One of the most common questions I get when it comes to nutrition is “how do you always eat so healthy?” The key to maintaining a nutritious diet all year round is to make it a lifestyle and not just a temporary change. Having said this, in order to make it a lifestyle, it has to be realistic and sustainable.

Every other health and fitness magazine constantly advertises things such as “Lose 20 lbs. in 4 Weeks,” “Flatten Your Belly in 30 Days,” “10 Ways to Cut Carbs and Melt Fat.” Titles like these may be intriguing, but when you read into them, these diet plans are not sustainable in the slightest. Sure, for those 30 days you may lose a couple pounds based on the diet plan given to you, but there’s no doubt that you’ll be starving and miserable throughout it. Many of these diet plans cut out major food groups that you cannot avoid forever. For example, the biggest component to many crash diets is drastically dropping your carbohydrate intake. Of course you will lose weight by cutting carbs because you are also massively decreasing your calories; however, you can’t cut this macronutrient out for good. Carbs are essential to the body’s functions. They are your body’s biggest energy source and are used to make glucose: glucose is used as immediate energy or can be stored for later use. When you cut out carbohydrates, your body will rapidly lose water weight and start breaking down stored carbohydrates, so it will appear as if you have lost a lot of weight. Having said this, keeping the weight off is not maintainable; when you start eating carbs again, your body will gain back the weight that it previously lost because it will begin to replenish its carbohydrate stores.

You don’t have to go on these crash diets in order to lose weight and see physical changes. Changing your daily eating habits and transforming the way you approach food is much more maintainable and your results will actually last. By making your diet a lifestyle, it will not even seem like you are “dieting.” You don’t have to cut back on all of your favorite foods like most diet plans; you can still eat the foods that you enjoy, just in moderation.

Making your diet plan a lifestyle will also increase the probability of sticking with it, which is why you can expect to see results that last long-term. It will not seem like a chore like a normal crash diet would. Implementing healthy eating habits into your life does not have to be super complex or time-consuming. Here are a few easy tips to improve your daily eating habits:

  • Watch your portion sizes. America is notorious for serving excessive portions. Everything is super-sized these days and portions are growing larger and larger. A great way to get an idea of the proper amount of food you should be eating is to measure your food until you can accurately eye-ball portions. By doing this, you are able to visually see what the correct serving size of a food is. For example, I never knew how little 2 Tbsp. of peanut butter was (which is equal to one serving) until I measured it out. Most people’s idea of a portion of peanut butter is actually closer to 4 Tbsp. which adds about 200 extra calories compared to a regular serving! Calories from excessive portions can easily add up, which attributes to weight gain. Simply measuring out the proper portions can help you reach your weight loss goals and stay on track with your eating.
  • Switch from white to whole grain. Another easy improvement is to switch your grains from white to whole grains. White grains are simple carbohydrates which are heavily processed and have little nutritional value. They are mainly composed of sugars that the body then converts to fat. Whole grains are known as complex carbohydrates which include great amounts of fiber along with other vitamins and minerals. These carbohydrates take longer to digest and therefore provide greater satisfaction and fill you up longer than simple carbohydrates do. This will in turn decrease the amount of food consumed because you will not be hungry as often. Additionally, the body has to use extra energy to break down the fiber in complex carbohydrates, and as a result, burns more calories.
  • Include a protein source in every meal. Protein increases the satisfaction received from a meal and also helps you stay fuller for longer since protein takes the longest to digest out of the three macronutrients. Additionally, protein has many functions in the body. It is critical for building muscle and repairing tissue. Protein also assists in various biochemical reactions that are essential to your metabolism. Furthermore, protein plays a vital role in maintaining your body’s pH and fluid balances, hormone function, and immune health. Great sources of lean protein include chicken, turkey, pork, egg whites, greek yogurt, and protein powder. These foods can be easily incorporated into each meal or snack of the day and can be prepared in many ways depending on your personal preference.
  • Include a vegetable or fruit in every meal. Fruits and vegetables are considered to be high-volume foods. This means that you can eat a lot of them for low amounts of calories. Fruits and vegetables are mainly composed of water and fiber, so they will fill you up without the calories of a more “dense” food, such as a starch or fat source. Additionally, fruits and vegetables provide large amounts of vitamins and minerals that are essential to your body’s function.

These nutrition tips might seem like small changes in your diet, but they add up and can make a huge difference! The key is to make slight adjustments to your eating habits in order to make your diet maintainable. This way, you can continue to enjoy eating while meeting your goals!