Do you set a resolution to eat healthier at the beginning of every year, only to find yourself abandoning the goals you set halfway through the year, or even earlier?
Eating healthy and sticking to a healthy diet routine is tough. Often, people simply lack the motivation to get started or lose their motivation to maintain the dietary changes they want to make. So here are some tips to help you get started, and hopefully, keep you going:
Set clear, specific short-term and long-term goals
Plan when, where and how to achieve your dietary goals.
I will eat vegetables every day vs I will order two vegetable dishes when I have economy rice. I will have salad at the salad bar near my work place at least two times per week. I will ask for more vegetables whenever possible.
Anticipate possible barriers in carrying out your plans.
Brainstorm on strategies for coping with these barriers to reduce negative emotions.
Focus on past success
Recall past instance(s) where you chose a healthy food over an unhealthy food, and the positive emotions that came along with the decision(s)
Plan to replicate the same thought process that led to those decisions in similar situations.
Monitor your progress
Keep a journal of your daily food and beverages intake will increase your awareness of your food choices and consumption pattern.
Maintain a journal for at least 6 weeks will increase your chances of making positive dietary changes.
Use your journal to monitor your performance against the short-term goals you have set.
Get support from your family and friends
Eating is a social activity. Preparing healthier meals at home and having meals together can be enjoyable too.
Social expectations can affect your food choices. Put a little pressure on the rest to order healthier food by being the first to do so in a group dining setting.
Bring healthier food e.g. fresh fruit salad, baked chicken/fish, assorted vegetable casserole to social gatherings.
Increase accessibility to healthier foods
Place fruits, raw/baked (unsalted and unroasted) nuts and beans such as edamame in the common area (at home and in office).
Avoid storing unhealthy snacks in your pantry and at your work desk.
Place vegetables, fruits and low fat dairy products closer to eye level in the fridge.
Retrain your taste buds
Introduce more fresh and unprocessed foods in your diet. Your taste buds can be retrained such that you begin to appreciate the natural sweetness and flavour of whole fruits, fresh vegetables, beans and unprocessed meat.
Give yourself a few weeks for your taste buds to become sensitive towards natural sweetness and flavour of healthy foods.
Convert your positive dietary changes into new habits
Make a conscious effort to have some healthy foods daily.
The more healthy food choices you make, the more likely you will develop new cravings for healthy food.
Eating well is not difficult. It involves making gradual, positive changes to your eating habits. Give your body some time to adjust to the dietary changes, you will experience a new level of energy, enjoy health as well as better quality of life in the long run.
Riekert, K. A., Ockene, J. K., & Pbert, L. (Eds.). (2013). The Handbook of Health Behavior Change (4th ed.). New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.
Whatnall, M. C., Patterson, A. J., Ashton, L. M., & Hutchesson, M. J. (2018). Effectiveness of brief nutrition interventions on dietary behaviours in adults: A systematic review. Appetite, 120, 335–347. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2017.09.017
About the Author: This article is written by Ong Sik Yin for Jaga-Me. Sik Yin holds a Master’s degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from Flinders University. She is an Accredited Dietitian of Singapore (Singapore Nutrition and Dietetics Association) and an Accredited Practising Dietitian (Dietitians Association of Australia). She is an advocate of building a supportive ecosystem and conducive environment to promote health and wellness. She has over 10 years of experience providing nutritional advice and sharing her knowledge in hospital settings and public forums.
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