7 Ways to Eat Healthy for Life

Building a healthy eating plan doesn't have to be confusing or overly restrictive. In fact, if you create a strategy, you will bring clarity to your mind and body, and see just how many delicious and nutritious foods are available to you. Use these tips to make a lasting change.

Start Small

Whenever you're making a major lifestyle adjustment, think about it as a number of smaller, manageable steps rather than one, drastic change. For example, make it a goal to eat a salad for dinner at least one night a week. Or, try honey in place of refined sugar in your morning coffee. If you introduce healthier habits little by little, they will eventually add up to an overall healthier diet. To boot, you'll have a greater chance of sticking with it.

More: How to Achieve Your Health Goals for the New Year

Write Down Your Plan

You might have good intentions to add more fruit to your diet and eat out less each week. However, unless you write down a plan as to how you're going to actually achieve those two goals, it may be tough to make it happen. Before the workweek starts, write down your breakfast, lunch and dinner strategy for each day. Also create a list of snack options. Having a plan doesn't mean you can't be spontaneous or switch up your meals last minute. It simply means you'll be less likely to find yourself hungry, in front of the fridge without a plan of what you should eat—especially after a long workout or workday.

More: Make a Meal Plan

Cook More

Your overall diet will be much healthier if you cook at home more. When you eat out, you have less control over ingredients and portion sizes. Plus, the cost of a homemade meal is much less than the cost of a meal at a restaurant. Cooking at home saves about $6 to $11 per person every meal, according to the Flannel Guy ROI blog. All those saved dollars could go toward buying more organic ingredients and high-quality cookware, which can help you eat even healthier.

More: Active Cookbook: Clean Eating Recipes for Athletes

Practice Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is eating with intention and attention, according to the website Am I Hungry? When you eat, set your intention to the nourishment of your body, and your attention to the enjoyment of food and how it affects your body. To eat with intention and attention, it's critical to set aside time for eating. When you eat while driving, working or watching TV, you're more likely to overeat or eat the wrong things. Focus your thoughts on the food you eat and you'll gain its maximum benefits.

More: 13 Strategies to Prevent Overeating

Eat Until You're Only 80 Percent Full

The southern Japanese Okinawa islands—nicknamed the land of immortals—are reported to have the oldest demographic in the world, and researchers believe it's due to diet. In addition to eating fare lower on the food chain, Okinawans also eat less. They practice a principle called "Hara Hachi Bu," which means, "eat until you're 80 percent full," according to Michael Pollen, author of In Defense of Food. Research has shown that eating less can ward off disease and offset the effects of aging. Try it out. If you're practicing mindful eating, you'll be eating slower so you'll be able to determine when you're 80 percent full and that it's time to put down your fork.

More: Eat Like the Okinawans

Focus on Whole Foods

Whole foods come from nature and have been minimally processed: fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, eggs, meat, poultry and fish. Following a whole-food diet involves maximizing your nutrient intake from these natural sources and avoiding nutrient-poor processed foods. By centering your diet on whole foods, you'll eat healthier fats, carbs and proteins, and get more nutrients.

More: 5 Whole Foods That Should Be in Every Athlete's Kitchen

Reduce Your Refined Sugar and Salt Intake

Many packaged foods are laden with sugar and salt. Sugar can cause spikes in blood sugar, inflammation and weight gain. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and other health problems, such as kidney disease. If you center your diet on whole foods, you will naturally eat less sugar and salt. Before buying packaged or restaurant foods, find out how much sugar and salt are in them so you can make healthier choices. By reducing these ingredients little by little you can train your palate—and brain—to not want these two ingredients.

More: 3 Simple Ways to Cut Sugar Out of Your Diet

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About the Author

Nicole Reino

Nicole Reino is the nutrition editor for Active.com. She's a yogi, runner, cook and real-foods enthusiast.

Nicole Reino is the nutrition editor for Active.com. She's a yogi, runner, cook and real-foods enthusiast.

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