Forget going on a "diet". Instead try these tips to transform your eating into sustainable and healthy patterns you can maintain for life.

Lisa D'Agrosa, M.S., R.D.

All too often we start out with grand intentions-"I'm going to lose weight and eat better (this time will be different, I swear!)"-only to revert back to our old eating habits within a week or two. Deprivation and crash diets don't work. Neither does giving up all your favorite foods-who wants to do that?

So how can you give your desire to eat healthy and lose weight some sticking power? Try these five tips to help turn your weight-loss plan into a strategy for healthy eating for the long haul.

Don't Miss: Healthy Meal Plans

Pictured recipe: Cheesy Spinach-&-Artichoke Stuffed Spaghetti Squash

1. Don't Give Up Your Favorite Foods

A huge diet red flag? If you're told you need to say goodbye to your favorite foods. In fact, having a small treat everyday can help you stick to your diet (and just feel better about what you're eating). Research in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that a small daily treat didn't sabotage weight-loss efforts. Your favorite foods can fit into any diet.

Have smaller portions of indulgent foods like brownies and ice cream. Love pasta? Try adding vegetables to bulk up your serving instead of doubling up on pasta (learn the pros and cons of the low-carb keto diet craze). Skip the treats you're not really excited about (think: stale office cookies that you're only grabbing because they're in front of you), but don't cut out the foods you love to eat. Of course your diet should be full of mostly healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains-but make room for some of your favorite treats too.

Pictured recipe: Quinoa Avocado Salad

2. Eat Foods That Keep You Satisfied

If you feel hungry all the time, it's going to be hard to stick with a healthy-eating plan. Research shows that when you're hungrier, you're more likely to eat too fast at your next meal. Eating too quickly can lead to consuming extra calories because your body doesn't have time to register feeling full. While portion control is important for losing weight and keeping it off, you shouldn't hear your tummy grumbling all day long.

Three nutrients that help keep you full: protein, fat and fiber. Good protein sources include plain Greek yogurt, chicken breast, tuna, tofu and almonds. Instead of fearing fat, realize that it serves a purpose. It's super-satisfying and helps you absorb certain nutrients (plus, it tastes good). Aim to include healthy fats in your diet like olive oil, nuts and nut butters and avocados. To get more fiber, munch on whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Not only is produce high in fiber, but it's also generally low in calories (get our best grab-and-go whole-grain snacks).

3. Start with Small Changes

There's no need for dramatic shake-ups, like eliminating whole food groups or hitting the gym 7 days a week. It's better to start with tiny diet tweaks if you want them to become permanent changes. Trying to change everything and go to the extreme sets you up for failure.

Instead, set a small goal or two every week of a healthy change you'd like to make. That could be drinking a glass of water when you wake up to stay hydrated, adding a serving of vegetables to your lunch or going to bed 30 minutes earlier. Small changes add up and can help you make healthier eating a way of life, rather than relying on short-term crash dieting.

Pictured recipe: Sweet & Sour Chicken

4. Don't Try to Be Perfect

We often have grand ideas about implementing a new diet-like the promises you make yourself about eliminating sugar, never taking from the breadbasket or always eating vegetables at dinner. Instead of trying to be perfect, be realistic. Make your eating plan one that you can actually stick to. You don't have to eat perfectly to lose weight (what is a perfect way of eating anyway?); you just have to eat well.

Set your healthy goals for the week, like packing a healthy lunch for a few days-and go easy on yourself if you slip up. Eating indulgences are bound to happen. And when they do…

5. Get Right Back on Track

If you eat too much chocolate or pizza-don't beat yourself up! Just get back on track again. Remember that one meal doesn't undo all of your healthy efforts. Don't "wait until Monday" or give up altogether on the healthy eating habits you've established. If you have a minor setback, understand that it's one small blip on the radar. Get right back to eating foods that make you feel good and you'll be right back on track for long-term success.

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