Maintaining healthy eating habits all year long is hard, so you promise yourself to start over in the new year. If healthier eating habits and weight loss are part of your New Year’s resolutions, the hard part is actually sticking to it long term. Here are a few tips to help you keep on track with your weight loss resolution.
Set Realistic Goals
Make yourself accountable by writing down your goals. They must be realistic, measurable and sustainable. Start with a to-do list and a food diary to give you a measurable and realistic picture of what you are actually eating every day.
Your goals are a contract with yourself to maintain a healthy lifestyle going forward. Print them and keep them in the kitchen where you prepare meals since this is where you will be most tempted to make or break your resolution. Refer to your contract daily to remind yourself of your long-term goal.
Start with Small Changes
The key to maintaining your goals long term is through gradual changes. Don’t overhaul your diet at once—make small, simple changes gradually. For example, if you normally drink three sodas per day, cut down to one per day and add water and fruit juice to your daily intake. Eventually, stop drinking soda altogether. You could add a serving of fruit and vegetables to your daily meals and take steps to eliminate added sugars from your diet in two months.
Small changes every week will add up over time. Remember, it’s a marathon and not a sprint! Setting small goals with a definitive date keeps you on track. Below are examples of small goals that you can celebrate completing weekly:
- Week One: Drink 10 glasses of water per day.
- Week Two: Add a serving of green leafy vegetables daily.
- Week Three: Reduce intake of processed foods by eating only whole-grain products.
- Week Four: Eliminate fried foods.
- Week Five: Begin eating one vegetarian meal per week.
- Week Six: Reduce alcohol consumption to a maximum two drinks per week
You will be successful if you focus on changes that can be seamlessly integrated into your lifestyle to make it easier for you to sustain them long term.
Your pantry and refrigerator make or break any effort you make towards better health. Remove all foods from your refrigerator and pantry that sabotage your health goals. This includes empty calorie foods such as cakes, pies, cookies, chips, sugary sodas and some cereals. Reduce your consumption of frozen meals because they are high in sodium and contain additives and preservatives. Always remember, the longer the product shelf life, the more preservatives it contains. The less of these products there are in your home, the less you will be tempted to eat them. Stock your kitchen with healthy, nutrient dense food, such as:
- Vegetables (fresh or frozen )
- Fresh fruits (fresh or frozen)
- Lean protein (lean meat, chicken breast, turkey breast, tofu, fish, egg whites)
- Healthy snack foods (nonfat cottage cheese, mozzarella sticks, trail mix, protein bar)
- Bottled water
Often, it is the amount of food we consume as opposed to the actual food we eat that creates the weight gain. Portion control is key to long-term success. Keep these tips in mind:
- Learn to read food labels. Be aware of the number of servings contained in the prepackaged foods, then note the calorie and fat content per serving. If a package lists one serving has 250 calories and 10 grams of fat, and it contains two servings, then you would have consumed 500 calories and 20 grams of fat.
- + Compare restaurant portions to recommended serving sizes. When you eat out, compare the size of the portion you are served to what is recommended by the USDA. A pasta dinner from your favorite restaurant might add six or more servings of grains to your daily intake. One 12-ounce piece of meat is 3 ounces more than your whole days’ recommendation!
- Repackage supersize bags. Large bags of snack may be more economical, but they may lead to overeating. Repackage the contents into smaller containers.
- Eat half or less. When you eat out, eat half of what you’re served and take the rest home to enjoy as another meal. Ask for the box when your plate arrives and pack it up right away.
- Use a smaller plate. At home, serve your meals on smaller plates. Your plate will look full, but you’ll be eating less.
By incorporating the tips, you will have a better road map to succeed with your weight loss resolution!
Claudia Martin Ayoade is a registered dietitian/nutritionist. You can contact Claudia at Claudia4RD@gmail.com.