eat, but how. In a world where meals are often on-the-go, and fast food is on every corner, we forget that food is not just about surviving, or even just about enjoying the taste. Mealtime serves as a reminder to pause, slow down, and enjoy. Consider taking a break from work, turning off the TV, putting your phone away, and making each meal an opportunity to relax and be mindful. Whether you enjoy meals with the people you love or use it as an act of meditation to take a break from the busyness of your day, every meal should be about slowing down and enjoyment.
5. Load up on good-for-you beverages
You already know to drink water and avoid sugary beverages like soda or sweetened coffee drinks as much as possible, so now it’s time to hack your hydration and include even more good-for-you beverages (in addition to your reusable bottle of water). For example, tea (like green, white, or hibiscus) has lots of health benefits, thanks to health-boosting components like polyphenols. You can also try sipping on green juice or replacing your typical soda with sparkling water, mint, and lemon. Bottom line: in addition to drinking water throughout the day, get creative with nutrient-rich drinks to sip on to increase health benefits and hydration.
6. Eat fruit with breakfast
Your mom used to give you orange slices and bananas with your Cheerios when you were a kid, but do you still keep up with your fruit intake? Maybe you’re good at adding veggies to your diet and forget about fruit, maybe you grab a breakfast sandwich from a coffee shop in the a.m., or maybe you’ve heard the myth that fruit isn’t good for you. The truth is that fruits are full of antioxidants, minerals, and fiber. They come from the earth; our bodies are meant to eat them. Whether your breakfast of choice is an omelet, avocado toast, or a bowl of Cheerios (old habits die hard), consider eating some berries or grapefruit on the side.
7. Add herbs to every meal
Another easy way to sneak in fresh produce (are you sensing a theme here?) is adding herbs to every meal. While herbs are typically considered a garnish, they’re actually leafy greens packed with nutrients and a variety of health benefits. Plus, they make everything taste more delicious. Try putting basil leafs on homemade pizzas, adding cilantro to stir-fries and sushi rolls, or chopping parsley into salads. Bonus points for starting your own herb garden at home.
8. Listen to hunger cues
So long, intermittent fasting trends and outdated “three meals a day” rules! 2021 is about ditching rules about when we should or shouldn’t eat food (and how much we’re supposed to eat). Instead of forcing yourself to eat three meals a day or five small meals a day (or whatever the latest trend is), simply eat when you’re hungry. Give yourself nourishing meals and focus on feeding your body with enough energy to get through the day, whatever that looks like to you. Likewise, rather than eating a portion that someone else recommends (whether it’s your mom, a restaurant, or the recommendations on the box), eat until you’re satisfied and not overstuffed. Find the amount, time, and method of eating that works best for your body and lifestyle.
9. Sprinkle seeds on everything
If you haven’t been utilizing the seed food group, you are seriously missing out. Seeds like chia, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses, containing a wide variety of vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals like calcium, zinc, and magnesium. I sprinkle ground flaxseed on basically anything (yes, even dishes like pasta and salads), but you can also try adding chia seeds to your smoothie, snacking on roasted pumpkin seeds, and sprinkling sesame seeds on stir-fries.
10. Include more water-rich foods in your diet
Drinking water is so 2020 (but like, also crucially important, so please keep that up); you can eat your water too. Eating foods that are high in water content is the secret to long-term, lasting hydration (and a lit-from-within glow). Call in some backup for your water bottle by loading up on plants like tomatoes, cucumber, romaine lettuce, and berries, which are all high in water. Watermelon is one of the most hydrating foods you can eat (no surprise where it gets its name), with a water content of 92 percent. Water-rich foods will be hydrating your body like good ol’ H2O, but will also add in the extra nutrients that come from fruits and veggies.
11. Try one new vegetable every week
You probably have the same grocery list that you know, love, and revert to every single week when you head to your local Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. While having a go-to list is necessary for us busy girls (and my other lazy girls out there), it doesn’t always set you up for the most inventive meals. This year, challenge yourself to try one different veggie that you’ve never tried before. Maybe you saw a delicious butternut squash recipe and have never cooked butternut squash, maybe you see beets at the grocery store and Google how to prepare them, or maybe you come across a new leafy green at the farmer’s market that you’ve never tried. Trying (or cooking) something new will not only make your meals more exciting, but a bigger variety of foods means a bigger variety of nutrients. Plus, you might like something so much, it ends up on your go-to grocery list.
12. Fill the majority of your plate with foods from the earth
Instead of the 80/20 rule or following a plant-only diet, think about eating “plant-foward.” While that title definitely sounds a little hokey (and excessive), the idea is that you can emphasize and celebrate nutritious foods, but you don’t have to be limited to them. Instead of measuring, tracking, or limiting, simply make sure that the majority of your plate comes from the earth (instead of going through a factory), whether that looks like fruits, vegetables, whole grains (like oats, rice, and quinoa), or nuts and seeds. You’ll load up on the foods that will make you feel good, without restricting yourself from the foods that you enjoy.
13. Add more fiber to your diet
While fiber is not the sexiest macronutrient (protein and healthy fats get all the attention!), it is one of the most important. And yet, only about 5 percent of the country’s population meets daily fiber recommendations. Fiber is the part of foods that the body can’t break down, so it passes through your entire digestive system and helps keep it healthy. But fiber has other benefits than just gut health and regularity (though those would be good enough). You can find fiber in most fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and seeds, but click here for the most common foods that are high in fiber.
14. Eat the rainbow
No, I’m not talking about Skittles. You learned in middle school science class that plants get their colors from antioxidants, so it only makes sense to eat all the colors to provide your body with all the antioxidants, right? Incorporating reds (tomatoes, apples, red pepper), blues (blueberries, blackberries, blue potatoes), oranges (sweet potato, butternut squash, tangerines), greens (leafy greens, Brussels sprouts, zucchini), yellows (spaghetti squash, bananas, corn) and purples (purple cabbage, eggplant, grapes) is the easiest (and prettiest) way to ensure you’re getting an abundance of phytonutrients and the full spectrum of vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. As an easy hack, try to add at least three different colors to each meal or think about grocery shopping by including each color of the rainbow.
15. Let yourself enjoy foods you love
You may think that deprivation helps you avoid “bad” foods, but in reality, deprivation is causing a lack mentality, meaning you’re more likely to binge said food when you do eat it, or more importantly, not truly enjoy your life. This isn’t just a warm and fuzzy body positivity tip; it’s a physical health hack that will help your body feel its best. When we remove “good” and “bad” labels around foods, we can listen to what the body really wants. We start craving the foods that help us live, while mindfully enjoying the foods we never want to live without.
This post includes a sponsored mention of Blue Apron, but all of the opinions within are those of The Everygirl editorial board.