A healthy diet is the backbone of good health, and therefore, a better life. However, for most of us, it is one of the hardest things to do. Here are the most important things you need to know when it comes to starting and maintaining a healthy diet for good:
Step 1: Determine your “healthy weight”.
A “healthy weight” is a weight that is associated with a lower risk of disease and better health. To find your healthy weight, you can use a BMI chart. (Here is one: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/BMI/bmi_tbl.pdf.) Locate your height in inches on the left side of the chart and then match it up with a BMI of 24 at the top of the chart (a BMI of 19-24 is considered healthy, but it is recommended to start with a BMI of 24). Find where the two meet and this is your “healthy weight”.
Step 2: Determine how many calories you should be eating per day to maintain your healthy weight.
Calories are used to measure the amount of energy found in food. When people consume too many calories, it can lead to disease and health problems. To find out the right amount of calories you need for your healthy weight, you can use what’s called a BMR calculator. (Here is one: www.bmrcalculator.org). Fill in your information (using your "healthy weight" instead of your current weight) and click on “Calculate your BMR”. Once calculated, find your activity level below and follow it to where it shows the amount of calories you burn. This is equivalent to how many calories you should be eating a day to maintain your heathy weight.
Step 3: Determine the types of foods you should be eating.
Your body doesn’t only use food for energy. It also uses it to keep your body functioning properly. Different types of nutrients do different things for your body which is why it is important that you take in different types of foods. By going to https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/appendix-3/, you can easily learn all the types (and amounts of those types) of foods you should be getting in a day. Once you go to the government website, scroll down to Table A3-1. Identify your appropriate calorie level (from Step 2) and here you will find everything you should incorporate into your daily diet.
Step 4: Change.
Now that you have learned what a healthy diet looks like for you, the next part is to change your diet to this healthier one. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all process that works for everyone because everyone does things a little differently. However, there are some general guidelines that can help most people when first starting off:
Changing your diet means changing your lifestyle, and this takes time.
You didn’t get to be where you are now over night. Therefore, you’re not going to change over night, either. Take it slow and make small changes to your current diet over time in order to allow your body to adapt properly. This is usually the most effective strategy when you’re trying to stick with a healthy diet long-term.
Structure is important in the beginning.
You have most likely adopted a "not-so-healthy" eating pattern and your body has gotten both physiologically and psychologically used to this. In order to break this pattern, you typically have to start off somewhat structured until you can find our own 'preferred' eating style. For most people, the best plan when starting out is to eat three balanced meals per day with snacks in between.
Sometimes in order to change our diet, we need to change things other than our diet.
One of the biggest reasons why we tend to overeat or eat unnecessarily (such as snacking before bedtime), is because food makes us feel good. Many things in life can make us feel 'not-so-good', such as our jobs, anxiety, people, problems, etc. Therefore, sometimes the only way to stop overeating is to identify and address the underlying problem.
Use the Lose It! app.
Lose It! is one of, if not, the best nutrition apps out on the market today. Just plug in your information and let Lose It! calculate how many calories and nutrients you should be eating in your diet to achieve your health goals. Log your meals daily and overtime, the Lose It! app will help you become more aware of what and how much you should be eating.
Hire a coach.
Most people find the most success when they team up with an educated and committed nutrition coach. A coach can help keep you accountable, teach you tricks and tips, and answer your nutrition questions any time of the day.
Never give up.
If you find yourself in difficult times, never give up. All it usually takes is just a few simple adjustments. So simply take a step back, re-assess the situation, and take the time to figure out what seems to be holding you back. Once you have taken the time to reset, you'll realize just how easy a fix it was!