After years of following the Standard American Diet, switching to a healthy eating lifestyle can be a real challenge. Today’s standard menu of fatty meats, tasty, calorie-laden comfort foods, sugary treats, and salty snacks creates a vicious cycle of food cravings and sickness. If you’ve tried to develop a healthy eating lifestyle and made little to no progress, you’re not alone. The good news is there are easy steps you can take to condition your body and your taste buds to fall in love with food that’s healthy for you. Here’s a step-by-step guide to just that.
Food Cravings Are Fickle
Food cravings can be deceptive, telling you your body needs a sugary or salty treat to make it through the morning or feel content. What’s happening is the result of years of conditioning. In effect, the desire for a certain food has gone from being something you want to something you “think” you need. Also, sugary treats, in particular, do a number on the body’s blood sugar levels, producing spikes and crashes that drive these cravings.
As difficult as it may be to ignore or change food cravings, it can be done. Interestingly enough, just the practice of trying to eat foods you don’t particularly like can change the way you feel about them. After four or five tries, there’s a good chance you may start to fall in love with food you used to hate.
Ease into Healthy Eating
When it comes to developing a healthy-eating lifestyle, making gradual changes in your day-to-day menu greatly increases the likelihood of long-term success. Drastic changes only end up testing your resolve while also pitting the body’s physical cravings against your intentions. Rather than replace your favorite dishes altogether, add healthy entrees along the way. As you get started, aim for covering two-thirds of your plate with vegetable and fruit-based foods, such as salad, whole grains, or the fruit of your choice.
Consider Healthy Substitutions
Making the switch to healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice flavor and taste. Most any meal based on the Standard American Diet can be made using healthy substitutions. While it won’t taste exactly the same, it will still taste good, only in a different way.
Creating a personal list of healthy substitutions (especially for times of the day when you’re most likely to indulge in unhealthy food choices) makes it easier to stick to your guns. Categories on this list may include:
- Snack substitutes
- TV-time substitutes
- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner entree substitutes
- Beverage substitutes
Meat may well be one of the hardest foods to let go of, but take heart in knowing that plant-based ingredients can hold their own as worthy substitutes. Whether you’re thinking burger or roast, meat substitutions run the gamut. All you need is a little imagination and maybe a recipe book or two. Of course, you can just substitute vegetable dishes in the place of meat, but it’s just as easy to cook your favorite recipes with substitutions, such as lentils, mushrooms, or tempeh and fall in love with food all over again.
Healthy Sweets & Dessert Substitutions
For many people, sweet treats and desserts hold a sacred place in the daily menu. Not to fear. There are more than a few healthy ways to soothe those sweet cravings. A hearty apple crisp can make you forget all about that slice of pie after dinner. A plant-based diet like fruit and nut combos fill in nicely for ice cream dishes—and don’t forget the power of the smoothie, which offers any number of fruity options and flavor combinations, including mangoes, bananas, or berries mixed with natural almond milk. You can even mix in some organic cacao for a chocolate kick!
Cauliflower – The All-Purpose Substitute
Cauliflower is a powerhouse of healthy antioxidants and phytonutrients—nutrients well-known for their ability to lower cancer risk and help with weight management. Cauliflower also makes for a jack-of-all-trades substitute for most any type of food. Whether you’re looking to create a healthy rice dish, pizza crust, soup base, or even a potato substitute, cauliflower fits the bill every time.
Small Steps, Big Results – Fall in Love with Food All Over Again
As with any major lifestyle change, small steps can bring big results with a little patience and time. Switching from the Standard American Diet to foods that are healthy for you becomes so much easier when it happens gradually.
In this way, you fall in love with food on two levels: the new taste sensations and the feeling of health and vitality that comes with eating power-packed, nutrient-dense foods. Before long, the food craving pendulum starts to swing to the other side as your body comes to appreciate how much better it feels when you eat healthily!