People often ask me how they can change their eating habits to increase their intake of healthier foods and lose weight. For many people, changing their diet can be a daunting task. Growing up, you may have never learned how to eat healthy and these unhealthy food choices carried into adulthood. You may have also grown up in a family where a bad day was made better by a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies or a trip out for ice cream. When you have established behaviors that span over many years, of course it can be hard to change. But it’s not impossible. With a little education and a few simple steps, you too can be on your way to enjoying a healthier diet…and the many health benefits that come with it.
Here are my Keys to Success:
Keep a Daily Food Diary
Keeping a daily food diary has many benefits. For one, seeing every choice you made in a given day allows you to not only monitor caloric intake, but also helps you realize patterns of behavior that you weren’t otherwise aware of. For example, after a month of keeping a food diary, a woman noticed that every Monday she would eat a muffin or donut at her weekly staff meeting. The next week, she made sure to have a breakfast high in fiber and protein to keep her full longer throughout the morning. Additionally, she brought a small plate of fresh fruit with her to snack on during the staff meeting. The amount of sugar in the fruit helped satiate her craving for sweets, allowing the temptation to grab a muffin or donut to greatly reduce.
Gradually Add Healthy Foods Into Your Diet
Don’t expect to reinvent the wheel here. You don’t have to throw away everything in your cupboards and replace the items with healthier options all at once. And you shouldn’t. Extreme measures such as these set people up to fail because the expectations are just too high. Make small changes to start. Still want to enjoy your pasta every Thursday night? How about replacing it with whole wheat pasta? Are you a huge fan of taco salad? Make your own, using ground turkey, sautéed bell peppers and onions and serve it with a small amount of cheese and avocado. Your revamped taco salad is now packed with nutrition and still very satisfying.
Gradually Decrease the Unhealthy Foods in Your Diet
Say you have coffee every morning with half and half or milk. Next week, try swapping your traditional milk or half and half for creamy almond milk. The following week, make a goal to replace 3 processed meals with vegetable-packed salads and lean proteins. Do you typically drink soda everyday? Replace at least one soda with a sparkling water. Easy. Again, small steps will set you up for success.
Pay Attention to Your Overall Calorie Consumption
There are many fitness and diet apps out today that allow you to easily keep track of your calories. FitDay and MyFitnessPal are especially popular and allow users to count their calories and track their exercise throughout the day.
If You Make a Mistake, Don’t Beat Yourself Up. Just Put Yourself Back on Course Right Away.
Are you human? I am. And I make mistakes. We all do. The worst thing you can do when you make a mistake, is beat yourself up endlessly about it. This will undoubtedly sour your mood and could likely cause you to continue in an unhealthy pattern. Made a mistake? Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and begin again.