How to Eat Healthy Without Thinking Much About It

Photo by Daniel

A minimalist guide to a healthy “diet”

“I’m going on a diet,” are words I’ve never said.

Diet for me is just a way of eating, not a list of prescriptions and proscriptions. Most diets promote myriad ingredients and types of foods to consume. If you fail to adhere to those guidelines, you feel guilty and have to start over.

The problem? In case you haven’t noticed, life isn’t perfect. We mess up every now and then — sometimes for no fault of your own. The inevitability of these slip-ups causes people to not adopt diets in the first place.

People cringe at the thought of going on a diet because it places restrictions on their life. That they have to eat a certain type of food in a certain quantity even if it’s their best friend’s birthday party. There’s no room for experimentation or failure.

But there’s a better way. A way that can help you think less about food, achieve your fitness goals and simplify your diet — all at the same time. And you need only keep in mind a few simple guidelines!

A Simple Switch to Start Eating Healthy

As a rule of thumb, try maximizing the number of whole foods in your diet and minimize the rest. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, greens, fish, eggs, etc are a few examples.

Most processed foodstuffs make claims that are misleading at best. “Zero fat,” “zero sugar” or “high protein” are often hollow phrases designed to attract your attention. They mask the true reality that’s only visible in small letters behind the packaging — the list of ingredients.

Further, these ingredients are increasingly cryptic. It’s rare for an average to discern the good ingredients from the bad ones. I’m willing to wager that the unawareness of the average consumer coupled with savvy marketing tactics of food companies is the reason behind most health problems.

Not only are whole, single-ingredient foods better but they also save shopping time and storage space. This single change is the best way to get healthier on autopilot without stressing over calories or macronutrients.

80% Progress in Physical Health Happens Here

The more foods you store, the more you’ll eat. That’s common sense which alas, isn’t that common.

As they say, 80% of progress in physical health is made in the kitchen. Your kitchen determines your choices which decides how you look and feel. Minimizing the food choices makes you eat healthier and cook fast.

Cleaning your kitchen isn’t that big a task either:

  • Use simple flavorings: If your ingredients are high-quality, you wouldn’t need a lot of flavoring. Some olive oil, salt, and pepper are fine in most cases. Our cupboards are stocked with more flavorings we can ever eat. Avoid wasting money on these since they often can be replaced with a combination of existing basic flavorings.
    I once bought a newly-launche sauce which wasn’t as healthy as it seemed. But its mere existence pushed me to eat it every day and as you can guess, gave me a hanging belly a few weeks later.
  • Simply your kitchen tools: If cooking is hard, you’ll end up procrastinating and order takeout. No matter how healthy your ingredients are if you don’t cook them, they mean nothing.
    Basic utensils are often enough to cook most meals. You don’t need a separate fancy device for trivial things. What you label as “essential” is up to you. But a simpler kitchen ensures you spend as little time as possible to fit in your busy schedule.
  • Make healthy foods accessible: There are times when you will feel unusually hungry or craving something unhealthy. Personally, in these times, I eat whatever I see first! So if I see a box of nuts, I’ll take a few and go back to work. However, if the nuts were buried inside a cupboard, I’ll probably open the fridge to get a piece of chocolate or sweetmeats.
    Trick yourself into eating healthy food and you’ll not have to rely on willpower.

How to Not Get Lost In Food Choices Every Day

The more time we spend thinking about what to eat, the more chances our mind has to trick us. To avoid this from happening, I’ve created a few staple meals in my life. Everyone loves 3–5 meals that they can eat anytime.

Add some more to that list and you’ll have go-to food choices everytime you want to eat. The goal here is to have 5–10 meals that don’t take much thought, but you enjoy eating enough that you are happy to have them any night of the week.

Using this strategy, I’ve been having the same breakfast every morning. 90% of my lunches are from a certain list of food choices and so are my dinners. To avoid snacking, I also have a smoothie between lunch and dinner, the recipe for which has been the same for months if not years.

I never have the problem of thinking about what to eat because I always have a list of items to choose from.

Most healthy people I know follow this strategy. Why? Because it ensures you’re intentional about your choices but doesn’t drown you in a slew of food choices.

The Only “Diet” I’m On

This is not diet as it doesn’t prescribe what to eat. Instead, it determines when to eat. Yes, I’m talking about Intermittent Fasting (IF). The part about intermittent fasting is not its health benefits but the lifestyle benefits.

Eating 2–3 meals a day only instead of 5–6 makes life much easier. I don’t have to rethink my plans to suit my meal times anymore. I can work through the morning, without worrying about stopping at a certain time.

I started intermittent fasting by eating 2 meals a day and am back to 3 meals to enjoy breakfast with my family during the COVID lockdown. Yet, even the 3 meals are simple enough, thanks to all the tips above.

I eat my dinner around 7 and breakfast around 10, which gives me 15 hours to fast — not the best, but not bad. Reducing the number of meals significantly helps you lost weight and simplify your life like no other nutrition fad out there.

Note: If you think “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” or you need to eat regularly to “stoke the metabolic fire”, click here

Isn’t All This Boring?

The minimalist way to eat can seem boring or even unentertaining. That’s understandable because I’m not optimizing for that. My goal is to live a healthy life without having to obsess over it.

From that perspective, food is fuel, nothing more. This doesn’t mean that I never go out or detest delicious food — but those things are not my source of entertainment or happiness. I have other things to look forward to in my life than food.

No diet will help you if you’re overly attached to food. But once you start eating healthy, the joy of being healthier will be much more than the temporary joy of tasting good food.

I’ll be the first one to admit that this diet may or may not work for you. Then again, as I said at the top, I’m not preaching a diet. I’m simply preaching a simple way to think about your diet.

As you can see minimalist eating is less about rules and more about general guidelines suited to your nature. There’s no need to feel guilty about your choices as long as they lead to good health in the long run and less stress in daily life.

Using the simple points I mentioned above, you can easily get started on the path to good health without investing much time. As you put them into practice, your job is to introspect regularly to see what’s working and what isn’t.

Over a period of few months, you’ll then have a plan that you love to follow and helps you achieve your goals at the same time. Isn’t that better than a hardcore diet?

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Written on May 18, 2021