We've all had those moments where we've set aside our plate of fries and decided today is the day we are going to commit to healthy eating. Although we have the best intentions, oftentimes this plan just doesn't stick, and we need to find better ways to maintain healthy, balanced eating longterm. Just like anything else, eating well takes some extra work — as well as time — to make your new choices turn into habits.
"So many people view eating healthy as being on a 'diet,' but that doesn’t have to be the case," says Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN and co-author of Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? over email. "When you think of the word diet, automatically, you think you need to restrict or deprive yourself —which some of us can do for a week or two — but it is not realistic as a long term approach. We also put so much pressure on ourselves, and beat ourselves up if we fall off of a 'diet,' leading to overeating or just giving up completely."
If you're someone who just can't seem to keep up with your healthy eating plan without falling off the wagon, try these six tips to maintaining healthy eating longterm.
1. Eat Breakfast
"Eat breakfast within 60 to 90 minutes of waking up," says Schapiro. "This gets your body and metabolism going and helps to prevent overeating later on." A study in the Nutrition Journal found that people experience a dramatic decline in cravings for sweet foods when they ate breakfast.
2. Eat Throughout The Day
"Eat something healthy every three to four hours," says Schapiro. "This keeps your metabolism going, blood sugar stable, and prevents you from making unhealthy choices. Think an apple, handful of nuts, or Greek yogurt to name a few [ideas]." Eating frequently keeps your blood sugar stable, which can prevent you from turning to junk food when you're low on energy, according to a study in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
3. Be Prepared
Plan your meals ahead of time, and grocery shop for the types of food you want to keep around the house. This will motivate you to eat well and cook foods that you will enjoy. "Always carry some snacks with you in case you are going to be occupied for hours without time to grab something," says Schapiro. "The last thing you want to do is grab some cookies, chips, or whatever else you can get your hands on because you were hungry and didn’t have a healthy option on you."
4. Treat Yourself
"If you allow yourself a small treat, you won’t feel deprived, and will be able to eat these foods in moderation," says Schapiro. Research from Cornell University found that even eating just a small portion of a food you are craving is just as satisfying as eating the full amount.
5. Drink A Lot Of Water
"A lot of us mistake hunger for thirst, so if we know we are well hydrated, we can better manage our hunger cues," says Schapiro. Drinking water also gives you more energy, prevents headaches, and manages your mood, making it easier to choose good-for-you foods rather than foods that will soothe you in the moment.
6. Eat Mindfully
Mindful eating is the practice of becoming aware of what you are putting into your body, and it can be as simple as eating more slowly, savoring your food with all your senses, and making conscious choices. Studies show that mindful eating can help cultivate healthier eating habits, according to Harvard Health, so make it a habit to put an extra focus on your meals.
Developing good habits take time, so be patient with yourself when cultivating new, healthier ways of eating, whether it's your attitude or what you buy from the grocery store.
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