Maintaining a healthy diet and a healthy weight don’t seem that complicated. But, time and again, people struggle with it. What’s the deal? There are plenty of factors — time, money, willpower, education — that can seemingly get in the way. But there’s one big, big thing that many people who struggle with their diet seem to forget: You don’t have to eat foods you don’t like. It’s a simple, radical concept that can really transform your health.
So many diets fail because keeping up with such a rigid eating schedule — especially if it’s heavy on foods you don’t particularly care for — is daunting and often unsustainable in the long-term. If you don’t like it, you won’t want to eat it. Self-control is great, but when food becomes something to dread, not something to enjoy, you’re not nearly as likely to stick to your diet.
Can’t stand Greek yogurt but love vanilla yogurt? Sure, Greek yogurt is healthier, but if you hate it, why bother? Telling yourself you’ll eat kale and rice for dinner when what you really want is pasta? Skip the white flour stuff, and load your whole-wheat pasta with plenty of veggies.
The best way to look at a diet is to think of it as something that you’re gaining, not as something that you’re losing. Think of all of the healthy, delicious foods you will get to eat all the time now, not all of the unhealthy foods you’re going to miss. So how do you do that? Well, it’s easy!
Make a long, comprehensive list of the healthy foods and meals you most enjoy. Scour your favorite cookbooks and blogs, and think back to meals you’ve really liked in the past. And, be realistic. You’re not going to have time to make an omelet every single morning or prepare an elaborate soup every single night. Sure, you love truffle oil but can you afford to drizzle it on every meal? Yep, you love caprese salad, but is it really that delicious when tomatoes aren’t in season?
Break your list down by meal: breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks and, yep, desserts. Try to have at least 10 of each, but 20 or more is even better. For each meal, note the nutritional content, how much effort it takes to prepare and a rough estimate of the price. Keep that list on hand when you’re making your grocery list and put it on the fridge so you can have easy access to it when meal time comes around.
Having a well-stocked fridge and pantry is key here, too. Vegetables like onions, garlic, tomatoes and greens are so versatile. Make sure to always have your favorite grains on hand. Make big batches of foods you love that freeze and reheat easily. These little steps can make a big difference, and take all of the guesswork out of eating healthy.
Maintaining a healthy diet doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself. It should mean feeding yourself delicious, nutritious foods that you love. The first step to that is to re-think your relationship with food.