Debbie J., MS, RD contributed this article –
Part I (the first 30 Days) – Setting the stage for success.
Instead of trying to change everything at once, here is a plan that will have you adjusting your diet and nutrition habits incrementally. This allows you to acclimate and create new and healthy lifestyle habits one week at a time.
Week 1: Assess where your diet is presently.
1) Record everything you eat and drink for 7 days.
2) Review and analyze your food and beverage intake with quality nutrition software or a comprehensive online program. You may find some trends in your eating habits and choices by writing down all foods and beverages that go into your mouth. By analyzing your intake, you can determine the calories, fat, protein and carbohydrate content (and many more nutrients) you eat on average. These 2 pieces help bring to light unrealized extras and identify areas that you need to work on.
3) Pick your priority change. Eat more salads? Limit portions? Avoid the drive through?
Goals should be SMART: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Write down action steps on how you’ll accomplish those. Be detailed. Transcribe to your calendar for when you’ll implement. You are more likely to commit to a change if you write it down.
TOP TIP: Include lean protein at breakfast. Turkey sausage, Canadian bacon, non-fat cottage cheese, egg whites and Greek yogurt are examples of good choices. For vegans, a nut butter or soy sausage works.
Week 2: Set up a schedule or routine for your meals.
Evenly spacing your meals and snacks keeps you energized and reduces hunger. Being consistent and having a plan helps avoid guesswork and makes meal planning easier. Repetition can be a good thing, as long as there is some variety and flexibility. Substituting one or two side dishes is easier than replacing an entire meal.
TOP TIP: Pack an emergency snack to have on hand. You are more likely to make poor choices when you’re too hungry. Don’t let your appetite get the best of you. Have something available to tide you over in case your meals are delayed.
Week 3: Create an environment for success.
Clear out any junk food to reduce temptation; do this in your freezer, refrigerator and pantry. Stock up on reusable food containers and zip style bags. Perhaps even invest in a vacuum packaging system for freezing leftovers. Buy a refillable drink cup and dust off those cook books. Basically, make your kitchen and pantry user friendly for meals at home and on-the-go. You can’t take healthy food with you or save it for later without the right tools.
TOP TIP: Drink 8 glasses of water daily. Hydration is super important, and during the winter the cold outside air plus inside heating will dry you out.
Week 4: Shop wisely at the grocery store.
Have a list written out and don’t shop when hungry. Read labels when comparing similar items. Whenever possible buy fresh, versus frozen or prepared. Purchase extra shelf-stable items as backup so you don’t run out. You’re more likely to prepare healthy meals if you have everything you need at hand.
TOP TIP: Replace sweetened cereals with plain. Sugars should comprise no more than ¼ of the Total Carbohydrate on the Nutrition Facts Panel.
Stay tuned for Part II (weeks 5-8) focusing on making impactful changes.
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