Most of us like the idea of eating healthier, whether we want to get in shape or live a longer, healthier life. But it’s hard to eat healthy on a regular basis. Millions of people struggle to get started with a healthy eating regimen, especially if they’re used to eating lots of junk food.
And the people who do take the initiative to change their eating habits often fall out of those habits in a matter of weeks.
Why is this the case? And what steps can you take to make eating healthier easier for you?
Lack of Knowledge
Nutrition is a complex and multifaceted topic. While it’s not hard to master the basics of nutrition for beginners, the vast amount of knowledge necessary to become a master at nutrition is intimidating for newcomers.
Is sugar really as bad for you as people say? Should you focus on the number of calories you consume above all other variables? Are all vegetables good for you, or are some better than others? These are complicated questions that even nutrition scientists can have difficulty answering.
If you want to address this point in your own life, your best strategy is just learning to accept that nutrition truly is complicated. Not everything is black and white and you can never learn everything there is to know about nutrition. Instead of trying to learn everything or accepting that the topic is too complicated for you, focus on learning the basics and doing what you can.
Some people struggle to eat healthy because of a perceived financial challenge. You can get a cheeseburger for a dollar or two at a fast-food joint, while certain organic vegetables cost upwards of $10 for a small bundle in the grocery store.
However, the financial difference between healthy foods and unhealthy foods is misleading. There are many healthy foods that are much less expensive than their junk food counterparts; for example, you can purchase a container of oatmeal for just a few dollars and use it to cook an entire month’s worth of nutritious breakfast.
Old habits are incredibly hard to break. If you’re used to eating junk food as part of your routine, like if you have a big bowl of ice cream every night or if you eat a breakfast sandwich on your way to work every morning, disrupting that pattern can be intimidatingly tough.
Unfortunately, there’s no easy way around this. If you want to change your habits, you have to work hard to establish new habits. Take things one day at a time and employ your willpower as much as possible.
Food Prep Time
For some people, eating healthy is almost impossible because of the amount of time it takes to prepare healthy meals. Cooking vegetables, preparing lean meats, and portioning out perfectly sized meals and snacks can take hours of time every week. If you’re preparing food for a family, it will take even longer.
There are some shortcuts you can take here. If you have the budget for it, you can buy pre-portioned healthy meals do you skip the preparation steps entirely. Otherwise, you can spend one day each week doing a lot of cooking at once; you can portion out these massive meals into different containers, so you have healthy food that’s conveniently available the rest of the week.
Taste and Personal Preference
Let’s be honest. Junk food is delicious. And many foods marketed as health foods don’t taste nearly as good. If you honestly subjectively prefer unhealthy foods over healthy foods, you’ll find it difficult to change your behaviors.
Here’s the good news. There’s an almost infinite number of healthy foods and ways to prepare those foods. If you don’t like broccoli, you don’t have to eat broccoli. To get over this point of apprehension, make sure you experiment with a wide variety of foods and preparation techniques. Sooner or later, you’ll find a plethora of healthy meals you genuinely enjoy.
Group Dynamics and Social Opportunities
More than half of Americans go out to eat at least 2-3 times per week. If your coworkers or your group of friends go out to eat almost every night, you might feel left out if you stop going out as much.
There are a few alternatives to help you get the best of both worlds here. First, you should understand that almost every restaurant in the world has some healthy options available. You can still go out with your friends and get a salad instead of a bacon cheeseburger. Alternatively, you can recommend a healthier restaurant, or you can offer to cook for your group of friends and host them at home.
Once you learn to address some or all of these common obstacles, you’ll find it much easier to be consistent in your healthy eating. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy, especially at the beginning, but you will eventually forge a path to a healthier you.