Making healthy food choices helps us feel better and look better. But at times eating healthy can be a struggle even when we have the best intentions.
We spoke to Casey Fessler, a nutritionist with an empathetic, enthusiastic, and holistic approach to optimal health to learn five simple things anyone can do every day to eat healthy and set themselves up for success.
Her biggest tip?
“I think eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle starts first and foremost with the relationship we have with ourselves. It’s harder to stay on track – it’s harder to live optimally when we’re at war within ourselves, so it’s important to find time to do the things that bring us joy—whether it’s having a cup of tea on your balcony, whether it’s meditating in the morning, or hiking with your kids—things that allow you to be present in the moment.”
“When we’re practicing that lifestyle it’s easier to maintain, so it truly starts with the relationship we have with ourselves and then everything ricochets from there. It’s easier to make continuous small good choices each day when we’re caring for ourselves.”
And now onto Casey’s tips. And don’t worry, they’re all fun. After all, as she says herself, “I like to give positive tips, not put restrictions on people.”
1. Tune into your internal dialogue.
“That’s the foundation of where to start—tune into where you’re at emotionally and build from there. Speak to yourself in your head the way you would speak to a small child you love. If you’re not doing that, this is where you’re getting off track and starting to binge eat and thinking about food in ways of restriction,” Casey says.
Instead, you should be thinking about eating in terms of “I really love this food and I really love the way it tastes and I want to enjoy this experience and it’s also nourishing my body.”
2. If your plate doesn’t look like a rainbow, you need to try again.
“This is an easy one to teach to your family,” Casey says. “If your plate looks like a rainbow, it’s going to contain nutrient dense food, as well as proper balance with healthy fats, vegetables, and proteins.” She recommends when you shop you aim for diversity, get adventurous, and buy what’s in season.
“Seasonal is always best. It keeps costs down and the nutrients are richer because the fruits and vegetables were harvested when they were ready.” Feeling overwhelmed? Casey say to start slow by cooking one new recipe a month and go from there.
3. Stay mindful.
“When you’re eating, there shouldn’t be any distractions,” Casey says. “Turn off the television, don’t work at your desk, turn off your computer, put your smartphone away, and really engage in what you’re doing.”
There are multiple benefits to this. “You have better digestion. You’re going to get better nutrient absorption and it’s going to be easier for you to build muscle and lose fat. But eating should also be an experience. Engage in the meal, enjoy the conversation, and actually allow yourself to taste your food.”
When you do this, you’re more conscious, Casey says. Which means you’re going to stop eating when you’re no longer hungry and not continue to stuff yourself until the food is gone.
4. Hydrate before your meal.
“Drinking water before your meal allows you to digest better, it allows you to absorb nutrients better, and it also hinders our tendency to overstuff ourselves,” Casey says. “We tend to eat 20 to 30 percent more in each meal than we actually need, so if we take the time to hydrate before the meal, you’re going to be more conscious about what you’re eating because you’ve already met your digestive needs.”
As far as how much to drink, Casey says it’s unique to each individual, but if you’re eating five small meals idea, she recommends you drink at least 16 ounces of water between meals. She also suggests you take the time to drink a glass of water while prepping your meal, so you can feel confident that you’re hydrated.
5. Let go of the guilt that comes with indulging with something we love.
“I hate cheat days,” Casey says. “I don’t like the mentality of it. I think if you have a proper relationship with food, you should be able to eat freely. Let go of the guilt of indulging in something you love and develop a healthy relationship with food. We assign labels to good food and bad food and I think this is part of why we struggle as a society with dieting because we’re not allowing ourselves to have a proper relationship with food.”