Learn to Eat Healthy Using These 7 Tricks

Eleven years ago we started taking steps to eat healthier. It wasn’t an easy journey and sometimes downright hard. However, along the way we learned seven tricks that made the change easier and long lasting.

choosing healthy food is a trick to learning to eat healthy

How it Began

Carl and I grew up eating the typical American diet which included a lot of high sugar, high fat, and highly processed foods. We thought, at the time, that we were providing our kids with a healthier diet by choosing whole grain wheat products and excluding soda, sweetened cereals, and junk food from our house.

At the time we had just opened a CrossFit gym and to support our clients’ request for nutritional advice, we started learning about nutrition. We wanted to know more about the chemical make-up of food and how different food items interact with our bodies.

We learned that what we thought was healthy was actually only slightly better than what we grew up eating. (For what we now eat, check out our blog Eat Healthy to Be Healthy).

Although we did manage to change the way we eat, it wasn’t without , cravings, resistance (mostly from our kids still at home), and lots of trial and error when it came to new recipes and food products.

Along the way we discovered tricks that not only made it easier to transition to healthier food but also made eating healthy a pleasure rather than a chore.

Below are 7 tricks that can help you get off the processed food wagon, learn to enjoy the taste of real food, and discover the rewards of eating healthy.

Trick #1 – Seek True Gratification

Learn to eat healthy by seeking true gratification in food choices.

Have you ever compared the smell, feel, and taste of a freshly picked piece of fruit vs a piece of fruit-flavored candy? With the fruit you’ll experience the wonderful smell of the fruit. You’ll taste a mild sweetness mixed with the natural flavors of the fruit and notice the sticky sweet juice that slides down your hands as you enjoy each bite.

With the candy, there’s no aroma of the fruit, no sticky sweet juice, and such a sweet taste that it overpowers the fruit taste that the candy is said to have.

Processed foods are loaded with salt, sugar, fat, and other ingredients designed to mask the flavors of artificial preservatives and colors in the food.

And, that fruit-flavor the product so happily promotes – that’s also artificial, which is why an actual strawberry tastes quite different from strawberry “flavored” candy.

Have you ever noticed how much longer it takes to eat real food vs processed foods? That’s because those processed foods are designed to dissolve quickly in your mouth, getting you to eat faster and in greater quantity. Now you know why that bag of Cheetos disappears before you’ve really had a chance to taste it.

You’ll enjoy food more if you avoid all those artificial ingredients and fake flavors. Eating healthy means filling your home with real food. (For a better understanding of how manufactured foods impact your eating, see Precision Nutrition’s article Why You Can’t Stop Overeating – Manufactured Deliciousness).

Trick #2 – Break the Sugar, Fat, and Salt Addiction

Learn to eat healthy by ditching the junk food.

To really enjoy the taste of real, healthy food, you’ll need to wean yourself off excess salt, sugar, and fat. You’ll be doing this anyway if you’re eating fewer processed foods, but you can also prepare healthier meals and snacks using fresh ingredients, healthier fats, and less salt and sugar.

We found that the hardest of item to remove from our diet was sugar Our diet included wheat-based products that converted to sugar in our bodies, I put sugar in my coffee, and I used sugar to make homemade cookies and other sweets. We did finally kick sugar out of our life, but it was not easy or fast.

Had the many sugar replacement options on the market today (coconut crystals, Stevia, etc.), been readily available 11 years ago, we might have had an easier time, yet I’m sure it still could have been a struggle. If you find you are caving to the draw of sugar-laden products, check out Are You Addicted to Sugar? for suggestions on how to beat those cravings.

Trick #3 – Give Your Palate Time

giving your palate time to adjust to new flavors will help to eat healthy.

If you have been eating the “standard American diet” for years like we were, you may find your new diet is less appealing to your taste buds than those processed foods were. That’s to be expected. Remember, processed foods are designed to appeal to your taste buds so that you’ll eat more and more.

While it may be tough at first to skip that afternoon candy bar or fast-food fries, your palate will adapt to a variety of new flavors and you’ll gradually lose your taste for excessively sweet and salty foods.

I firmly believe processed foods actually dull our ability to taste “real” food. After we eliminated processed foods from our diet, I started to taste the foods we ate – really taste them. I could taste the herbs added to our meals, tell the difference between the flavor of fresh spinach and other leafy lettuce, and enjoy the natural sweetness of an apple (something that I hadn’t really noticed before).

So, trick #3, give your taste buds time to adjust to the taste and texture of real foods. It will be well worth the wait.

For more information on how our brain determines what you eat more so than your stomach, check out Precision Nutrition’s article Eating too Much? You Can Blame Your Brain.

Trick #4 – Read Labels Wisely

Learn to eat healthier by reading store labels.

I say wisely, as today you need to be an educated consumer not to be confused and misled by the claims that food manufactures make.

There are many things you can look for on the label, depending on your your nutritional wants or what you might be avoiding in your diet. (For example: is the product sugar-free, gmo-free, gluten-free? Does it contain high levels of sodium or fat? What are the ingredients?).

Ideally, I’d like to only buy foods that do not have a food label; but that is not always realistic. So, sometimes I have to buy foods that require a label.

Items that I look for on the label include sugar (if it is there, where is it listed?), whether the product is gmo-free or organic, what is the sodium content, and what ingredients are in the food. What you look for will depend on your overall nutrition goals.

However, to support a healthy lifestyle, I highly recommend avoiding artificial sweeteners, added sugar, artificial flavors & colors, and high sodium and fat content.

*Be wary of fat-free as these items can be higher in carbohydrates than the food they replace. Often times, salt, sugar and high fructose corn syrup are added to enhance the flavor of fat-free and low-fat items as removing the fat can diminish the flavor. The product may be lower in fat, but it will be higher in other ingredients that can increase calories and sodium levels.

To learn more than you probably ever thought you’d want to know about food labels, check out Precision Nutrition’s article Food Labels: Putting It all Together.

Trick #5 – Savor What’s on Your Plate

Learn to eat healthy means savoring what's on your plate

“Huh? What the heck does that mean? How can that help me eat healthy?”, you may ask. Actually, what I should say is savor the moment when you enjoy a meal. In other words, don’t multi-task when you eat.

As I was typing the above paragraph, advising you not to multi-task when you eat, I realized that I was doing exactly that. I was eating my lunch while typing. Not only is that not good for my digestion, it takes away from the pleasure of the delicious salad I fixed for my lunch. Hmmm….back in a few minutes….

So why “just eat”? Because eating without distractions will help you savor the tastes, textures, smells, and colors of the food on your plate. If you are trying to eat less along with eating healthier, it will also help you monitor serving size as you’ll be aware of just how much you’re eating. And finally, it will assure you are paying attention to whoever else is sharing that table with you.

Trick #6 – Go for High Quality Foods

Learn to eat healthy by selecting only high quality foods.

By high quality, I don’t mean only selecting organic or farmer’s market foods, though both are certainly preferable. I mean looking for products that contain the least amount of processed ingredients to ensure better taste and better quality.

To experience the nutty chewiness of true whole grain, opt for a bread like Ezekiel rather than white bread or “whole grain” breads that are just as unhealthy as white bread. And, of course, choose fresh produce over canned as much as possible. Frozen fruit and vegetables are preferable to canned when fresh is not available.

The less processed the product, the better the food with taste and the healthier it will be.

Trick #7 – Treat Yourself

Bet you were ready for me to tell you to occasionally treat yourself to a donut, piece of cake, or high calorie Starbucks drink, but that’s not the kind of treat I mean.

What I’m referring to is treating yourself to the enjoyment that eating regular delicious meals can bring. Allow yourself to get hungry enough that you look forward to that fresh smelling, fresh tasting meal, but not so hungry that you are desperate to shovel anything and everything in your mouth.

Select healthy snacks for mid-day cravings like a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, or sliced vegetables with hummus or guacamole.

When you do want a treat, consider a small amount of ice-cream topped with berries, make alternative banana fosters, whip up a batch of better-for-you chocolate chip almond butter cookies, wheat-free chocolate chip cookies or carrot-cake cupcakes.  You could also bake up a chocolate cake using alternate flour and sugar.

Learning to eat healthy means learning to select healthier treats.

Eating healthy is mostly about learning to cook with healthier ingredients while kicking processed food and drinks out of your life.

That’s it. We implemented these 7 tricks for eating healthier into our life and, after awhile, found we were eating healthy without even trying.

And now, not only do I find I don’t miss those artificial flavors, I don’t like the taste when presented with them.

Do you have a trick you use to keep yourself or your family eating healthier options? I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time,


*Note on processed foods: Although I don’t buy the typical processed foods that can be found in the grocery store, I do stock my pantry with some easy to prepare items.

The majority of these items I buy from ThriveMarket.com as I can find organic brands, boxed items with minimal ingredients & alternative flours, as well as the ingredients I use for meal preparation and baking.