12 Steps To Maintain
A Healthy Diet
A Healthy Diet
Would you say you have a relatively healthy diet? Your body is a machine. The more you take care of it, the better it performs. If you’re constantly feeding it junk food, you’ll feel sluggish, bloated, moody, and you’ll probably gain weight.
Whereas if you eat a balanced diet and exercise, you’ll feel energised and good. You won’t suffer from foggy brain or outbreaks on your skin. More importantly, a healthy diet is key to protecting you against obesity, certain cancers, diabetes, and some cardiovascular diseases.
Perhaps you have a history of family health conditions, and you’re a high-risk candidate. Or you simply want to lead a healthier lifestyle. We share 12 steps that you can take to change your diet and make it a life-affirming habit. Check it out.
How To Start Your Journey To Healthy Eating Habits
1. Identify why you want to change your diet
Deciding to change your lifestyle isn’t a difficult decision. It’s the actual change that is a challenge. Most people give up too soon because they aren’t committed to leading a healthy life. They want to change without having to put in the hard work.
So before you begin a new diet or exercise routine, make a list of the reasons why you want to change your current habits.
Perhaps you’re battling with high blood pressure. Maybe you’re a high-risk candidate for diabetes or heart disease. Or you just don’t like being overweight. Whatever your reason, write it down and be clear in your mind why you are kicking unhealthy habits to the curb. Put this list up on your wall to motivate you on the days when you’d love nothing more than to order a plate of fried fish and chips.
2. Set realistic goals
A competitive team knows they need to win most of the games in their league to reach the quarter-finals, semi-finals and eventually the final. The end goal might be to win the league, but each won game is a small step in the right direction.
The same applies to a lifestyle upgrade. Your end goal could be to drink eight glasses of water a day, run five times a week, and lose 10 kg, but that’s a long-term goal.
- What’s the short-term goal?
- What will keep you motivated week in and week out?
If you’ve never run, you can’t expect yourself to be running 5 km every day within two weeks. That’s unrealistic and will demotivate you, not to mention you’ll get hurt. If you routinely drink six cups of coffee a day, completing cutting this out of your diet will lead to withdrawal symptoms such as crankiness and headaches.
Small steps can lead to big wins. Start slowly. If you drink two sugars in your tea, reduce it to 1 and a half for a week. Then to one. Then to a half. Until you no longer need it. If you start lifting weights, get a personal trainer. They’ll tailor your workout to your level. And celebrate each milestone achieved. You’ve earned it.
3. Don’t keep tempting treats in your house
It’s a lot easier to resist temptation when it’s not immediately available. Perhaps chocolate is your kryptonite. You’re less likely to cheat if you have to get in your car and drive to the shops to purchase it.
So raid your cupboards, place all unhealthy foods and drink into a box and donate it. Do this first before you begin to switch up your lifestyle.
4. Replace unhealthy snacks with healthy ones
Now that you’ve gotten rid of the unhealthy treats and drinks replace them with healthy snacks. You can stock up your pantry with these delicious snacks:
Fruit, mixed nuts, raisins, avocados, peanut butter, cottage cheese, Greek yoghurt, hummus, cucumber, eggs (hard-boiled), cherry tomatoes, carrots, whey powder, artichokes, and olives.
Mix them up, or eat them on their own. The first few days, you’ll experience cravings for a buttered toast or chocolate, but with time, you’ll start to crave a juicy apple or olive in hummus.
Any health practitioner will tell you that while diet is a vital part of getting healthier, exercise is also incredibly important. It builds your lung capacity, strengths your heart and muscles, helps tone your body, and reduces stress.
You feel better. You’re more able to deal with stressful situations calmly, and you have more energy. But remember to speak to your doctor before embarking on an exercise routine. Start slowly, and build each week. If you push too quickly, you’ll injure yourself, and this can set you back.
6. Monitor your progress
Just like a coach monitors his team’s performance, you need to monitor your own. At the start of your journey, weigh yourself, take your key measures—bust, hips, butt and thigh. Each week, at the same time, check your progress.
- Have you lost weight?
- Have you lost inches?
You also want to keep a logbook of what you ate, how you slept, and what exercise you performed each day. Note down when you experience a challenging day. You might find that you slept poorly that night, or you had a cheat day, whatever.
If you begin to see a pattern emerge on your health journey, you know what changes need to be made.
7. Make it a team effort
Making a lifestyle change is easier when you have someone to support you on your journey. This could be a partner or a close friend. As a team, you can motivate each other, particularly on those tough days, because they won’t occur on the same day.
If the person you live with chooses a healthy diet, you won’t need to eat separate meals, you can share your experiences, and you’re less likely to be tempted by unhealthy snacks.
So try to find someone willing to switch up their diet with you.
8. Don’t skip meals
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Never skip it. Missing meals lowers your metabolic rate, which leads to weight gain. Make sure you’re eating three meals a day, a mid-morning snack and a mid-afternoon snack. Most importantly, try not to eat after 8:00 p.m.
9. Eat what tastes good
Changing your diet can be rough, especially if you’re forcing yourself to eat various foods you don’t enjoy. Find what you like and stick to that. The list of what you can eat is extensive, so there’s no reason to include foods you don’t like.
And stop when you feel full. As a kid, your parents may have told you to eat everything on your plate. While they meant well, this is a really bad habit. Many adults eat far too much for their body size. So eat what you enjoy, and stop when you’ve had enough.
10. Try it raw or steam it
Fruit and vegetables are vital to your overall health. So you want to incorporate at least five servings of fruit and veg every day. If you can, eat your vegetables raw or steam them. Boiling drains the vegetables of all goodness which defeats your goal to eat healthier.
Lastly, consider making one or two nights a meat-free night. And where possible, eat white meat such as chicken or fish, instead of red meat.
11. Don’t get discouraged
You will have good days and bad ones. You’ll experience cravings and mood swings. And there will be times when you’ll be disappointed. Perhaps instead of losing weight, you gained, or your measurements didn’t change. These upsets can quickly derail you.
Focus on the end result. Your goal is to have more energy, feel healthier, happier, and reduce your risk of disease.
12. There are no catch-up days
There will be days when you cheat, or you don’t feel like exercising. It’s okay to have a hiccup. Just don’t let it spiral out of control where you eat nothing but junk food for that day. Instead, focus on eating and drinking healthy for the rest of the day.
You also don’t want to punish yourself by reducing what you consume the following day. You’ll only wind up hungry and miserable.
Take it one day at a time
Remember, it takes roughly two months to form a habit. If you have the goal of leading a healthier lifestyle, speak to your doctor. See if a family member or friend is keen to be healthier and would like to support you on your journey.
Write down why you want to make a change, and put it on your fridge or a wall where you can check in each day. Also, keep a diary of what you ate, drank, did and how you felt each day.
If you’d like to know more about how to maintain a healthy diet, contact your local dietician or book an appointment with one of our General Practitioners.