What is the best way to stick to a diet plan?

Your question is a good one. I think that following a healthy diet and practicing “good-for-you” lifestyle choices takes research, preparation, and time. I have had a plethora of patients that want to lose weight and begin to improve their diet and eating habits. I find that they are able to stick to their healthy eating “plan” for a while until old habits return, and many end up returning to foods that are convenient and full of processed ingredients.

My first tip is to meet with a registered dietitian. You can find a dietitian near you by going to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website http://www.eatright.org and then clicking on the “Find an Expert” tab. Registered dietitians conduct a thorough assessment of your lifestyle and food intake on the first visit and get a feel for where healthy changes can be made. They help you to formulate a plan that involves making realistic and sustainable changes in your eating habits that will set you up for success. Next, I would urge you to identify the areas of your diet and lifestyle that need the most work. You may determine that you don’t have enough time to cook a healthy dinner every night, which leads you to choose fast food or take-out options (many of which may not be the best choices). Some patients are unable to resist the tempting treats at work or find themselves mindlessly snacking on junk food while watching television at night. Determining which parts of your eating habits need the most work can help you to make immediate improvements that can hopefully lead to permanent healthy changes in your diet.

It is important to speak to your family about your desires to improve yours (and maybe your family’s) overall diet and lifestyle. While you are talking with your family, begin your grocery list. This preparation stage can ensure you will not wander aimlessly off into the snack food aisle. Have a grocery list set up based on the flow of the grocery store and break your list up into sections based on what you will encounter when you first enter the store. Be sure you are checking the store circular in advance for sales and be sure to note sale items on your list. When in the store, stick to the list and don’t wander. Take it from me; don’t go to the grocery store hungry. The convenience food and snack food aisle will beckon you if you aren’t careful. Also, try to go during a time that it will not be too busy. Healthy food choices are hard to make when you are in a crowd of shoppers.

Once the grocery shopping is done and you are home, prep your purchases. Based on your pre-planned menu, I recommend cutting up the necessary produce that will be used in the dinners or to pack in lunches. Chop peppers and broccoli for stir fry, put hummus in small containers for lunches and slice up fruit and place in a clear container for snacking. Set up your day for success by packing your breakfast and lunch the night before. Many people will opt for fast food, pizza by the slice, or take out Chinese if they don’t already have breakfast/lunch packed. A personal trick that I have learned is to get my lunch box out while I am cleaning up the remnants from dinner. I will fill it with yogurt/granola for breakfast and I assemble my salad (containing a protein like rotisserie chicken or black beans + an assortment of veggies), string cheese and high fiber granola bar for a snack.

Sticking to a healthy eating plan will be easy at times and…not-so-easy at other times. I think the key to following a healthy diet is to be realistic and kind to yourself. Realize that there are moments where you won’t be able to resist dessert and may not have time to make a healthy dinner. In my opinion, it is near impossible to follow a “perfect” diet all the time. The key to sticking to a healthy plan is to set realistic goals, make a plan, practice healthy habits…and leave a little time for ridiculously tasty (but maybe unhealthy) food too. If you find that you are getting off the healthy eating wagon, take a few moments to acknowledge that life happens, you are not a failure, and then gently redirect yourself to getting back on track!

Login to Favorite