A healthy diet should not be about depriving yourself of your favorite foods, holding yourself to strict dietary limitations, or setting unrealistic goals. Rather, it should be about increasing your energy, feeling great, reducing your risk of disease, and stabilizing your mood. Despite all of the benefits, sticking to a healthy diet and lifestyle is not always easy. Here are 7 ways to sustain your healthy eating plan.
1. Avoid an “all or nothing” approach. No one is perfect. When it comes to food, temptation is everywhere. So many of our social events focus on eating. Every birthday party, girls night out and retirement lunch is another situation where we confronted with unhealthy foods and forced to make eating choices. When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is normal to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation.
Allowing yourself to indulge every now and then can actually prevent you from over-eating and stop you from completely falling off of your nutrition plan. If (when) you do overindulge, try not to consider the day ruined. Move forward, choosing healthy, protein-rich foods for the remainder of the day. Rebounding from an eating slip-up is the best way to prove to yourself that you are dedicated to nourishing your body.
2. Carry healthy snacks. Our busy lifestyles can make it extremely difficult to stick to a healthy eating plan. On the days when your meeting runs late, the kids need to get from soccer practice to saxophone practice, and the dog has to get picked up from the vet, it is much easier to reach for a donut or handful of chips than to go out and find a healthful food choice. These processed foods never really satisfy your hunger and are not good for you in the long run.
Having healthy snacks on hand will keep your appetite in check until you are able to have a full meal. Leave some high-protein, portable snacks such as almonds, peanuts, and turkey jerky in your car or pocketbook at all times. Consider bringing a small cooler with cheese, Greek yogurt or hard-boiled eggs with you to work. A little bit of planning can avoid a vending machine desperation snack.
3. Have realistic expectations. There are numerous benefits to eating a healthy diet. Weight loss is just one of those benefits. It is important to realize that losing weight in a healthy way takes time. Pressuring yourself to lose weight too quickly can backfire if the scale doesn’t instantly reflect the target weight you have set for yourself.
Researchers found that obese people who expected to lose a lot of weight quickly were more likely to drop out of a weight loss program within 6–12 months. Conversely, those who set more realistic and achievable goals were less likely to get discouraged and reported greater weight loss. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend setting a goal of losing 1-2 pounds each week. This equates to a 4-8 pound weight loss each month. Having realistic expectations about your weight loss increases your chances of maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors.
4. Plan your meal BEFORE eating out. Trying to maintain a healthy diet while eating out can be very challenging. It is a good idea to have a strategy in place before you get to the restaurant, rather than being overwhelmed once you get there.
Most restaurants have an online menu available for you to view, and many include calorie and fat information. Research the menu ahead of time and find an option that meets your dietary needs. Choosing your food before you arrive makes it easier to avoid snap decisions you might regret later. Be sure to eat slowly, chewing each bite fully. This will help you feel full more quickly and help you avoid overeating.
5. Eat close to the earth. Our bodies gain the most nutritional benefit by eating foods as close to their natural state as possible. Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and filled with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
Focus on eating the recommended daily minimum of five servings of fruit and vegetables. This will fill you up and help you cut back on unhealthy foods. A serving is half a cup of raw fruit or vegetables or a small apple or banana. Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day as deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Add berries to breakfast cereals, eat fruit for dessert, and snack on vegetables such as carrots, snow peas, or cherry tomatoes.
6. Keep unhealthy foods out of the house. Junk foods are almost impossible to avoid. They are easily accessible and oh-so-tempting. It is almost impossible to to maintain a healthy diet when you are surrounded by cookies, chips, and sweets.
Get your family on board and perform a ‘junk food sweep’ of your kitchen and pantry. Get rid of the snacks that entice you the most and have your family members hide any snacks that they just can’t live without. Stock up on fruits, vegetables, nuts, popcorn, and low-fat cheese so that you are prepared when hunger strikes.
7. Be accountable for the foods you eat. When you’re trying to lose weight or maintain your weight loss, willpower alone often isn’t enough to keep you on track. Studies show that daily logging of your food intake and exercise helps you stick to a healthy diet and leads to greater weight loss.
Logging the foods you eat into a diary, online food tracker or smart phone app gives you a visual log of your daily and weekly progress. The LIWLI Health Trac app is easy to use as a food tracker. Measuring your exercise schedule is also extremely important, and provides you with motivation that can help you stay the course.
Making the commitment to live a healthy lifestyle is the best gift you can give yourself. Incorporate these tips into your routine to help ensure your success and take pride in the fact that you are taking steps to be the best version of yourself you can possibly be.