Okay, so now you’ve read all about how to eat and what to eat, but what about how you’re going to maintain that? This is often seen as the most challenging part–continued healthy eating in your life and integrating it into your lifestyle. But that’s the great thing about eating healthy, it can be easy, fun and delicious as well as adjusted to fit your unique lifestyle! Eating healthy certainly makes you feel more energized, your body feel physically better as well as leading you to live a healthier, happier, life!
You may have seen, heard of, or experienced a “failed diet”. That’s the issue with so-called dieting; when you restrict foods or certain food groups (unless for medical health reasons of course), it can be difficult to maintain. You crave those foods that you have set as off-limits, and then eventually you give in to those temptations, binge/overindulge, feel guilty and continue into a downward spiral. But, there’s no reason to give up eating healthy if you think of it as a lifestyle change that you are making to improve yourself. Making simple switches and swap-outs gradually can help ensure that you maintain this eating plan. So the biggest thing to remember here is not to call it or approach healthy eating as a restrictive diet, but rather a wholesome, good-for-you and well-rounded eating/nutrition plan.
What I believe to be the easiest and best way to ensure healthy eating, is to stock your kitchen with healthy foods and not with unhealthier options. Like that old proverb: out of sight, out of mind. Now, while it doesn’t work perfectly this way (you will likely think about it at the beginning), if it isn’t available to reach for than you won’t be tempted to eat it. A big tip here is to not go to the grocery store hungry. When your body is in that state of hunger, your mind begins telling yourself to grab more snacky, processed and less nutritional foods. A good plan is to make a list of everything you need beforehand, and buy only those things (on a full stomach!) at the store. Also, as you begin to eat healthier, it will get easier to forget the junk you left behind and start to crave healthier foods.
A second thing that is important in maintaining your nutrition plan is to eat foods that taste good/that you enjoy and avoid ones that you dislike. Now, if you say you hate every single vegetable and therefore cannot and will not eat any veggies…that’s an issue where this idea does not apply. However, if you hate spinach, find a new dark leafy green to eat such as kale or bok choy. Not a big salad fan? Try different varieties to make sure or add all those cut up veggies to a veggie bowl or to your sandwich. Don’t eat eggs? Get your protein in other sources such as yogurt, nuts and lean meats. The point is that if you are constantly shoving food down that tastes gross or that you dislike, you take the pleasure out of food. And it is likely that your new eating healthy eating habits won’t last long. Instead, find foods that taste good, are healthy and that you enjoy to fill up your plate–still leaving room for a small amount of treats.
Lastly, make food enjoyable/pleasurable. Often times when on restrictive diets, people tend to view food just as fuel and who cares about what it tastes like, right? WRONG! While YES it is important to view food as fuel so that we are filling our bodies with the best options we can, but viewing it only as fuel and not as an enjoyable experience is where it goes wrong. Play around with new flavors or recipes. Enjoy food in a social setting such as going out or gathering friends. *Now, it is important if you will be at a more social event or eating out, to watch the amounts you eat. Oftentimes, portions at restaurants are actually 2-3 servings, not just one! While, yes, you should treat yourself, if you are eating 2-3 portions 2-3 times a week…the results will not be good. Make smart choices for yourself and don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions on the menu in order to eat what’s healthy and still enjoy the experience. When you do treat yourself, enjoy and savor every bite so that it will feel satisfying and not leave you needing that huge treat all the time. There are plenty of ways to eat good-for-you, healthy foods while still finding time to eat less nutritious foods and enjoy the experience of it all!
Eating healthy and maintaining that type of lifestyle doesn’t have to be challenging, painful or just plain awful. Beginning to pay attention to your body’s hunger cues and filling it with healthful foods, while still finding time to have an occasional treat, is a great start to turning your diet around. Healthy eating is both meant to be enjoyed as an experience and a great way to fuel your body to live that healthy life! And the best part is that each person can tailor it to your unique lifestyle!