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The Top Two Secrets to Healthy Eating

Updated Feb 16, 2016

This post was actually inspired by a reader request! After reading my last post (and saying that it’s “probably [his] favourite article [I’ve] ever written”), Ryan writes, “People need to realize that most gluten-free, vegan, whatever foods that are processed aren’t always healthy but have those labels because of marketing. Perhaps you can write an article on that one day?”

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Of course, I couldn’t help but put my own little spin on this idea – I think most people know that foods that are gluten-free, vegan or whatever don’t automatically make them healthy. (Or if you don’t… surprise!) Anyone can eat healthy or unhealthy whether they are on a gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, Paleo, or even a conventional diet. What I think sets a healthy diet apart, however, are the two “secrets” that I will be talking about today.

These are not secrets in the magical, mysterious sense, but more in the “nobody talks about it” sense. When you read nutrition or diet books or articles, they tell you about what to eat, but rarely about how to get there, when that is really the most important part. In fact, a recent review in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), concluded that both low-carb and low-fat diets work for weight loss, as long as people stick to them. So, here are my two secrets (or two P’s!) for making healthy eating work for you – prioritizing and planning.

Prioritizing

The first step to eating healthy is to make it your top priority. When healthy eating is your #1, you are more likely to go out of your way to make it happen, like being conscious of filling half your cart with veggies at the grocery store, waking up early so that you can pack a lunch to work, taking the time to cook meals at home, or whatever habit you are working on to get healthier foods into your body.

If healthy eating isn’t one of your top priorities right now, think of the things that are and the effort you put in to make those things work. For example, if your work is a priority, you might skip happy hour with your buddies in order to finish a project, or shut off all your distractions in order to be more productive. On the other hand, if your kids are your priority, you might not feel so bad for skipping out of work early so you can pick them up from daycare.

Think about it: If you can move healthy eating one step up that totem pole, how would your other lifestyle habits change in order to help you eat better?
Make eating well your number 1 priority and see the rest of your life change to help you eat better. Click To Tweet

Planning

Planning is huge when it comes to healthy eating, and I can’t get over how little it’s talked about in diet books. (Well, I guess diet books sell well because they give you a plan, but it’s the whole “Give a man a fish/teach a man to fish” thing)

The top secret to healthy eating? Having a plan! Click To Tweet

So many of my clients know how to eat well, and often I catch them saying in our sessions, “Really, I just need to plan better.”

The problem with meal planning is that it sounds so intimidating! If you Google “meal planning template”, you get a bunch of printouts with seven blank squares (or 21, if you are planning for all three meals, more if you eat snacks). Planning does not have to be that way! My tips:

Tie your planning to your goals.

If your goal isn’t to cook dinner at home seven days a week, there’s may not be a need to do a detailed menu plan, especially if you find it daunting. Tying the idea of “planning” to your goals can make it seem less intimidating. For example, if your goal is to eat more vegetables, simply work on figuring out where you are going to fit those vegetables into your day, or if your goal is to eat less sugar, figure out what you can have instead of sugar at those times of day where you usually eat it.

Start small.

If you’re uncomfortable tackling a whole week, maybe plan for a day or two at a time, and then gradually add more days once you get comfortable (and see the benefits of planning ahead!)<

(Almost) no one cooks seven days a week.

Take a look at your schedule and figure out which days you have more time to cook (Sunday afternoon?) and days where you need to grab-and-go (Kids’ hockey practice nights). Plan to cook extra on those less busy days so you can take advantage of leftovers on your more hectic evenings.

Planning comes in many forms.

I can’t emphasize this enough, but planning does not have to be a detailed menu of meals (no matter what Pinterest tells you!). I have some clients who just plan to buy the same staples every week so they have the ingredients to make healthy meals that they love. Planning for different situations is important too. For example, taking the time to figure out how you’re going to make healthier choices at your office holiday party (!), your next family gathering or your next vacation is all part of planning too.

Do you agree with my top two secrets to healthy eating? What are your secrets?

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