When I was a gymnast, my coaches had a single adamant dieting rule: eating well is not about eating less.
In fact, it’s the quality and not the quantity of food that matters most, regardless of whether you’re looking to lose weight, increase your energy, or simply lead a healthier life.
Eating well doesn’t have to be a difficult process, and it can be surprisingly easy to make healthy incorporations into your daily routine.
Here are some simple ways to improve your overall health through eating, without counting a single calorie.
#1. Spend your mornings wisely.
Science has confirmed that breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Eating a healthy breakfast can drastically improve your energy levels and boost your metabolism, and it can improve your mood.
Adding a cup of green tea can have similar effects, and if you want to boost your metabolism further, a light 20-minute exercise after your meal can be just as valuable.
#2. Feeling hungry? Eat.
It may feel like restraint is the key to any perfect diet, but this isn’t always the case. Withholding food when you’re hungry can lead you to eat more later in the day, and can have a negative impact on your metabolism.
If you’re feeling hungry, don’t starve yourself thinking that you’ll fight off the urge to eat. It isn’t a lifestyle you’ll be able to maintain, nor is it a way to achieve healthy and lasting results.
#3. But drink water first.
Our bodies can actually confuse dehydration with hunger, meaning that we may be eating when we actually need water. If you’re feeling hungry sooner than you normally would, try drinking a glass of water first.
Eating when we’re dehydrated not only increases our chances of overeating, but it also means that our body may not be getting the necessary amount of water.
#4. Read the fine print.
It can be easy to look at the alluring packaging of products labeled “slim” and “healthy” and take it at face-value, but these words are often misused and don’t have much regulation.
Nutritional content, such as carbs, fats, vitamins, and sodium can help you get a better grasp of how much a serving of your food actually contains.
This is especially important because often people think they’re getting nutrients in their food when they aren’t.
This can lead to nutritional deficiencies that can even be responsible for why you feel groggy, lethargic, or sick.
#5. Find healthy alternatives.
Fats and carbs are necessary for healthy functioning and energy, but not all nutrients are created equal. Try to cut down on unhealthy sources of fats, such as pastries, packaged snacks and fries.
Instead, focus on increasing your intake of healthy fat alternatives such as avocado, nuts and sunflower seeds, tofu, and fish.
Likewise, examples of unhealthy kinds of carbs include white bread, sodas, and (again) pastries or french fries, while healthy options include whole-grain alternatives, beans, oatmeal, and berries.
Because certain meats can also be highly-processed and high in unhealthy fats, swapping a few of them with vegetarian substitutes, such as chickpea burgers, can be a healthy and painless solution.
#6. Stop bad habits ahead of time.
If you know you’re going to be hungry around 3 p.m. and find yourself getting a snack from the vending machine, you’re probably eating something that could make your cravings and afternoon drowsiness worse.
If you know that situations like this might arise, try to prepare a snack in advance. Some easy options that can provide you with energy include fruits, nuts, yogurt and whole-grain cereals.
#7. Take some cultural cues.
Did you know there’s actually a direct link between cultural staples and longevity?
Scientists are finding more and more ways in which cultural eating habits and levels of health relate. These include ways to decrease blood pressure, improve heart health, and enhance mental performance.
In comparison, traditionally American meals tend to be high in fat, carbs, and sugar, and low in necessary nutrients.
If you’re someone with a pretty traditional American diet, consider picking up some recipes from cultures that have healthier dishes.
A few easy examples are swapping out red meats for omega-3-rich fish, in a diet more like that of Japan, or increasing your use of curry powders and spices when preparing meals.
These spices are rich in antioxidants, and can aid in digestion, cure inflammation, and may even lower your risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
#8. Make meals you enjoy.
If you create a diet that you find miserable to follow, you’ll fall back into bad habits quickly.
Dieting doesn’t have to be a series of painful sacrifices, nor should it be, and there are plenty of easy, enjoyable alternatives to make you look, feel, and function better.
Work to find a healthy medium between what you want and what your body needs, and remember that an occasional return to comfort foods is perfectly fine in moderation.
A good diet is supposed to be one that makes you feel better, not worse, about the way you live.
What are some other ways to improve your diet without calorie counting?
Featured Image: Bigstock