There are many ways in which you can adopt healthier eating habits and doing so doesn’t have to be difficult. The all or nothing approach can set you up for failure. If your goal is to eat better and improve your health, then I have 5 essential tips for transitioning to healthier eating and for sticking with it!
Add before you subtract!
No, this isn’t about math, it’s about adding in healthier foods before you remove the unhealthy ones. Some people like to make a clean break of it, removing all the unhealthy foods from their diet in one go. I’ve found that this approach can lead to setbacks and often a failure of their attempt to eat healthier. So, if you’re making the transition to healthier eating, start by adding some green veggies to your lunch or dinner, have a side salad with your sandwich or order up some broccoli with your dinner. The key here is to add some of the healthier foods (fruits and green vegetables especially), to become used to them before you start to remove foods completely from your diet.
Once you’ve added in some of the healthier foods and have become used to them, it’s time to make some substitutions. Again, it’s not about eliminating but rather finding healthier substitutions. Move to baked over fried, substitute vegetable noodles for pasta, use yogurt-based salad dressings instead of traditional dressings, carrots sticks and dip rather than chips and dip….you get the idea! Get creative! See it as a challenge. Come up with ways of getting healthier alternatives to your usual dishes.
Set yourself up for success!
Clean out your kitchen cupboards and fridge for all those sabotaging foods. Having unhealthy foods easily available will break anyone. And if you just can’t control yourself around your favorite foods, don’t have them in your house! You can still eat them but find a way to limit how often you eat them. If you love ice cream but eat the whole pint (or quart!) in one go, buy the little individual sized cartons. If this doesn’t work, you bought 10 little cartons, then don’t bring the ice cream home. Go to the local ice cream store, get your scoop or even a double scoop and call it good. This approach can be applied to many “treats.”
Don’t give up your favorites!
Eating for health is a long-term habit that will impact your health over your lifetime. This allows for some fudging (mmmm, fudge!). You can still have your favorites and you should. Research shows that individuals that allow themselves their favorite treats are better at sticking to a healthy eating plan than those that don’t. So go ahead and have your favorite treats, just limit them.
Hey, I’ve got some news, nobody is perfect! We all make mistakes so don’t let them derail your healthy eating. We all have our temptations and occasionally we are going to give into them. Just because you ate a pint of ice cream, a box of cookies or half a pizza (ok, a whole pizza!), don’t let that be the trigger that sets you back on the path of unhealthy eating. Improving your health and maintaining it over time is not determined by one meal. It’s what we eat on a regular, daily basis that will determine if our diet helps or hurts our health. So one bad meal or even a string of a few won’t undo your health. Just get back to your healthy eating!
Until next time, stay well!
Dr. Tobi Schmidt