Secrets to Sticking with a Healthy Diet

What’s the best diet? Whether your goals are weight loss, reducing blood pressure, managing diabetes, or all of the above, experts agree: The best diet is the one you enjoy and can maintain for a long time.

Rethink the Word “Diet”

Eating a healthy diet and dieting are entirely different. This may be a tricky concept if you associate dieting with giving up your favorite foods or having to eat food you really don’t like. However:

  • Diets are about deprivation, but healthy eating is finding ways to incorporate all (or most) foods into your eating plan.
  • Diets are temporary, but healthy eating is part of your life.

Eating foods you don’t like because they’re “good for you” reinforces the notion that healthy foods are boring at best and disgusting at worst. And cutting out entire food groups or swearing off your favorites isn’t a realistic solution for the rest of your life. A better approach is to find healthy foods you like and enjoy.

Here are two techniques to help you stick with a healthy diet:

  1. As you make changes to your meals, be sure to experiment with different foods to find those you do like. Say you’ve decided to replace your lunch-time bag of chips with fruit. You buy an apple at the deli, but it tastes boring and mushy. Before you decide you don’t like apples and go back to eating chips at lunch, try a different type of apple or another fruit. Most delis or sandwich shops only offer one or two types of apples, which are chosen for how pretty they look or how easy they are to store, not how good they taste. Next time you go food shopping, buy a few different types to see which you like (varieties like Honey Crisp, Jazz, and Gala are ideal for eating fresh).
  2. Look for healthy ways to prepare your favorite dishes, or figure out how often you can eat the version you love most. For example, you might love fried chicken, especially your grandmother’s recipe, which you make a few times a month. But you need to limit fried foods, so you try a few different healthy ways to adapt it—an oven “fried” version, or a skinless one where you use your preferred spices in a different batter. You might just find a new, healthier favorite! If you just can’t find one you like, though, you may decide that instead of enjoying healthier fried chicken a few times a month, you’d rather have your favorite recipe for a few times a year for special occasions.

Getting Back on Track

When you’re watching what you eat, lapses can be discouraging. It’s easy to think, “I blew it today, so I might as well eat whatever I want and try again tomorrow.” But rather than focus on what you eat on a given day, look at your food choices over a few days, or even a week. If you ate too many cookies after a rough day, don’t add to your stress by telling yourself you’re a failure. Instead, make a point of choosing more of the nutrient-rich foods your body needs over the next few days to balance things out. Alternatively, think of your choices meal-by-meal: If you have dessert at a friend’s birthday lunch, remind yourself that you had your treat for the day instead of having an after-dinner sweet.