Eating one healthy meal isn't hard. It's not even hard to eat three healthy meals in a single day. The hard part is making changes in your daily life so that you start eating healthy every day—and keep eating healthy every day.
If you're having problems staying with your plan, don't worry. You're not alone. You'll be glad to hear that there are plenty of tips and tricks you can use to get yourself back on track and stay there.
Let's begin with these key ideas:
- Your reason for wanting to eat healthy is very important. It won't work if you're doing it because someone else—your spouse, your children, your doctor—wants you to. You have to want it.
- If you've started a healthy eating plan but don't feel like you're making any progress, it may be time to update your goals.
- If you've started a healthy eating plan but are having trouble keeping it going, it may help to figure out what's getting in your way. Then you can figure out how to work around those barriers.
If you haven't started a healthy eating plan yet, it may be helpful to read:
- Healthy Eating: Starting a Plan for Change.
Update your goals
When you first started your healthy eating plan, you probably had one or more big goals in mind, like controlling your high blood pressure or lowering your cholesterol.
Are those goals the same today? Or do you need to change them?
- Are you having trouble meeting those long-term goals? You may need to come up with new short-term goals to help you get there. Short-term goals are things that you want to do tomorrow and the day after.
- Did you try to take on too much too fast? That's a reason why some people have trouble making a lifestyle change. Remember to make your short-term goals small steps. For example, if you want to lower your blood pressure, a small step would be to limit the amount of sodium in your diet by cutting down on the amount of processed foods you eat, like packaged snack items, luncheon meats, and canned soups.
- Did you meet your long-term goal and then stop? Good for you for meeting your goal! But now you need a new long-term goal to help you stay with your healthy eating plan.
Getting past slip-ups
Everyone has slip-ups. But there's a difference between slipping up and giving up. Going back to your old eating habits for a while is a slip-up. It doesn't mean that you're a failure.
When you slip up, don't get mad at yourself or feel guilty. Think of it as a learning experience. Figure out what happened. Why did you stop? Think of ways to get yourself going again. Learn from your slip-ups so that you can keep on toward your goal of eating healthy.
For some common reasons for slip-ups, and suggested solutions, see:
- Healthy Eating: Overcoming Barriers to Change.
Tips for maintaining your healthy eating plan
Remember that healthy eating means eating a wide variety of foods in the right amount:
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol provides a lot of calories and no nutritional benefit.
- Make mealtimes pleasant. A meal is more than just eating food. It can also be a social event, a time to communicate with family and friends, and a time to relax. Eat slowly, and enjoy the food. Do not watch television or read while you eat.
- Use a meal plan to help control what you eat. Plan meals ahead of time. Many people find it easier to plan meals for a week at a time.
- Avoid unplanned eating. Eating unplanned calories can spoil a healthy eating plan. If you are someone who tends to get hungry between meals, schedule healthy snacks throughout your day to manage that hunger. The healthy snacks will keep you from being so hungry at regular mealtimes that you overeat. Just be sure to plan your snacks as part of your overall calories for the day.
- Healthy Eating: Recognizing Your Hunger Signals
Current as of: May 27, 2020
Author: Healthwise Staff
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator