I’ve been all over the board with healthy eating over the years. I’ve gone from being too “health conscious” for much of high school (and consequently, underweight), to giving myself a lot of freedom and gaining some necessary weight during my freshman year of college, to gaining a bit of unnecessary weight during my sophomore year.
Now in my junior year of college, I feel like I’ve found a good balance and am at a healthy weight that feels good without being restrictive at all.
I think eating habits are such a personal thing, and what works for me may not necessarily work for you. I typically eat a pretty good amount–lots of veggies, whole grains, and mostly unprocessed foods–and then indulge in dessert on special occasions or when I’m offered something that’s too good to pass up, maybe a couple of times per week.
In case you’re interested, here are a few of my favorite healthy eating tips and habits I’ve heard from other people ranging from my mom to my high school cross country coach. These tips are the ones that have stuck with me and work well for me to maintain a healthy weight and eat in a way that makes me feel good:
1. Eat substantial meals
When I eat really small meals, I find myself not feeling satisfied and wanting to snack an hour later. If my entire meal is a two-egg omelet, I’ll probably find myself digging into a jar of almond butter within the hour.
Eating real meals has been more challenging for me in college since I cook all of my own food and snack food can be tempting since it doesn’t require any prep work. On a busy day, it’s easy to graze on an apple + a handful of almonds + a Larabar + a Greek yogurt over the course of an afternoon and call it lunch, but it’s not really satisfying and I’ll probably still be hungry after all of that, even though that’d be a pretty significant amount of calories (and sugar).
So, I remind myself that real food is much better fuel than just snack food, even healthy snack food, and I try to prioritize time to make it.
I’m not knocking snacks, but I think eating real meals is typically more nutritious and more satisfying for the majority of my eating. And then I can use snacks to fill in the gaps, not to actually act as meals.
2. Drink a lot of water- at least half of your body weight in ounces each day
Sometimes, when we feel hungry, we’re actually just thirsty. I have a glass water bottle that I fill up constantly throughout the day. I’ve heard you need to drink at least half of your body weight in ounces throughout the day, plus extra to account for exercising/sweat.
So if you weigh 120, you need at least 60 ounces of water per day, plus more for exercising.
I used to consciously think about how many ounces of water I needed to drink but now, I just keep filling my water up throughout the day every time it’s empty, which usually ends up being around 80 to 100 ounces each day.
3. Make treats more about the experience than the food itself.
If I’m craving ice cream, I’ll get some and invite a friend over to share it with me and send the rest of the pint home with them. If I’m craving cookies, I’ll bring a lot of them to a friend after I bake them. Food’s more fun for me when I enjoy it with other people, so most of the time, if I’m eating sweets, I’m doing it with other people.
Also, when I’m having a major sugar craving at night, I’ll sometimes enjoy a few dried figs– super sweet and so good!
4. Treat veggies as freebies
I don’t count calories or overthink how much I eat. I have a big appetite, though, so I do try to be a bit conscious of portion sizes when I’m eating more calorie-dense foods. This includes healthier foods like rice or nuts, or less healthy foods like brownies. But in my book, veggies are absolute “freebies” when it comes to portions. They’re full of nutrients and fiber, low in calories, and filling. I’ll load my plate up with salad, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.
The only veggies I’m somewhat conscious of portions are potatoes (and maybe avocado), because I could easily inhale 2 giant sweet potatoes in one sitting, especially if they’re topped with some almond butter. I try to keep it to just one big sweet potato at a time 😉
5. Brush my teeth when I’m done with my last meal
I think this tip originally came from my mom. I try to eat a fairly big, filling dinner so I don’t have to snack a lot after dinner. If I finish dinner and know I’ll need a snack later, I’ll just brush my teeth after my snack and then keep doing whatever I’m doing till it’s time for me to go to bed.
For example, I’ll sometimes eat dinner around 6 pm and then have to stay up till 1 am for my RA job. On those nights, I’ll definitely need an after-dinner snack, so I’ll brush my teeth right after my snack. Bonus: it’s one less step I have to do at 1 am when it’s time to get ready for bed.
6. Pop a stick of gum/mint in between meals
I think a key part of health and wellness is seeking balance through mindful eating, although I’m definitely a boredom eater. I don’t eat much when I’m stressed, but I usually feel like eating more when I’m studying or sometimes even when I’m sitting in a long class.
When I’m not actually hungry, though, and am really just in the mood to snack, I usually pop in a stick of gum. Chewing a piece of minty gum gives me something to do while I study and helps minimize mindless snacking throughout the day.
I don’t even feel like snacking after I chew gum because I know it’ll make the fresh minty taste go away.
So, those are a few of my favorite tips and healthy eating habits I’ve picked up from people in my life. They’re all simple things, but they add up to make a big difference!
What’s a healthy eating tip or habit you’ve picked up from someone in your life?
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