Summer is around the corner and you may be thinking about getting in better shape for the beach, pool or an upcoming vacation.
For many people, that means changing their eating habits.
A complete diet overhaul may sound tempting when you have a short-term goal in mind. However, most people are more successful when they start with small changes, said Kari Mizgalski, a Marshfield Clinic dietitian.
Make changes gradually
Challenge yourself but don’t overwhelm yourself when making diet changes. Making a lot of big changes at once is hard to sustain.
“Changing your diet isn’t all-or-nothing,” Mizgalski said. “If it’s too boring or restrictive, you won’t stick with it. Your diet should be strict enough to achieve better health but not so strict you don’t want to follow it at all.”
Start with one small but significant change, like having a serving of fruit or veggies with every meal or eliminating sweetened drinks.
“It takes about a month to make a new habit,” she said. “Be patient. Stick with your change long enough to make it a habit before making another big adjustment.”
Stay on track with these diet tips
Mizgalski recommends these tips as starting points for a healthier diet:
- Eat from at least three food groups at each meal. Start with your fruit or veggie to help you feel full.
- Eat on a schedule. Try not to go more than six hours between meals during the day. Skipping meals can cause you to overeat at your next meal. Meal timing also can make a difference, Mizgalski said. Try eating more for breakfast and lunch and a smaller dinner to avoid overeating.
- Plan meals and snacks. Making healthy choices is easier if you know what you want to eat and have those foods on hand. “As you work to plan healthy, balanced meals, don’t forget about your snacks,” Mizgalski said. “Make snacks part of your healthy meal plan.”
- Think before you snack. Instead of running to the cupboard the moment snacking crosses your mind, ask yourself these questions: “Am I really hungry?” “Am I thirsty, stressed, bored or tired?” “Can I make it to my next meal without a snack?”
- Cut back on restaurant eating. It’s hard to know exactly what you’re putting in your body and easy to eat oversized portions when you frequent restaurants. If restaurant eating is a big part of your social life, try to mix in activities that aren’t food-focused, like going to the park or a concert.
- Cut back on alcohol. Like soda and sweetened drinks, alcohol is packed with calories.
Don’t get discouraged
“Remind yourself to be patient,” Mizgalski said. “It takes time for diet changes to show in your appearance, but consistency pays off.”
Think of your changes as long term. Getting in shape for summer will be less work next year if you practice healthy eating habits all year long.