10 Tips for Eating Healthier Without Counting Calories

Depending on your fitness goals and where you are in your health journey, it may not be necessary to count calories.  Perhaps you’re just beginning to focus on your health and feel overwhelmed by the idea of keeping a food diary. Or maybe you’re already fairly happy with your body but know that your metabolism is slowing and you can no longer eat whatever you want and still stay in shape.  It might even be that you’re recovering from an eating disorder and know that calorie counting isn’t good for your mental health. If any of these situations sound familiar, or you have another one that applies, give these tips a try.

1. Cook at home.

cooking at home

Yes this does require some work.  But if you want to make a long lasting change you are going to have be willing to dedicate extra time and mental power towards your health endeavors.  If you aren’t serious enough about your goals to do this, then your motivation isn’t likely to last.  That being said, there are a lot of ways to make cooking easier and the more you do it the more of a habit it will become.  Once you’ve accumulated a week or so of recipes you’ve made and know you like you can easily shop for and cook them without having to put in much mental effort (and probably the same amount of time as if you went out to a restaurant).

 2. Practice weekly meal planning and prepping.

grocery shopping

Set aside half an hour once a week (a weekend day usually works best) to plan out all of your meals for the week.  Remember that you don’t have to have a different recipe for every single meal. Depending on how much variety you need you can have 1-3 possible options that you rotate for both breakfast and lunch.  If they involve similar type ingredients (eg your lunches are all salads and your breakfasts are all omelettes) this will be easier.  For dinner you can either plan out a new recipe for each night or choose 3-4 and that make enough that for you to have leftovers (which can also work for lunch).  

Once you’ve planned your meals you can create your grocery list and head to the store.  Copy Me That provides a template for a weekly meal plan than you can put your saved recipes in and will then create a shopping list for you based on those recipes. When you get comfortable with that routine you can then move on to meal prepping, which involves making some or all of your meals ahead of time on the weekends and then freezing portions that you will be eating later in the week. If this sounds overwhelming, I’d recommend starting with making your lunches for the week since this is the meal that you are most likely to be eating away from home.

3. Keep your recipes organized and easily accessible.

If your favorite recipes are all in the same place it will make meal planning and shopping a lot easier. Again, you can use Copy Me That. Or do things the old fashioned way by printing out recipes (or tearing them out of magazines if you really want to go old school;), putting them in sheet protectors, and then storing them in a binder in the kitchen.

4. Your slow cooker is your new best friend.

slow cooker

Slow cookers are a great way to save time on cooking!  Their are tons of healthy slow cooker recipes out there that provide enough food for multiple people and meals. Some are more complicated than others, so make sure to choose one that will be easy to start in the morning.  Let me tell you, coming home after a long day of work or school to smell a yummy cooked meal waiting for you is AMAZING  🙂 

5. Think of your plate as a pie chart.

Plate Pie Chart

If your meal is simple in composition and involves a meat, a veggie, and a carb, follow this rule: 50% of your plate should be veggies, 25% carbs, and 25% protein. Making these “sections” colorful like a good pie chart also helps ensure that you are getting a variety of nutrients.  For example, you might have a marinated and baked chicken breast, red quinoa, and broccoli (which can very easily be meal prepped at the beginning of the week by the way!)

 6. Control your portions.

Measuring-Cups

Some people find that it helps to measure out their foods with a kitchen scale and measuring cups. Often, it is not necessary to do this work in the long term, but doing so for a little while with meals and foods you eat regularly can help give you a better idea of what a serving actually looks like and how much you’re actually consuming. You can check out the USDA recommended guidelines for portion sizes and daily servings here.

7. Use smaller dishes.

A common tendency, particularly here in the U.S. is to fill up your plate. As plates have gotten larger over the years, this has resulted in people eating larger and larger portion sizes.

8. Pay attention to your body.

This one is huge.  As we’ve gotten busier and a busier as a society we’ve lost touch with bodies. We ignore feelings of sickness, fatigue, emotions, and hunger/fullness signals.  Take a cue from the Japanese by eating your meal slowly and mindfully and then stopping when you feel satiated but not full.

9. Pack snacks.

Lemon-Dill-Greek-Yogurt-Dip

Rather than grabbing something out of the vending machine when the 3:00 pm hunger demons strike, reach for a healthy, portion controlled snack that you’ve brought from home. Here is a list of easily portable snack ideas.

10. Remember that healthy eating is a lifestyle change not a diet.  

Diets are often restrictive and hard to maintain which results in a short term change in food consumption and yo-yo dieting.  Lifestyle changes are composed of many small habits that you’re more likely to stick to, even with life gets stressful. Also, diets prescribe a one-size fits all mentality to eating.  The reality is that everyone’s nutritional needs are unique due to genetic differences (metabolism, allergies, etc) and food preferences. One person might feel great on a lower carb/higher fat diet, while another might feel sluggish and fuzzy headed. While there may be general rules in terms of what will properly fuel your body there virtually isn’t a particular type of food or way of eating that is completely wrong. Instead of trying the next fad diet, follow the advice of “In Defense of Food” writer Michael Pollan,

 “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly Plants.”

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