The First 3 Steps to Eating Well for Your Mental and Physical Health

For many of us, healthy eating becomes a topic of interest twice a year — at the new year and in pre-swimsuit season. We all know that nutritious eating is the key to many physical and mental health benefits, yet most of us struggle with making a lifestyle change.

Managing what we eat and drink, how we engage with our mental state (i.e., love, sadness, depression, anxiety), and exercising are essentials to creating a quality of life that fosters physical and mental wellness. There are three initial steps you can take to begin your wellness journey that can eventually become healthy routines.

Eat in Season

One way to make sure you’re eating clean, healthy foods packed with essential vitamins is to incorporate seasonal produce into your diet. Fruits and vegetables in season are full of their natural nutrients and are more flavorful. Local produce that’s readily available also brings a dip in prices, which is better for the budget. Furthermore, eating seasonal fruits and vegetables means you can experience a variety of foods all year long and play around with different recipes, which makes eating new and exciting as the seasons change. You can take this idea one step further and investigate the foods your region is known for and at what time of year those foods are in season, which may lead to a fun trip to your local farmers’ market.

Plan Your Meals

Take the stress out of what you’ll eat with meal planning, which will ensure you eat balanced breakfasts, lunches, and dinners. You’re more likely to eat healthier when you have readily available options in the fridge or freezer. Depending on your schedule, you can meal prep once a week, once every two weeks, or monthly. If you prepare your meals in advance, you’ll find yourself eating healthier, saving money (think less take out), and less stressed about time. Start your food prep with small planning. Base your shopping list on foods you like, what’s in season, and overlapping recipes that will help you avoid wasting ingredients. Then, have fun. Cooking doesn’t have to be a chore, and while you have some free time to enjoy cooking and preparing meals, experiment a little and get the whole family involved.

Watch What You Drink

After considering seasonal foods and meal planning, you can think about gradually replacing things in your diet that are not the healthiest of options and may be causing you harm. For instance, consider what drinks you’re consuming throughout the day. Are they filled with sugar or caffeine, which can trigger anxiety, depression, stress, and weight gain? If you notice there’s room to improve, start by replacing one of those go-to drinks with water, which is known to keep you hydrated, decrease headaches, improve skin, and increase energy. If you still need a caffeine boost, replace energy drinks and coffees with tea, which contains some caffeine but is a healthier option. In addition to drinks, you can apply the same line of thinking to snacks and desserts. The cookie might look enticing, but the peach or apple will also satisfy.

The way we interact with food plays a major role in our physical and mental wellness. Local seasonal fruits and vegetables will taste fresh and be packed with vitamins your body needs. Food preparation will ensure you stay on a healthy eating track while leaving you less stressed and with more time to enjoy your day. Learning to replace unhealthy drinks and food with healthier options will make a large impact down the road. Healthy eating all year long is not only possible, it can be a fun life change and will result in more energy and strength, better sleep, weight loss, and mental clarity.

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