“Don’t tell me what I can’t eat, tell me what I CAN eat,“ said a patient I saw during my internship. She was ready to make changes, but without sacrificing what she enjoys eating. Sound familiar?

I mean, wouldn’t it be sooo much easier to stick to a healthy diet if we could still eat what we love? Maybe healthier eating could just be putting more tomatoes on a cheeseburger?

Photo courtesy of my husband, before he ate the subject.

Yea, not quite. But still, I think eating healthier is easier than people realize. Here’s what I’ve learned from patients during my internship:

• People don’t want to give up the foods they love, particularly if they’re going through a stressful time. This has become emotional eating, and it’s hard to break this habit when it’s what they rely on as a coping mechanism. Full disclosure, I’m guilty of it too!

• People get so excited to try a new plan…until it gets hard. Sure, the first few days are easy, but lasting change doesn’t happen in a few days. It takes a minimum of 3 weeks to develop new eating habits.

• Many people don’t know how to cook for themselves, aside from using the microwave.

• People get easily discouraged if they don’t see results right away.

So what’s the solution? It can be different things to different people, but I’ve seen a common pattern with those who have successfully made healthy eating changes.

• Start with small changes, like drinking more water. Too many changes too soon can feel overwhelming.

• Eat more fruit. People who don’t eat a lot of produce won’t enjoy eating vegetables. Fruits are naturally sweet, so they’re a better food group to encourage someone to increase the amount of natural, unprocessed foods in their diet. Kind of like a gateway food to vegetables!

• Smoothies. These seem to be a popular option since they don’t require ‘cooking,’ and it’s easy to incorporate nutrient rich foods. The key is finding a doctor, or health coach, that can give recipes that are accessible and taste good. It’s also great for people who say they don’t have time to eat breakfast. Just blend the drink and go! A great anti-inflammatory one is blueberries, frozen cherries, almond milk (or any non-dairy option) and ground flax seed (optional). That’s two servings of fruit right there! As time goes by, try throwing in some kale and see what happens. 😉

• Eat what you love in smaller quantities. If you love ice cream, eat a little bowl of it. If you like boba drinks they way I do, order the smallest size. It also helps to cut the frequency of how often you eat that food. So, instead of ice cream every day, have it every other day. This is how to keep eating what you enjoy, while transitioning towards healthy eating. (Remember, it takes a minimum of three weeks!)

It’s all about taking baby steps towards learning to enjoy new, healthier foods. Feel free to share anything that has worked to improve your eating habits.

Take care. ❤️

Feature photo by Baryslau at Pexels.

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