5 Ways to Help Your Diet Become a Way of Life

By: Lisa Valente, M.S., R.D.

5 Ways to Help Your Diet Become a Way of Life

Pictured Recipe: Southwest Quinoa Cakes

Don't go on a "diet". Instead try these tips to transform your eating into sustainable and healthy patterns you can maintain for life . 

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.

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1. Don’t Give Up Your Favorite Foods

You shouldn’t have to say goodbye to your favorite foods. In fact, having a small treat everyday may help you stick to your diet. 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. 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.

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2. Eat Foods That Keep You Satisfied

Pictured Recipe: Chopped Chef’s 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. Two nutrients that help keep you full: protein and fiber. Good protein sources include plain Greek yogurt, chicken breast, tuna, tofu and almonds. And to get more fiber, munch on whole fruits and vegetables. Not only is produce high in fiber, but it’s also generally low in calories. 

3. Start with Small Changes

Pictured Recipe: Avocado-Yogurt Dip

3. Start with Small Changes

There’s no need for dramatic shake-ups, like eliminating whole food groups. It’s better to start with tiny diet tweaks if you want them to become permanent changes. 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.

4. Don?t Try to Be Perfect

Pictured Recipe: Salmon Salad Sandwich

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 having 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 your healthy eating habits and right back on track for long-term success.

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