Whether you’re trying to lose weight, gain muscle mass, or naturally consume more vitamins and nutrients, there are a number of reasons to adopt healthier eating habits. “Eating with a focus on fruits and vegetables and limiting intake of processed food and added sugar can result in weight loss, reduced cancer risk, improved mood, mental sharpness, boosted energy, improved sleep quality, and even better sex,” says registered dietitian Maggie Michalczyk, R.D.N, founder of Once Upon A Pumpkin.
Still, following a healthy diet and eating plan can be challenging. That’s why we asked Michalczyk and registered dietitian Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, author of The Little Book of Game-Changers: 50 Healthy Habits For Managing Stress & Anxiety (Viva Editions, January 2020) to share their top-tips for sticking to a healthy diet.
Strike A Balance
The number one mistake people make when starting a new eating plan, according to both Michalczyk and Cording, is having an ‘all or nothing’ approach. “People often often think that they can’t slip up at all—and then spiral and over-indulge if if they do,” says Cording. Instead of considering the day, week, or month ‘ruined’ after having a sugary cocktail, noshing on the cheese party-platter, or having a cookie (or four!), for example, “remind yourself that every eating occasion is an opportunity to get back on track,” she says.
To get into this mindset, Michalczyk encourages you to remember: “It’s okay to indulge every now and again. For this to be a sustainable, long-term lifestyle, you can’t beat yourself up when you have one less healthy meal or day. There’s got to be room for flexibility! ”
Try A Tracking App
Another common mistake people often make when starting a new eating plan, according to Cording, is eating too much, or too little! “It’s hard to look at something and know it’s macronutrient or calorie content,” she says. Trying to guesstimate the nutritional contents of your grub, often causes people to overly restrict their calories, and accidentally send their body into starvation mode, she says. Logging your meals into an app like MyFitnessPal, Noom, or WW is one way to understand what’s in your food, and to become more mindful about what you’re consuming.
However, tracking food and counting calories can definitely lead to an unhealthy obsession, says Michalczyk. “For some it can actually result in them getting further and further from their goals because if they step outside of the food parameters of their eating plan, they spiral.”
Her advice? Try using a tracking app to become aware of the nutritional content of your go-to foods, but give yourself some leeway if you slip up.
Keep A Food Journal
“Electronic tracking devices and apps are more likely to result in obsessive behavior and thoughts around eating and exercise than a paper journal,” says Cording. So, if you have a history of disordered eating or notice that logging your every bite into your phone detracts from your quality of life, she recommends using a food journal instead.
The main benefit of a food journal? “In addition to writing what you ate, there’s room to write down a little blurb about how the food and the meal made you feel, instead of just thinking about the foods calories,” she explains.
She suggests making notes on questions like: Was this meal satisfying? Did you eat it standing up or sitting down? Alone or with friends? Are you stuffed, comfortable, or still hungry after eating? “Reflecting on the emotional aspect of eating and your diet plan can help you get in touch with your body,” she says.
Get A Wingman
You have a wingman for dress shopping and getting your flirt on at the bar, so why not for eating well? It’s a great accountability tool, according to Michalczyk. “Having someone you trust who’s also trying to eat healthier to talk to can help you both make better choices and achieve your goals faster.”
Cording offers one word of warning: “Sometimes it can get competitive between weight loss/ healthy eating buddies, so if you notice that you’re comparing your intake, it’s a big red flag.” Healthy eating buddies should gas each other up you up and offer words of encouragement, if your wingman starts to do the opposite, part ways.
Tap Into The Internet
If you don’t have an IRL friend who wants to/is eat healthier, another option is to free to message folks on Instagram or Twitter who’s healthy eating approach you admire. Reddit is also a good resource for this.
Throw On An Apron
Even if you haven’t played chef since your were a kid, cooking at home is a great way to eat healthier and slash calories from your daily intake. “Restaurants usually over do it with oils, fats, sugar and salt because they are aiming to appeal to our pleasure senses,” says Michalczyk. “When you cook at home you control how much sugar, salt, oils and other additives go into the dish, and therefore your mouth.” Need recipe inspo? Check out RPS Nutrition’s favorite recipes here.
Don’t worry if you’re not Anthony Bourdain. Cording says it’s A-OK if your cooking skills are as simple as grilling chicken, sauteeing veggies, and blending a smoothie.. “You can make the same foods taste different simply by adding different spices, changing the texture of the protein source, or opting for frozen over fresh.”
Try A Meal or Grocery Delivery Service
For some people cooking is always going to feel like a chore or time-suck. If that’s you, Cording recommends trying a meal delivery service like Kettlebell Kitchens, Daily Harvest, or Green Chef. “I’m a fan of these because they allow you to eat well without making you feel like you need to spend hours in the kitchen or get a degree in nutritional sciences,” she says.
Stock Your Pantry and Purse With Healthy Snacks
“Something I see happen a lot is people waiting so long to have lunch or dinner that by the time they get food, they go above and beyond,” says Cording. It may sound counterintuitive, but eating between meals can actually keep you from becoming hangry, making poor decisions at meal time, and overeating.
While snacks like dried fruit and trail can pack a lot of extra calories, she and Michalczyk say hard boiled eggs, whole fruit, carrots or celery with hummus, beet chips, olives, and minimalist nut and protein bars are all solid, satisfying options.
Changing your eating habits isn’t as easy as wanting to change your eating habits. But, some of the above tips and strategies can help. “Creating new habits takes time. Just keep at it, and you’ll get where you want to be: healthier and happier,” says Michalczyk.