12/27/2019 Mind-Body Health
What better way to begin the new year on the right foot than by eating well? Don’t panic—you don’t have to do it all perfectly starting on January 1. But these 10 tips for healthy eating can start you on the right path.
It’s easy to indulge during the holiday season, which is why the coming of the new year often brings with it intentions of starting or renewing commitments for a healthier you. While it’s fun and inspiring to make resolutions, keeping them is a different story. Changing food habits can be especially challenging as food is deeply woven into the fabric of life through influences of culture, family, and personal history.
Defaulting to what comes easy or is familiar can be a hindrance when it comes to cultivating health and well-being. Today’s fast-food culture is a perfect example; people are used to getting food quick and easy. However, if you want to maintain a healthy weight and experience long-lasting change, you can expect to explore and move outside of your comfort zone. This type of change will be well worth your effort.
If you have tried and failed to eat healthy in the past, don’t let this deter you from trying again—this time with a refreshed outlook. Use the momentum of the new year to create new habits, rituals, and routines that will enable you to be successful and reap the benefits of a healthier lifestyle. Here are some tips with insight and inspiration to help you get started and try new things to encourage healthy eating habits.
1. How Do You Want to Feel?
It’s easy to get hyped up on the idea of weight loss, especially with the flood of advertisements that start to appear around the beginning of the year. Instead, try to think about how you want to feel as a result of changing your eating habits. This may require a bit of inquiry. Here are some simple examples:
- I want to feel light.
- I want to feel energized.
- I want to feel creative.
- I want to feel free.
Coming from a place of feeling is a powerful motivator because it is rooted deep within, where your truth resides. Feeling how you want to feel opens up opportunities and propels you into a more inspired state of living and being—leading you to better food choices.
2. Make Your Plate Colorful
Everyone can benefit from eating more fruits and vegetables. If you’re not used to including them in your diet, you may think your healthy options are limited to boring romaine or broccoli. Instead, think of ways to make your plate more colorful. The more visually appealing your plate looks, the more likely you are to enjoy the healthy food—plus it means you are incorporating a greater variety of vegetables since they come in all colors.
Gets your kids involved by having them choose what colorful fruit or vegetable they want to try for the week.
3. Set Up a Routine
The human body responds well to routine because it has circadian rhythms—think of them as your internal clock—that impact both physical and mental functioning. Energy, sleep, eating, and digestion are just a few of the processes that are affected. Creating a routine that honors the body’s rhythms is key in maintaining good health.
According to Ayurveda, the middle of the day is when the body is primed to digest; thus, it’s best to have your largest or heaviest meal at this time while keeping your dinner light. Good sleep is also coveted for numerous health-promoting reasons, one of them being the ability to make better food choices. The following are good habits to start incorporating into your daily life:
- Focus on getting enough sleep.
- Eat a light dinner.
- Eat a warm breakfast like oatmeal (especially during the winter season).
- Stop eating three hours before bedtime.
- Aim to be in bed by 10:00 p.m.
Try one new routine for one to two weeks before adding another. You will feel the difference when making these shifts toward a healthier lifestyle.
4. Drink for Your Health
When possible, avoid alcohol as well as caffeine, carbonated soft drinks, and sugary drinks. Instead, drink more water—warm or room temperature is ideal. With so many drink options it’s easy to overlook the most life-giving of beverages. Not only does water hydrate but it helps to facilitate numerous bodily processes. More than half your body is made up of water, which tells you just how much your body depends on it. If the idea of water bores you, try adding lemon or lime. Herbal teas are a good option as well.
5. Experiment with New Recipes
Healthy food and eating habits can be made enjoyable through great recipes. There are recipes for all types of cooks, so be realistic about the time (and money) you want to spend on cooking. For example, you can search online for “healthy recipes for lazy cooks” and find millions of healthy options at your fingertips. If you are new to cooking, it might be helpful to take a class and learn some of the basics—knife skills will lessen your time in the kitchen. Start with one new recipe a week and see how it goes.
6. Explore Your Local Grocery Store
You likely go on autopilot when shopping at the grocery store. Next time you go grocery shopping, allow yourself some time to explore. A good rule of thumb is to spend more time shopping the periphery where more of the fresh fruits and vegetables are kept. Find what produce is in season to take advantage of richer flavors. Plus, it’s more cost effective to cook for yourself than to buy processed foods. Healthy meals can be fun when you experiment with new ingredients. Consider picking up an ingredient you have never heard of and find a recipe to cook that uses it. Have fun!
7. Boost Your Digestion
Having healthy digestion or agni is one of the cornerstones of good health in Ayurveda. Ideally, you are taking in what you need, properly extracting the nutrients, and eliminating the rest. However, this isn’t always the case; you may need help to boost your digestion. The natural world offers many healing remedies that are often underutilized, mostly because of a lack of knowledge or awareness. Here are two natural remedies to strengthen your digestion:
- Ginger is known in Ayurveda as the “universal remedy” due to its many benefits for the body. It has been used for more than 2,000 years to treat digestive issues. Sip on ginger tea throughout the day, including at meals.
Recipe: Add one teaspoon of grated or sliced fresh ginger root to a cup of hot water. Prepare a larger batch and keep it with you in a thermos bottle to sip throughout the day.
- Lemon is another important Ayurvedic remedy with many benefits. It’s recommended to sip on warm lemon water in the morning to jumpstart digestion.
Recipe: Add the juice of half a lemon to 8 oz. of warm or hot water. Optional: Add mint, honey, ginger, basil, cucumber, strawberry, or other garnish to taste.
8. Meal Prep
The idea of meal prepping has become popular as a growing number of health-conscious people look for ways to maintain a healthy diet. Although it requires some time on a Sunday to cook and prep, having a meal plan is worth it. Like with anything new, it takes some getting used to but soon you will become adept, and it will take you less time to have several days or a week’s worth of healthy meals in your reach.
9. Avoid Stuffing Yourself
When you eat more food than your stomach can accommodate, you cannot properly break it down. Think of a washing machine that has been stuffed with too many clothes, leaving no room for proper washing. This same concept applies to an overly full stomach.
Ayurveda recommends that you leave one-third to one-quarter of your stomach empty to allow space for the body to properly digest. This requires mindful eating and monitoring your portion sizes. You likely eat while doing something else—you might be distracted and eat faster than you realize. Try to eat more slowly and with awareness so you can determine when you have eaten enough. Your body gives little signals—learn to notice what they are.
10. Be Kind to Yourself
You are probably harder on yourself than anyone in your life. Remember that no one is perfect and focus on encouraging yourself as you would a good friend. Flexibility and self-love are keys to success. There will be times when you revert to old habits, but that’s ok. Those harder times may remind you why you made the choice to eat healthy in the first place.
Making the decision to find ways to eat healthier isn’t a short-term experience but a lifelong journey. It may seem difficult at first, but follow these tips for eating healthy and begin to see how a balanced diet can positively affect your health. Enjoy it as much as possible! You deserve it.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health programs.
Want to learn how to stay energetic and balanced all year long? Learn Deepak Chopra’s simple practices to tune into the healing wisdom of nature and thrive, with our self-paced online course, Secrets to Vibrant Health. Learn More.