Eating well is already difficult, but it's even more so when your life is fast-paced and hectic. A granola bar on your way to work, a soda from the vending machine to keep yourself awake, lunch out with a client, and then a glass of wine with some takeout in the evening because you're too tired to think about cooking dinner is an easy rhythm to fall into. Even if you are trying to eat healthy, there are only so many restaurant salads you can handle before that burger starts looking irresistible. Changing your dietary habits is a series of small, simple steps, though, and here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Focus on Nutrition
Even if you truly don't have time to sit down and eat three square meals a day, it's important to make sure that your body is still getting the nutrition it needs. That may mean spending a little more money to get some meal replacement bars and powders for when you need to eat breakfast or lunch on the go. Make sure you don't eat them for every meal, but they can definitely help get your body the nutrients it requires to perform well. Also look for some healthy snacks to put in your bag and car to grab when you get hungry. Eating small amounts throughout the day is not a bad thing, as long as your snacks of choice are good for you. Dried fruit and nuts will give your body a good boost of protein, fiber and fast energy without taking extra time to prepare.
2. Pay Attention to Your Beverages
If you're dehydrated, you will probably be more lethargic throughout the day. It can even cause headaches and nausea. When this happens, you may be tempted to reach for a soda or another cup of coffee, but try to focus on drinking more water instead. Make it easy for yourself by buying a cup or water bottle that you'll enjoy using, and cut up a lemon to put into it to make it taste better. Start by working in an extra glass every day, whether that means you set a rule that you have to drink it before you get a second cup of coffee, or that you have to drink a whole one at lunch. It will help you feel better and keep you from the caffeine and sugar crashes that come from coffee and soda. You don't have to cut those out of your diet entirely, but try to start shifting the balance.
3. Set Yourself Up for Success
Changing habits relies on finding ways to set yourself up for success, and if you can make shopping for fresh food faster and easier, then you're that much more likely to actually cook and eat it. There are a plethora of options for grocery delivery and pickup now, cutting down the time and energy you'd normally spend in the store. It can also save you money by preventing the spur-of-the-moment purchases you make when you suddenly see something you didn't know you needed but have to have. When it comes to choosing and preparing those groceries, decide on a number of meals you are going to make at home this week, and use a meal planning app to help you streamline that process.
4. Make a Plan for Restaurants
It might be impossible for you to cut down on the number of meals you eat out each week, but that doesn't have to be a problem. Just go into each restaurant with a plan by looking up the menu ahead of time and deciding what you're going to order. You don't have to have a salad each time, but look for sides to swap out for healthier alternatives, or get creative with the appetizer and side sections to make your own meal. If you normally have a few alcoholic beverages at restaurants, purpose to have only one with your meal. Going in with a strategy can help keep you from making a decision based on your hunger and pressure to choose. If you are heading there hungry, try grabbing one of those snacks you stashed in the car on your way so that you don't fill up on the free rolls. If you are the one choosing the restaurant, pick one you know has healthy options that you'll enjoy eating.
Changing your dietary habits doesn't necessarily require a complete overhaul of your lifestyle. Find easy and enjoyable substitutions, and work at it one step at a time. It may be difficult, but it's worth it now and in the long run.