If you’re a 20-something college student like me, healthy eating probably isn’t always your number one priority. Which is totally fair- at this stage in life there’s a lot of things that are easy to prioritize over something like your diet. But healthy eating is so important, especially in your 20s, because it sets the foundation for the eating habits and the relationship you’ll have with food for the rest of your life.
I’ve talked about counting calories and my personal fitness journey on the blog before. Today, I’m going to be sharing the tips and tricks I’ve discovered along my health and fitness journey that help me eat cleaner. I’m no health expert nor extreme fitness guru; I’m just someone who has learned some things along the way and want to share my advice with you. Let’s get started!
Simple changes you can make for healthier eating
1. When In Doubt, Leave It Out
This means that if you’re making a meal and could possibly get away with leaving out a less-than-nutritious ingredient, do. For me, this was cheese. I used to put cheese on everything, especially in my pasta and on my avocado toast. Recently, I’ve started eating some of my most frequented meals without my beloved parmesan and feta- and you know what? It still tasted great. (Disclaimer: I definitely still eat cheese. I just have made it a habit to leave it out whenever possible.)
2. You Don’t Have To Eat The Serving Size
This one really changed the game for me. I’ve always been the person to eat at or above the serving size- especially for things like pasta dishes or bags of chips. My favorite meal to make at home- one I will actually swear by- is the avocado toast I mentioned earlier. The serving size for the loaf of bread I use came out to about three slices per meal, so that’s what I ate. Never thought much of it, until one day I realized that the part of the meal that is so fulfilling (the avocado and whatever I put on it) could really all fit on just two pieces of toast. That sliced my calories- and my bread intake- by a third! It doesn’t sound like a lot, but it can really add up.
3. Fruit. Lots of Fruit.
If fruititarians were a thing, I’d be one. I eat a lot of fruit, especially recently. My favorite thing to do with any meal is to cut up a big bowl of fruit, specifically 10 strawberries, 20 grapes, and a cup of watermelon. (Pictured above!) I try to eat this with every lunch and dinner I eat at home, A) because I love fruit, and B) it helps fill me up for only 150 calories extra. Add my regular entrée of avocado toast or pasta on top of that, and I’m looking at around a 400-450 calorie meal that keeps me full for hours. Thanks, fruit!
4. Find a Low-Calorie Dessert You Genuinely Love
Your sweet tooth doesn’t always have to be satisfied by a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream at the end of the night. For me, something that changed the game was finding low-calorie dessert options that curbed my sugar cravings put didn’t put me at a 600 calorie surplus by the end of the day. Fruit is sweet, but it just isn’t the same, so my go-to dessert items are Hershey’s Dark Chocolate Kisses (usually 2, 40 calories total), or Trader Joe’s Vanilla Meringues (I cut myself down to 1 a day, 22 calories each).
5. Eat at Home.
Make going out to eat a social thing only. If you can eat at home, do. As I’ve been living in Austin, I find it almost impossible to go out to eat alone. I would much rather go home and spend my time cutting up the nice fruits and veggies I bought and make a healthy meal for myself in my own home. I love going out to eat, don’t get me wrong- there’s something about a good brunch that I can’t make myself- but I reserve it for when I’m going out to eat with family or friends.
Do what feels right for you. Adjusting to a healthier diet was an important change for me, and I’ve found that it was 100% worth it. I don’t feel sluggish anymore, I no longer need a nap to make it through the afternoon, my skin has cleared up- the list goes on. But listen to your body and your needs! Everyone is different, and that means everyone’s dietary needs are different. If you have any technical or personal questions about your diet beyond what Google or I could answer, I urge you to contact your doctor or a dietician to find a nutrition plan that’s right for you.