The choice to take on a new diet can come from many sources, be it a New Year’s resolution, a tough discussion with a doctor or loved one, or something as simple as wanting to feel healthier and more active.
No matter what path leads you to a new diet, chances are you will face the occasional setback on your way to a healthier lifestyle.
Rather than focusing on a particular type of diet, this post offers some universal tips anyone can use to overcome common diet pitfalls and make healthy choices a reflex rather than a reach.
Planning ahead: Wanting to eat healthier and taking day-by-day steps towards this goal are two very different things. Like any change in lifestyle, it’s best to think ahead and plan what parts of your daily choices will have the biggest impact on your health if changed.
Rather than diving in to a new diet, think about your current habits and have a discussion with your doctor or nutritionist to determine the behaviors you will need to alter to effect real change.
A big part of any diet plan will involve normalizing your eating habits – meaning that you will need to get into the habit of eating on a more predictable schedule where you eat reasonable-sized meals three times a day and round out your schedule with small, healthy but filling snacks.
Prepare (and Shop) for Success: Unhealthy foods don’t sneak into your grocery bag on their own. They usually end up in your cart because you don’t have a good alternative in mind and you fall back on items you are accustomed to purchasing.
Before going to the grocery store, plan out your next few days’ worth of meals and make a thorough list of items needed for those meals. This removes wiggle room and ensures your cabinets are full of healthier options. Don’t shop hungry!
Don’t Remove, Replace: Leaving tempting, unhealthy snacks in your home can make it easy to “cheat” when a craving hits. Rather than simply throwing out these items, try to replace these items with healthier options, like replacing salty snacks with unsalted nuts, baby carrots and other healthier alternatives. This will help you avoid feeling like you’re missing out on old favorites, especially when you get hungry between meals.
Find Healthy Alternatives: A little research can go a long way towards finding alternate cooking methods and ingredients that can allow you to enjoy many of your favorite dishes with a lower nutritional cost. Switching from oil to cooking sprays, choosing lean meat or skin-free poultry and other small changes can add up to significant improvements in your overall nutrition if you stick with them.
Don’t Eat Passively: The more attention we pay to the meals we prepare and eat, the more filling those meals tend to feel. As a result, try to make your meals more of an event rather than a hassle – eat with company and enjoy a good chat, rather than absently eating with the television on.
By staying more alert and active while eating, it can be easier to detect when your hunger has been satisfied, allowing you to stop before you overeat and take in unneeded calories.
Focus on Achievements: We all face setbacks, but after a few weeks of mostly making healthy choices, take stock of yourself and consider how much better you feel. Whether you are beginning to see physical improvement in your health, or just the satisfaction of knowing that you made a plan and stuck to your own goals, highlight your achievements and look towards even better improvements in the coming weeks.
While it can be a big step for some, telling a trusted friend or relative about your diet plans a few weeks after you start can be a real motivation, as they congratulate you on your progress and might even ask for tips themselves!
SelectCare hopes you find these guidelines helpful as you work to make healthier choices at mealtime. Our team of caregivers and Nurse Supervisors have more than 30 years of experience empowering our clients to make small, sustainable lifestyle changes that can translate to incredible results.