Here are 5 nutrition tips to improve your health without dieting. These are a non-diet registered dietitian’s tips to improving your health without restricting your diet or focusing on weight loss.
Unlike what diet culture will tell you, it is possible to improve your health and eat nourishing foods without dieting and restricting your diet.
Remember that your weight does not equal your health.
In this post, you’ll find nutrition tips to support your health, no matter your size.
Health at Every Size® (HAES)
Health At Every Size® is a weight-inclusive approach to health. It doesn’t suggest that everyone is “healthy”, no matter their size. HAES believes in the right for anyone to pursue health, no matter one’s size. You can learn more about this approach in the Health at Every Size book by Lindo Bacon, which is a great resource.
Why you should think twice before starting another diet…
You might be aware that diets don’t work long-term, but did you know that dieting can increase your risk for gaining more weight? This is part of what’s often referred to as “yo-yo dieting”. And most importantly, diets can negatively affect your relationship with food, increase your risk of nutrient deficiencies, disordered eating and more.
What happens when you restrict your diet?
- You start craving the foods you limit or avoid.
- Your body will adjust to eating fewer calories. This means it will become harder and harder to lose weight as your metabolism adjusts to the new “normal”.
- Your body will produce less of the hormone leptin (which makes you feel full).
- After a while, the weight stops going down and your hunger and cravings will become too strong to ignore.
You don’t have a lack of willpower. This is NOT your fault. Your body doesn’t know the different between dieting and food scarcity.
What should you do instead of dieting? Take the focus away from weight or restrictions and instead, focus on adding some health-promoting behaviors to your life. You can improve your health and nutrition without losing weight or restricting specific foods.
Eat More Plants
There’s no denying that fruits and vegetables are beneficial to our health. They’re full of fiber, vitamins and minerals. A good guide is to have half of your plate as vegetables for lunch and dinner. That being said, you don’t need to (and shouldn’t) aim for perfection. Simply try to add some fruits and vegetables at most meals.
Try having a side salad or simply roast, steam or grill your favorite vegetables. Make it interesting! Add flavor by using spices, herbs, sauces or a small pinch of salt. You can also try to replace some meat with plant-based protein for a higher fiber option. Try using beans, lentils, tofu or tempeh!
For more ideas on how to eat more vegetables, check out this post.
Add Healthy Fats to Your Meals
Fats are important to help us absorb fat-soluble vitamins and promote satiety at meals. Try focusing on adding unsaturated fats to your diet and add less focus on saturated and trans fats.
Sources of unsaturated fats: Olive oil, avocado oil, nuts, seeds, nut/seed butters, avocados.
Omega-3’s: Most people get plenty of omega-6 (a type of unsaturated fat) in their diets, but many aren’t getting enough omega-3 fatty acids. You can get plant-based omega-3 fatty acids in your diet from ground flax seeds, flax oil, chia seeds, walnuts and hemp hearts. Another option, which can be more convenient and reliable is to take an EPA/DHA algae supplement. If you’re not vegan, you can get omega-3’s from fatty fish.
A few ideas to add unsaturated fats to your diet:
- Use olive oil or avocado oil during cooking to promote satiety and help your body absorb fat-soluble vitamins
- Add chia seeds or ground flax seeds to your oatmeal or smoothie
- Sprinkle hemp hearts on your salads
- Enjoy toasts or crackers with nut or seed butters
- Top your toasts, salads and sandwiches with avocados
- Drizzle a small amount of olive oil on your salad with balsamic vinegar and herbs for a simple dressing
- Top your salads with olives
Choose Fiber-Rich Foods
Fiber offers many benefits. It’s beneficial for the digestive system by helping you stay regular and can reduce your risks of colon cancer. It can help you feel full for longer. Fiber can also help balance blood sugars, lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
You can reap the benefits of fiber without going on a restrictive diet – and as a matter of fact, many restrictive diets, such as the keto diet, can be extremely low in fiber.
Try adding some of these fiber-rich foods to your diet: Whole grain bread, pasta and crackers, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils.
A few ideas:
- Snack on a handful of nuts and dried fruits
- Choose whole grains most of the time (don’t aim for perfection!)
- Add canned beans to your soup or chili
- Add canned lentils to your pasta sauce
- Try using chia seeds or ground flax seeds in your oatmeal or smoothie
- Sprinkle hemp hearts on your salads and pasta dishes
- Snack on crackers with nut or seed butters
Add variety to your Diet
Eating a variety of foods will ensure that you’re getting the nutrients that you need. It will also keep your diet fun and exciting.
Try to include a source of carbohydrate, protein and fat at every meal, in addition to vegetables for added fiber and antioxidants. Balancing your plate with protein, carbohydrate, fat and fiber will help you feel satisfied at meals, while ensuring that you’re getting the nutrients that you need.
Check out this post for tips on preparing balanced vegan meals.
Last, but not least: Eat enough. Eating enough food every day will help you get the nutrients you need to feel your best. Instead of focusing on cutting out foods, focus on adding nutritious foods to your diet.
A final note: This post was focused on quick nutrition tips to support your health, but remember that health involves so much more than what we eat. Our health is affected by our stress levels, sleeping habits, movement, access to food and clean water, taking medication if needed, access to affordable and respectful health care and so much more. Eating a healthy diet is just a small part of the equation.
This information is intended for educational purposes only and is not meant to replace individualized nutrition or medical advice.