Thrive by IU Health

May 18, 2021

Steps to Eating Healthy at Home

Steps to Eating Healthy at Home

It may be an understatement to say that the year 2020 has been quite the whirlwind. The effects of this year on people’s livelihood has been far and wide, with no exception for our eating habits.

Perhaps at the beginning of this year you set out to eat healthier or lose weight, but this year has taken those ambitions off the rails. With this year coming to a close, is it too late to begin new habits? Nope.

Your motivation to eat healthy is never too late – and it’s important as ever to maintain your physical health through what you eat. We will also take a look at some of the effects the COVID-19 pandemic has had on achieving your nutrition and weight loss goals. And we’ll provide tips to help you get back on track.

Benefits of Healthy Eating: Fad Diets vs. Long-Term Approach

Often times when people try to make adjustments to their nutrition in an effort to be on a healthier path, the first part of that journey starts by operating in a scarcity mindset. What does this mean? Well, let’s pretend it’s Sunday evening and you’re ready to make some changes.

All too often, these “changes” are implemented by completely cutting out foods or taking drastic measures in an effort to see results. Although the intention to see results may be good, by “starting on Monday”, we are telling ourselves that we need to consume right now as much of the things that we are going to cut out the next day.

You may see results by taking drastic measures; however this isn’t a sustainable approach long term. This can be a vicious cycle – fad dieting and indulging over and over. Many fad diets claim they work, but if they all worked as they claim, diet companies would be out of business.

How to Eat Healthy Food Every Day

IU Health dietitian Katie Hake says there’s a better way.

The approach Hake takes with her clients is that of sustainability. She teaches them a concept called intuitive eating.

"Intuitive eating is a practice that promotes mind and body congruence,” Hake said. “It’s how we can start to listen to what our body is telling us versus being guided by all these different rules that we are told through media, social media and strict diets.”

The reality is, taking up a fad diet because your friend had results with it doesn’t necessarily mean you will too.

You must ask yourself: “Is this change that I am about to make going to be sustainable long term?”

If it’s not, perhaps that is not the best change to make. What Hake recommends is simple. Find smaller, sustainable and repeatable changes that will help you win now and later. If you are stressed out by following every little rule and guideline of a specific diet, that can actually be more harmful than good, research shows.

Intuitive eating allows you, and you alone, to make your food choices and listen to your body to decide what you need to achieve your goals.

Keys to Staying Motivated to Eat Healthy

Everyone will respond differently to consuming certain foods, so instead of prescribing specific foods for someone to eat, Hake said it will be more beneficial to allow yourself to discover foods that create better outcomes in general health, exercise, proper satiety, decision making, behaviors, and mental acuity throughout the day.
What does that mean? In short, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Does the food you’re eating fill you up?
  • Do you get hungry at routine times? Or, do you find yourself grazing the fridge every hour?
  • Do you feel energized by your food, or do you have a mid-afternoon sugar crash?
  • Do you find yourself able to think and remember things more clearly? Or do you feel foggy?

Use ChooseMyPlate.gov as a good starting point: Focus on proteins, vegetables, fruits, starches, and healthy fats.

Is your pantry – is your dinner plate – full of high-quality foods? A good starting place would be to assess the food that you are eating. Then try to find small areas to improve. Over time, these small changes will add up to make a big difference.

Finding Motivation During COVID-19 Crisis

So, how does this play out in the middle of a global pandemic? Here’s a few recommendations.

You Don’t Have to Rush Back to Restaurant Eating

First, while restaurants are operating with limited capacity, perhaps this is an opportunity to consider the number of times per week you eat out or get takeout. Unless you are hyperaware of menu items, restaurant and takeout eating can be a major source of unhealthy food in your weekly routine. On that note, take time to learn how to cook for yourself and/or your family. No one is born a master chef, but with time and some practice you can make delicious and healthy meals.

Be Adventurous at the Grocery Store

Secondly, when going to the grocery store, use this time to try something new. Your body is your greatest test case. You have unique needs and your body will respond to uniquely to certain foods.

For example, just because your friend can operate on a low carb diet, you may be better served on a higher carb diet. Or vice versa. Try to find foods you like, but also be sure to find foods that like you. If having a certain food makes you bloated or have trouble digesting, try something else that agrees with your body instead.

Give Up Cheat Days

Finally, give up “cheat days”. This doesn’t mean that you can’t have indulgences. However, you need to know that food is not a reward, nor are workouts punishment.

This can create an unhealthy relationship with food and exercise. The idea here is to think of your food as fuel and take into account what foods will fuel your goals and what foods won’t.

Do you want to go out for ice cream with the family after dinner on Saturday night? Great! Do it. If you have a treat, don’t feel bad about it. Return to doing the best you can afterward. You owe it to yourself to reach for the highest level of health you can. Remember to take it one day at a time.

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