When it comes to eating healthier, most of us have had the basics drilled into our heads: Eat more vegetables. Eat less sugar. Stay away from trans fats.
But maintaining a healthy diet is easier said than done ― especially when you’re strapped for time and there’s so much conflicting information out there about what constitutes the healthiest way to eat.
So let’s make it simple. Make an effort to consistently practice the basics ― eat your vegetables, cut back on sugar, and try to avoid trans fats. Then, when you’re ready to make your diet even healthier, turn to these five easy strategies, all of which can be completed in five minutes or less.
1. Cook at home.
A Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study found that people who regularly make home-cooked meals tend to consume fewer calories and less sugar and eat a healthier diet overall. Cooking at home may even contribute to healthier decisions when people eat out ― the study also found that people who frequently cooked at home ate fewer calories when they dined in restaurants.
Even the busiest people among us can make the time to cook up meals at home a few times a week. There are plenty of healthy recipes you can prepare in five minutes or less. Spend another five minutes or so searching out quick, healthy recipes each week in order to develop a library of recipes that you can turn to whenever you’re crunched for time.
2. Read food labels.
If you’re trying to eat healthy, then you need to be aware of what you’re actually eating. To that end, make it a habit to read the food label any time you consider purchasing a new item. If you haven’t read the labels on food items that you frequently purchase, take a few minutes to do that too.
Knowing how much fat, sodium, sugars, protein, and so on is in each of the foods you eat will assist you in putting together a balanced set of meals throughout the day. You also might be surprised to learn that some foods you thought were healthy actually contain enormous amounts of sugar or other unsavory ingredients. Bottom line? You don’t know if you don’t read.
3. Eat protein for breakfast.
Studies consistently find that eating a high-protein diet is a great way to facilitate fat loss and muscle gain. Protein is also very satiating, which means it will give you sustained energy throughout the day and cut down on cravings for less-healthy foods. While you should aim to have protein at every meal, make it a priority to start the day off on the right foot with a high-protein breakfast.
4. Drink more water.
You probably don’t need me to tell you to drink more water. But you probably do need to drink more water.
Any time you find yourself reaching for a soft drink (even a diet one), choose to get yourself a glass of water instead. You might go through a bit of withdrawal, but the payoff is worth it: Drinking enough water is essential for your body’s overall functioning. Staying hydrated will help stave off headaches, give you more energy, make your skin look great, and keep you mentally alert throughout the day. It’s even been shown to help people consume fewer calories. If you struggle to down multiple glasses of water each day, consider getting some of your hydration from foods.
5. Practice mindful eating at every meal.
Too many of us have gotten into the habit of eating food on the go ― as we’re rushing out the door on the way to work, in the car between errands, and so on. But mindless eating makes it much harder to make healthy decisions about the food you eat.
So commit to this: Every time you order or make a meal, spend at least five minutes being present with the experience of eating it. Ditch distractions such as TV, social media, or email and really pay attention to the food you’re eating. Notice what it smells like, looks like, and tastes like, observe its textures, and so on. Eat slowly and pay attention to the sensations of chewing, swallowing, and tasting your food. Just a few minutes of mindfulness can help curb overeating and inspire healthier choices.
So there you have it: A healthier diet can be had with just a few minutes of effort each day. I assure you, your health is well worth the time.