I have always been the girl who crash diets with a juice cleanse or obsessively counts calories before an event/vacation and then binges once it’s over. I was never able to stick to a health or fitness routine for longer than 6 weeks, and my weight has fluctuated on and off for years because of this bad habit. In February I started the 21 Day Fix which is a fitness and nutrition program that focuses on teaching you proper portion control and how to follow a clean, whole-foods diet for 3 weeks. Nutrition has always been the hardest part for me, so incorporating clean eating into my lifestyle has been a total game changer for me. Here are 5 tips on how I have maintained a clean eating diet and made it a permanent part of my lifestyle:
1. There is always a healthy and satisfying alternative.
If you love a certain type of food, chances are you can recreate it in a healthy way. Bake some sweet potato fries for lunch or dinner instead of getting regular fries from McDonalds. Make a pizza on cauliflower or quinoa crust and you will save tons of calories compared to ordering from Pizza Hut. Use sites like Pinterest to discover ways to make your favorite foods into healthy and appealing alternatives that will keep you happy.
2. Allow a weekly cheat meal.
In order to keep yourself motivated to making clean eating part of your lifestyle, you should indulge your cravings once per week. You shouldn't have to deprive yourself of going out to eat or getting that donut you have been thinking about all week. It’s important to maintain a balance and still allow yourself to include foods that you enjoy - just don’t over-do it. Not only will this help you stay on track mentally, but the shift in calories might also help you avoid weight loss plateaus.
3. Plan ahead and prepare healthy snacks that are easily accessible.
At the beginning of each week I take a few minutes to cut up fresh fruits and veggies (such as cucumbers, bell peppers, and celery), and store them in Tupperware in my refrigerator. If you make eating healthy easy and readily available, you are more likely to actually stick to it.
4. Make clean eating a permanent part of your lifestyle.
Don’t put a time limit for how long you will eat healthy. Think about how eating clean makes you feel and start incorporating it into your daily life. I enjoy eating healthy because it makes me feel good. I have more energy, feel less sluggish throughout the day, and can focus my attention much better. If my nutrition is off, I can feel the difference so I choose to eat clean 90% of the time. Think about the health benefits of following a clean diet and use it to keep yourself on track.
5. Be smart with grocery shopping.
If you don’t buy bad food, you won’t be tempted to eat it! Making the right decisions for just half an hour while at the store will set you up to stay on track all week. The cardinal rule: don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach otherwise you will end up buying all the sugary junk food you are craving. When you are shopping for clean foods, you will want to stay around the perimeter of the grocery store. Stay away from the aisles in the middle because they tend to be filled with processed foods like chips, cookies, and candy. Set yourself up for success by buying fruits and vegetables and use them to replace processed snack options.