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Ways to stick to a diet

11 ways to adopt a healthy, sustainable eating pattern

Sticking to a healthy diet long-term can be challenging. Here are 11 tips to help you succeed.

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How to stick to a diet: 11 tips to adopt a healthy diet
Last updated on February 13, 2024, and last reviewed by an expert on September 10, 2023.

Changing your eating habits might seem challenging, but you can make it happen with some planning, lifestyle tweaks, and being conscious about your food choices. It’s a good idea to seek advice from a healthcare provider or nutrition expert for tailored guidance.

How to stick to a diet: 11 tips to adopt a healthy diet

In our busy, fast-moving world, keeping up with a nutritious eating plan is often easier said than done. We’ve all been there.

Initially, sorting through various healthful diets to decide which fits your needs can be overwhelming.

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And even after you’ve chosen a dietary pattern, consistently following it presents its own set of challenges.

However, the encouraging news is that sticking to a nutritious diet is entirely doable, even on those tough days. And the best part? You don’t have to sacrifice your favorite dishes to do so.

There’s a wealth of simple, no-cost techniques to make maintaining a balanced diet less daunting.

Here are 11 top tips to help you stay committed to a nutritious diet.

The term “diet” can have multiple meanings. It could refer to a temporary change in food consumption focused on objectives like weight loss (for example, going keto), or it could mean an individual’s or community’s regular eating habits. In this article, we’re primarily talking about the latter — a long-term eating pattern that represents your usual food choices.

1. Opt for whole foods for a balanced diet

Healthy eating can take many forms; no two balanced diets are identical.

However, most effective, long-lasting healthy eating plans share a common trait: They focus on whole foods.

Whole foods are items that are barely processed and include:

While shakes, supplements, and trendy diets may appear beneficial at first glance, whole foods have consistently been associated with improved overall health across various cultures.

Whole foods are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and plant compounds that nourish your gut and lower the risk of chronic conditions like obesity and diabetes.

In contrast, highly processed foods like snacks, sweets, and sugary beverages are more likely to contribute to inflammation and chronic illnesses.

Summary: Various approaches to healthy eating exist, but most prioritize nutrient-packed, whole foods such as fruits, veggies, grains, and proteins.

2. Reconsider quick-fix diets

Before jumping into a new eating regimen, ask yourself, “Is this sustainable in the long run?”

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You might be heading down the crash diet path if your answer is no.

Crash diets typically involve extreme reductions in calorie intake to achieve rapid weight loss.

But here’s the reality about such diets, whether it’s keto, Atkins, or any other— the results often don’t last. Over time, most dieters tend to regain the weight they shed.

Interestingly, one eating pattern that has stood the test of time is the Mediterranean diet, which emphasizes whole foods.

So, instead of fixating on quick weight loss, try to shift your focus toward nourishing your body with quality foods.

In the grand scheme of things, the healthy habits you establish from a well-rounded diet often prove to be more beneficial than the weight you may lose in a short span.

Summary: Quick-fix diets might offer rapid weight loss, but these gains are often short-lived. Sustainable, nutrient-rich diets tend to offer long-term benefits.

3. Seek expert guidance for a smooth start

Let’s be honest: starting a healthy eating plan can feel daunting and overwhelming.

With many diets to sift through, figuring out where to begin might seem like a Herculean task. It feels like everyone has advice on what you should or shouldn’t eat.

The upside is, you’re not in this alone.

Several certified experts are available to guide you on your journey.

Consulting a registered dietitian can clarify meal planning, essential food categories, your daily nutrient requirements, and appropriate diets for certain medical conditions.

Similarly, a behavior change expert, like a psychologist, can assist you in shaking off old habits and developing healthier ones.

Suggested read: The 17 best ways to maintain weight loss

Summary: Engaging with trained professionals offers a supportive foundation and ensures you receive reliable, current information about maintaining a nutritious diet.

4. Discover the diet that suits you

You often hear certain diets touted as the “best” or “healthiest,” but the truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to dieting.

A unique blend of factors like genetics, health conditions, work commitments, family dynamics, and cultural backgrounds shapes everyone’s life.

A single diet can’t possibly cater to such diverse individual needs.

Ultimately, the “best” diet for you is the one that makes you feel good and that you can sustain over the long term.

Summary: The key to maintaining a healthy diet is finding an eating pattern that is rich in nutrients and aligns with your lifestyle, preferences, and unique circumstances.

5. Keep nutrient-rich foods within reach

Recent studies indicate that worldwide consumption of ultra-processed foods is on the rise.

These are industrially produced foods filled with additives like sweeteners, stabilizers, and preservatives to enhance flavor and extend shelf life. Think of fast food, frozen meals, and sugary beverages.

Not only are these foods tasty, making them tempting, but merely being around them can also affect your brain and behavior.

A proactive way to resist these temptations is by not keeping them at home, thus limiting your exposure.

Conversely, filling your fridge and pantry with wholesome, nutrient-dense foods is an effective strategy for staying focused on your healthy eating goals and making nutritious choices more often.

Summary: Keeping healthy options at hand, rather than the unhealthy ones you try to avoid, boosts your likelihood of staying on track.

6. Stock up on nutritious snacks

Often during those moments of intense hunger or when a tasty temptation crosses our path, our well-intentioned healthy eating plans go awry.

While it’s completely normal to have cravings, studies show that extreme hunger can amplify these urges.

Suggested read: Healthy eating guide: Nutrients, macros, tips, and more

Having an arsenal of healthy and satisfying snacks readily available can help you navigate these moments until your next substantial meal.

Opt for snacks rich in protein and fiber to keep those hunger pangs in check.

Here are some examples:

Summary: Keeping a stock of wholesome, satiating snacks within easy reach minimizes the likelihood of deviating from your health-conscious eating plan when sudden hunger hits.

7. Enjoy your favorite foods mindfully

Do you think you must give up your favorite treat to eat healthily? Think again!

Completely cutting out the foods you adore can actually work against you. In the short term, it can ramp up your cravings, especially if you’re someone who is naturally more prone to them.

Some studies even suggest that feeling satisfied instead of deprived when you’re on a diet can actually lead to more effective weight loss.

The key is to indulge in your favorites in moderation and with a watchful eye on portion sizes.

Summary: Believe it or not, there’s room for every food in a balanced diet, even those you might think are off-limits. The trick is moderation and mindful portion control.

8. Ditch the all-or-nothing mindset

A common roadblock many people face while trying to eat better is getting trapped in an all-or-nothing way of thinking.

You might catch yourself thinking something like: “I already had a slice of cake at the office party, so I might as well skip cooking dinner and just order takeout.” This mindset categorizes choices as strictly “good” or “bad.”

However, viewing each dietary decision as independent from the rest is more helpful. A single indulgence doesn’t have to lead to a chain reaction of poor choices for the rest of the day.

In fact, believing in your ability to make healthy decisions usually correlates with better health outcomes. So don’t let one minor slip-up throw you off course.

Summary: Rather than getting caught in an all-or-nothing loop, treat each new dietary decision as a fresh opportunity. A single misstep doesn’t mean the whole day is ruined.

9. Be prepared for dining out

Dining out and social events are often the highlights of our week, but they can pose a challenge when you’re trying to maintain a healthy eating routine.

Restaurant dishes are typically higher in calories, salt, sugar, and fat and contain more processed ingredients than homemade meals. Plus, the portion sizes are usually larger.

Additionally, when we’re in social settings, we’re influenced by other people’s food choices, making it easy to stray from our healthy eating goals.

Suggested read: Should you have cheat meals or cheat days?

Don’t worry and remain calm! By planning ahead, you can still enjoy dining out while sticking to your healthy diet. Here are some pointers to consider:

Summary: Prepping ahead for dining out can make the experience less stressful and help you stick to your healthy eating goals, even when you’re not cooking at home.

10. Track your journey

Keeping tabs on your own advancement is a straightforward yet potent strategy to see how you’re doing.

You can do this in a basic way, like jotting down your daily food intake in a diary, or you can go all out using a mobile or online application that keeps records of your daily calories, weight, physical activity, and so forth.

When you’re observing your own progress, it’s crucial to realize that weight changes aren’t the sole indicators of success. In some instances, focusing solely on weight can even mislead you.

People adopt healthy eating patterns for diverse motives. For instance, you might be more interested in noting how diet changes impact your overall physical or emotional well-being, as opposed to just losing weight.

To gauge if your better eating habits are making a difference, consider asking yourself the following:

Summary: Keep an eye on your progress to see if your health choices achieve the desired outcomes. And remember, tracking doesn’t have to mean counting every calorie—simply being mindful of how you feel can go a long way in keeping you committed to a balanced diet.

11. Take your time

Committing to a more nutritious lifestyle is a long journey rather than a quick race.

Figuring out the optimal diet for you involves some experimentation, and not every day will be a breeze. If you find it’s taking more time than anticipated to establish your new eating habits, try not to get down on yourself.

By setting attainable goals, staying dedicated, and periodically reassessing your progress, you’re likely to keep advancing positively with your diet.

Summary: Adopting new habits isn’t an overnight task, especially regarding eating well. If you hit a rough patch, don’t be hard on yourself. Instead, refocus on your endgame objectives.

Summary

Changing longstanding habits is challenging, particularly regarding foods you’ve been consuming for years.

A mix of factors, including biological, mental, and social aspects, among others shapes your eating habits.

For long-term success with healthy eating, a multifaceted approach is necessary to address various influences.

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