How to Train Yourself to Crave Healthy Food
I was once asked by a friend interested in changing her diet, "How do you eat healthy foods . . . and actually like it?"
When we're just starting out transitioning our diet from SAD (Standard American Diet) to a brand new healthy way of eating, we all face this dilemma.
How do you make yourself eat healthy food when, well, you . . . don't like healthy food?
Once upon a time I was a fast food addicted, Dr. Pepper guzzling young 20's something who didn't think she could ever give up her delicious, comfort foods. Being told I personally *shouldn't* (gasp!) eat commercial dairy, gluten or refined sugar felt downright scary.
What the heck could I eat and how was I ever going to make this a habit I could live with?
The truth is this transition is completely doable, and it actually has much more to do with reprogramming your mind than anything else.
Read on for 12 healthy eating tips to teach you (yes, even you ?) to crave healthy foods.
12 Healthy Eating Tips That Teach You to Crave Nutritious Food
Ok, here's the thing . . .
A recent study found that less than 10% of Americans are eating enough vegetables. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, less than 14% of Americans are consuming the recommended 2 to 4 daily servings of fruit, and less than 9% consume 3 to 5 servings of vegetables.
If you’re going to beat the odds, you may need to rewire your brain to crave Brussel sprouts more than bacon.
Um, I confess I seriously love bacon. But I can say my love affair is safely under control. Ahem, carry on.
Each time you choose healthier foods, you’re strengthening your desire for them.
Take a look at these suggestions for changing the way you think and eat.
Changing the Way You Think
REMEMBER YOUR PURPOSE
If you're a regular reader of my blog you're going to notice I'm beginning to sound like a broken record when it comes to "finding your why."
That's because, as far as motivation, determination, grit, and perseverance are concerned, it works!
Focus on why you want to eat nutritious whole foods. Cutting down on empty calories can help you look and feel your best.
You’ll have more energy, will more easily lose weight, and you may even save on medical bills as you'll likely have fewer sick days.
The trick here is to determine what motivates you.
What is your personally why; your reason for changing your eating habits? Is it weight loss or maintenance? Managing depression or anxiety? Having more energy?
Each of us will have different reasons that get us fired up and determined to reach our goals. Figure out your why and keep it front of mind whenever you're faced with food temptation.
Now, if you've planned ahead and decided you're OK with allowing the occassional treat, then by all means, enjoy it. Savor that plate (or cup) of deliciousness with no regrets #sorrynotsorry
But for your daily meals and snacks, the stuff you put in your mouth day in and day out that make up a composite picture of the quality of your diet, ask yourself if a few minutes of food indulgence is worth the consequences.
Nothing tastes as good as a vibrant body feels.
These are the moments that matter. Would your future self be better off if you snacked on baby carrots? This goes hand in hand with finding your why.
Set yourself up for success by emptying your kitchen of sub-par temptation foods, stocking up on fresh whole foods and creating a simple, healthy meal plan for the week.
If you know you'll be out and about or eating in a social situation, check out this post for making healthy choices.
Nutrition knowledge is incredibly powerful! The more you know about how your diet affects your health, the stronger your motivation will be.
Schedule a session with a certified nutritionist (?♀️ I'm here to help!) or browse online to learn more about the healing power of foods, how to read food labels and restaurant menus, and what foods you should absolutely be avoiding.
I recommend the following websites to get you starting on your journey of healthy eating self-education:
In addition, be sure to read some of my blog posts on nutrition:
FORM NEW HABITS
It’s easier to start a positive new habit than to break an old routine. In fact, the truth is that we don't actually "get rid" of bad habits, we simply replace them with good ones.
Every bad habit begins with a trigger.
If, for example, you’re used to eating a donut with your coffee, treat yourself to a few almonds or a piece of fruit instead. Drinking coffee has become the trigger for reaching for that donut.
Dissect your bad eating habits and figure out where your triggers are.
Do you crave a dessert every night after dinner? Do you like to eat an unhealthy snack as you zone out in front of the TV? Does a stressful conversation with your spouse or boss leave you searching for something sweet to eat?
Use these triggers to form new, healthy habits.
Make yourself a healthy after dinner dessert, snack on cut up veggies as you watch TV, or reach for fruit rather than candy when you feel stressed.
FOCUS ON NONEDIBLE REWARDS
If emotional eating is a concern, you may need to seek gratification elsewhere. Reward yourself by watching a movie or spending time with friends.
Make a list of all the ways you can treat yourself without food. Post it where it's a daily visible reminder.
Here are a few more ideas to get you started:
- Make yourself a cup of tea
- Take a relaxing detox bath
- Listen to your favorite music
- Read a book or magazine
- Text a friend
- Soak and scrub your feet
- Diffuse essential oils
- Rent a movie you've been wanting to see (YOU, not your husband or kids. YOUR choice.)
- Apply a natural lotion or body oil
- Color in an adult coloring book
- Do a gentle stretching session
- Watch a funny video on YouTube
- Do a tapping meditation
And BONUS: These double as self-care activities ?
Plus, when you're in the habit of taking care of yourself on a soul-level, viewing your mind and body as worthy of such care, you'll naturally want to fuel that treasured temple with healthy choices.
Social support is vital. Surround yourself with others who are trying to eat well so you can share encouragement and feedback.
Research has shown that we adopt the habits and traits (or are at least highly influenced to do so) of the 5 people we're closest to. Look around at your social circle.
Will your friends encourage you to eat healthy?
Now, I'm not saying you have to cut off all ties with friends who don't eat well! But it's wise to be discerning here. Plan activities with them that don't include food whenever possible if you notice their bad choices influencing you.
Continue to make new friendships (in person or online) with people who will cheer you on and help guide you as you make this transition.
Changing the Way You Eat
The following are healthy eating tips that will help you stick to your new lifestyle and eventually begin to crave healthy foods.
ADD IN HEALTHY FATS
You may have noticed a recent shift in nutritional advice. Experts are now talking less about avoiding fats, and more about choosing healthy fats. Broccoli can be a lot more appealing when you drizzle on olive oil.
Also be sure to include avocados, nuts, fatty fish such as salmon, and coconut oil or MCT.
Healthy fats keep you satiated longer and provide stable, longer lasting energy.
HUNT FOR BARGAINS
Maybe the high price of some superfoods is dampening your enthusiasm. Let me assure you, you don't have to buy every fancy sounding superfood you hear about! You can still eat very healthy with basic grocery staples.
Think carrots, kale, cabbage, apples, spinach, and the like - there's plenty of variety that won't break the bank (yes, even organic!)
If you are interested in incorporating superfoods into your diet, it's possible to find reasonably priced supplements on Amazon - this is where I get most of the powdered superfood supplements I put in my daily green smoothies.
These are my absolute favorites:
Having new and beneficial supplements to try can definitely make the process of eating healthier feel more like fun and become something you look forward to!
SHOP FOR SEASONAL PRODUCE
Stock up on inexpensive staples like beans and lentils. Visit the bulk bins where you can save on packaging costs, and sample small quantities until you discover your favorite grains and seeds.
Learn more about eating healthy on a budget in this post.
BEAUTIFY YOUR DINNING SPACE
Moment of truth ladies . . .
Do you have a desire to prepare a healthy meal when your kitchen is a cluttered, dirty mess? I know I don't.
Take a few minutes to spruce things up. Clear the counter of clutter. Place a vase of pretty flowers on the table or a plant on the windowsill.
Presentation can make a big difference on your willpower and motivation.
Sit down to eat. Really savor your meal. Create an attractive centerpiece or light candles. Use colorful dishes and bowls. Turn the act of eating into a special, enjoyable moment (without unhealthy foods).
If kale is starting to bore you, experiment with other salad greens like bok choy, dandelion greens, collard or Swiss chard.
Sign up for cooking classes or browse food blogs for more ideas about what to make for dinner.
Follow pretty Instagram accounts, join Facebook groups or check out new cookbooks from the library.
Continue to keep things fresh and interesting to maintain your momentum!
ALWAYS BE ARMED WITH HEALTHY SNACKS
Or as I like to call it ABAWHS. (Just kidding, that's a mouth full ?)
Bring hummus with veggies or yogurt with berries to the office with you for your afternoon break. Throw healthy homemade granola bars or a banana in your purse when you head out to run errands.
Never leave yourself unarmed! Finding yourself starving and unprepared when you're miles away from home only serves to make those fast food joints look veeeery appealing.
Before you know it, you’ll soon like your own fresh food better than the packaged goods in the vending machines or the $5 fast food meal (not to mention you'll save money!).
MAKE IT CONVENIENT
The foods we crave are often the ones that require minimal effort like boxed and frozen dinners. But you can make healthy substitutes just as handy.
Keep a bowl of fruit on your dining room table. Buy gluten-free pizza crusts you can top with cut vegetables and cheese for a hot meal in minutes. Keep cut up veggies with hummus ready to go in the fridge.
I recall a former co-worker telling me, after seeing my colorful fruit salad of blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries I brought as a snack, "Well if someone made me something like that I might actually like eating healthy food!"
Do you know how long it took me to rinse those berries and toss them in a pyrex container?
2 minutes. Tops.
With a little planning and a few minutes of prep-work each week, healthy foods can be just as convenient as the old unhealthy stand-bys.
You can do this!
Imagine looking forward to and actually craving a big mealy salad with the same enthusiasm you usually reserve for double-fudge brownies.
Sound too good to be true?
It's not! With some simple mental training, along with adjusting a few lifestyle habits, you too will be craving healthy food before you know it.
Does it happen overnight?
It didn't for me, but that's not the point. Sticking to it and staying as consistent as possible will win the day. Take it one step at a time, leveling up as you're ready to take on more.
I'm now 7 years into eating a plant-based diet. Sometimes it's hard to remember ever craving fast food and Dr. Pepper, as these days I crave green smoothies and salads.
I know you can get there too!
Are you transitioning to a healthier diet? What is your number one struggle?
Hi! I’m Liane, a self-proclaimed ‘scrunchy mom’ (as in semi-crunchy). I have a passion for all things natural, healthy and holistic. My aim is to inspire you on your healthy living journey by sharing simple, everyday habits that can transform your well-being and life.