Eating healthier is on a lot of people’s New Year’s resolutions list. And we applaud that! Healthier food options aren’t that hard to come by, but actually choosing the best option comes down to your readiness for change—and not biting off too much at a time. Many people get overwhelmed when they try to completely overhaul their eating. It’s too drastic, which leads to frustration, and eventually your resolution is out the window.
I recommend taking the advice of Chip and Dan Heath, authors of the book Switch, and “shrink the change.” In other words, when you are trying to eat healthier, don’t set the bar so high right out of the gate. If you don’t like vegetables, don’t cook up Brussels sprouts and expect to discover your new favorite food. Start slow, build up some momentum making better choices, and then try to improve those choices over time.
To show you exactly what this looks like in the real world, I’ve put together a list of five nutritional progressions that you can make slowly, over time, so you don’t feel so overwhelmed and eventually slam dunk that goal!
A Smart Choice for Bread Lovers
A bagel with cream cheese sure hits the spot, but most people don’t need all those calories when they’re going to be sitting at a desk most of the day. Instead, start out your day by toasting some whole-wheat bread and adding a little peanut butter. You’ll still get your bread fix, only now you’ve added some protein and dramatically cut back on calories. If you’re feeling in the mood, swap out your sugary peanut butter for a natural option. When you’re ready to go all-in, opt for toasted Ezekiel bread with almond butter and a little organic honey. Ezekiel bread contains no sugar, no preservatives, and no artificial ingredients, unlike most other breads.
A Healthier Crunch
When it comes to potato chips, you can never eat just one. Grab a bag to snack on and pretty soon you’re at the bottom. A great swap when you’re just starting to eat healthier is baked chips. Sure, they’re still chips, but you’ll consume fewer calories, which is a nice tradeoff. Ultimately, you’ll want to quit snacking on chips and instead swap them out for a healthy crunch like nuts. Almonds, cashews or pistachios are all good choices. These nuts are loaded with nutrients and contain protein as well as heart-healthy fats.
Find a New Cold Treat
If ice cream is one of your guilty pleasures and you find yourself grabbing for the carton a few too many times, start by substituting it with some flavored yogurt. You can even freeze it, for a more similar texture. You’ll end up consuming fewer calories, less fat, and adding some extra protein. Over time you can work your way up to eating Greek yogurt (which will pack even more of a protein punch) mixed with some fresh fruit.
Get Sneaky with Pasta
A big plate of pasta is a carb-lover’s dream, but when you want to make a healthier choice, start by swapping out your regular pasta for a whole grain option. Once you’ve made the initial change (it wasn’t that bad), now you can start experimenting with squash or zucchini noodles to try and sneak in some vegetables. Also, instead of ground beef in your sauce, go with leaner ground turkey.
Freshen Up Your Salad
Many people try to make a healthier choice by going with salad, but alas, the iceberg lettuce is covered in croutons and smothered in ranch dressing. Start by swapping out your lettuce with spinach to ensure you’re getting more vitamins and minerals. Next, trade those croutons for some grilled chicken and add in a few raw seeds, which will boost your protein intake. Last, ditch the calorie-laden dressing for a homemade option using healthy fat sources like avocado and olive oil.
Nutrition changes can seem very daunting if we try the dramatic approach. Unfortunately, that method rarely works and eventually leads to failure. Start slow and make small, sustainable changes over time and pretty soon healthy eating will become your new normal!