How to Make a Healthy Eating Plan That Sticks
The Obstacles to Healthy Eating
Even when you’re committed to eating to live, some obstacles have a way of creeping into the picture and sabotaging your efforts. This doesn’t make you a bad person – it just makes you a person!
As I discussed in my blog post about combating food cravings, your body may misinterpret real biological hunger alarms as a trigger to eat high-calorie, low-nutrient foods. You can overcome those unhealthy impulses by understanding the biological reasons behind them, staying well-fed with nutrient-rich foods throughout the day, drinking plenty of water, and eating healthy snacks if you need a boost between meals.
But cravings aren’t the only thing that can derail your best intentions. True change is hard – even when it is clearly change for the better. It doesn’t help that the human mind has some go-to defense mechanisms when it comes to making big changes. It often makes excuses not to change, which can disrupt your journey to a healthier lifestyle at the planning stage.
For example, do any of these obstacles sound familiar to you?
If so, rest assured that there are easy ways to get past them. It does take a little bit of planning, but as Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
I don’t have time / I’m too tired to cook every day.
Good news! There are easy ways to eliminate these obstacles. I recommend planning your meals for each week ahead of time — and then preparing those meals in batches so that they’re ready to eat throughout the week. This can be part of your weekend routine. It’s also helpful to have some quick fall-back meals and snacks at the ready. You should always keep a bowl of fresh fruit out in the open, and a simple meal of beans, brown rice and veggies is a healthy — and filling — fall-back option. It’s also important to keep healthy snacks at work and in the car in order to keep your options as nutritious as possible.
I don’t have time to shop for food every few days.
This is another common roadblock with a simple solution: Make a well-thought-out grocery list, and stock up on staples, basics and non-perishable healthy options on your initial trip to the grocery store. That way, you can limit any weekly grocery runs to things like fresh fruits, vegetables and whole wheat bread – you’ll have plenty of grains, rice, beans and canned goods waiting for you at home.
I don’t know how to cook very well.
That’s another beautiful thing about the “whole foods, plant-based” mantra: Many natural foods are healthiest in their full, uncooked forms. You don’t need to be a five-star chef to make a nutritious salad, chop veggies, boil a sweet potato, or create portions of unsalted and unroasted nuts for your weekly healthy snacks. If cooking seems intimidating to you, I recommend keeping it simple at the start of your journey. Just learn to prepare five easy, comforting meals to cover your weekly schedule. Before long, you’ll probably find cooking to be fun – and you’ll want to branch out into more and more healthy recipes.
I don’t know what to eat.
I’ve got you covered! Remember to keep our simple mantra of healthy eating at the top of your mind, and start your healthy transformation with the first meal of the day. Take a look at my blog post that explains the nutrients inside each color of the fruit-and-veggie rainbow – and sign up for my 28-day challenge to optimize your journey to a healthier future with fellow members of the Let’s Talk Food community. Remember to be mindful of the toxic food ingredients to avoid when you’re shopping for groceries, and follow these important guidelines when you are decoding food labels. It may seem like a lot of information to learn up front, but your healthy decision-making will be automatic before long.
I travel/eat out/go to social gatherings a lot, so I won’t be able to control what I eat.
This may seem tricky to navigate, but there are simple solutions for this “obstacle” as well. If you’re planning to go to a restaurant with friends or family, simply call ahead to the restaurant to explain your dietary goals and ask about the healthiest options on the menu. This also works if you’re traveling and looking for nutritious dining options. As for social gatherings and dinner parties, simply bring a healthy dish that can be shared with others at the party. Or just call the host, explain your dietary goals, and ask whether it would be OK to bring your own dish. They will likely be very understanding and supportive of your journey! After all, wouldn’t you be supportive and encouraging to friends and family members that were creating a healthier future for themselves?
The most important thing is to never give up and never stop trying. If you stumble occasionally, do not get down on yourself. Everyone has a bad meal, a bad day or a bad week from time to time, and that’s OK.
Keeping Your Journey on Course
When minor setbacks spiral into self-doubt, emotional eating and abandoning your long-term goals, that’s when small stumbles turn into big problems. That’s why I think it’s so important to document your journey. For example, a food diary is a great idea: By keeping tabs on what you eat every day and connecting the dots between what you eat and how you feel, you can identify potential problem areas and create personal touchstones that keep you on the right track.
When it comes to keeping your journey on course, one of the most powerful forms of motivation can be your very own words. When you’re feeling challenged or down, it can be extremely helpful to revisit your own healthy motivations and big-picture goals. That’s why I wholeheartedly recommend writing things down at the outset of your journey.
What sorts of things am I talking about? Here are a few big ideas to start with.
Identify what makes you happy, what you have to live for, and what you want to achieve.When you revisit these words in challenging times, it will remind you of what your key motivations are. It’s about so much more than avoiding cookies and fried foods. It’s about living longer, living happier, and making sure there’s more time in your life to enjoy the things you love.
Be realistic, clear and specific.Don’t set yourself up for failure by creating unachievable goals. It’s important to make clear and measurable progress on your journey, and you can always build on your initial goals in the future.
Create both long-term and short-term goals.It’s OK to start slow and focus on the fundamentals of a healthier lifestyle. Once healthy eating has become part of your daily routine, you can level up to longer-term goals that stem from a nutritious diet.
Ask a friend to keep you honest.Make it someone you can really trust – and someone who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is!
Practice – and planning – makes perfect. Keep your kitchen stocked for success with healthy foods. Know your fall-back meals, and go to them when you don’t have the time to make a grocery run or the energy to cook a fancy meal. Eat healthy, hearty and nutrient-dense foods till you are full at every meal – they’ll help you avoid the unhealthy cravings that often accompany hunger. Keep track of your successes, and don’t get too down about your bad days. Instead, learn from any stumbles and try to gain an understanding of what caused them.
Keep trying! Keep learning! Whatever you do, just don’t stop! You are worth it. You can do it.