This was a guest post for my uncle’s site, Healthy Eating Healthy World. Enjoy!

I’ve been eating a mostly plant-based diet since 2006. When I first got started, I faced personal and social barriers. However, by taking a few conscious steps, I was able to break them down and really improve my eating habits! Knowing the truth about nutrition, understanding the benefits of a plant-based diet, and committing to a change are all important, but actually revamping my lifestyle was a daunting task. Here are 6 tricks that I used.

  • Think Long-term
  • Add Some Extra Steps
  • Keep the Good Stuff Nearby
  • Surround Yourself
  • Embrace Frugality
  • Get Accountable

By thinking long-term about rewards and taking steps to preempt myself from falling into old eating habits I was able to leap feet-first into a new way of eating that has improved my life immeasurably.

1. Think Long-term

Thinking in the long term is very helpful. When I would “diet” in the past, trying to lose a few pounds, I would think short-term and have thoughts like, “I’m going to eat ‘healthy’ until I lose however many pounds.” This short-term thinking always left me looking forward to the end of the diet, and never let me enjoy the healthy lifestyle I was leading. Instead, thinking long-term (as a young man) means that I am not looking forward to the hamburger I’ll eat in 3 months, but the vibrant, healthy man I’ll be at 80! That helps a lot in making the right choices.

2. Add Some Extra Steps

One of the first things I did after I decided to make a change was to go through my kitchen and throw out anything processed or animal-based. This was a little bit challenging (particularly as a grad student… I was throwing away food!), but once the food was gone, eating those kinds of foods would mean a trip to the store, and that takes too long when I’m hungry…especially considering the next tip.

3. Keep the Good Stuff Nearby

I always keep my fridge filled with fresh veggies. That means if I’m hungry and I go scrounging around in my kitchen, colorful veggies and leafy greens are the first things I see when I open the fridge. That keeps the thought, “oh well, nothing in here… I guess I’ll go out to eat,” out of my head. The only challenge here is learning some quick ways to prepare delicious plant-strong meals. If you know how to cook ’em, and the veggies are right there in front of you, you can eat well whenever you’re hungry.

4. Surround Yourself

I prepare healthy snacks in bulk, and keep them EVERYWHERE. I have enough small-serving bags of almonds and raisins to feed an army. I keep them at work, at home, in the car, in my back-pack… everywhere. I also have a dozen apples scattered about my life at all times, and a big bag of carrots in every fridge in my universe. Also, I usually have my “real” lunch and a “backup” lunch at work. This means that even on busy days, when I don’t have time to make a lunch, I don’t have to go out and try to order from a restaurant’s menu.

5. Embrace Frugality

Packing lunches saves a lot of money and helps me eat healthy. Another tool along these lines is to buy way too many veggies. I can’t stand to let stuff spoil, so I always try to cook what I buy. That means I have to eat a lot of veggies to keep up! As long as the food is healthy, it is almost impossible to over-eat. When it’s time to decide on the menu, I know that if I don’t cook that zucchini today or tomorrow, it’ll go bad. Guess what I’m eating for dinner!

6. Get Accountable

Accountability is my friend whenever I’m trying to change a habit. Knowing that my friends are aware of my goals (and will be aware of me not meeting them) is a huge motivator for me. Therefore I try to keep people aware of my eating habits in a way that’s light, playful, and not too preach-y. First, I don’t consider myself a “vegan.” This is partially because I’m not vegan (I wear leather shoes, and I eat animal products on occasion), and partially because I know plenty of “vegans” who only eat Tostitos and soy burgers and don’t even know what a vegetable looks like.

Anyway, even though I’m not a vegan, I do use the “V word” as a tool. When people ask about how I eat, I usually tell them in a joking way that, “I’m vegan most of the time… except when I’m not.” This makes it seem fun, and gets them over their initial freak-out right away. After that, I sometimes tease my friends saying, “NOT VEGAN” in a booming, playful voice when they eat a particularly un-healthy meal. (Note, that I never do this in a judgemental way.) This does a funny thing. It makes my diet seem fun and makes them keep an eye on me. When I’m out at a restaurant with friends, they’ll take pleasure in trying to call me out if they catch me eating a slice of pizza… then they get to use the, “NOT VEGAN” catchphrase!

5 thoughts on “6 Tricks for Healthy Eating

  1. Go Shawn! I like that you’re not “evangelical” about it. You lead by example and are not “preachy,” as you say. You’ve definitely faced ridicule from the most obstinate of friends, but it’s to be expected.

    “Tostito vegans” – good one; my new favorite term.

    So, in other news, check out http://www.naturesgardendelivered.com. Kristin and I have been receiving fresh, local/regional, organic fruits and veggies delivered to our door on Saturdays. Peaches, apples, Bibb lettuce, grapefruit, potatos, chard, you-name-it… (Had to learn to cook the chard: like mediterranean collards. Interesting.)

    Anyway, it’s so convenient: set your preferences online and exchange seasonal items you don’t want. Like you say, this auto-supply encourages me to eat more veggies. Can’t stand things spoiling – you know me.

    A side note: wilting. When celery, fresh carrots, chard, or lettuce wilt (you know, without turning bad), chop off the bottom of the stalk about 1 cm from the end, and put in a glass of water overnight. Like new.

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