Eating healthy can help you lose weight and have more energy. It can also improve your mood and reduce your risk of disease. Yet despite these benefits, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can be challenging.

Write a meal plan

Writing out a weekly meal plan can help you make sure you’re consuming a well-balanced diet. Plan meals and snacks to have throughout the day so that you’ll be eating each food group every day.

  • Take an hour or two of your free time and write up your ideas for all meals and snacks.
  • Try tallying up all the food groups for each daily meal plan. Did you include dairy each day? How about enough fruits or vegetables?
  • If you’re busy or on the go, plan for meals that are quick, require little cooking or recipes that you can freeze for easy-to-prepare meals.
  • Search online for sample meal plans and inspiration.

Grocery shopping

Stocking your kitchen with healthy foods from each food group will help make preparing balanced meals and maintaining a balanced diet easy. After you write up your meal plan, make time to go grocery shopping to stock up on a variety of your favorite healthy items.

  • A well-stocked pantry can be a great tool for maintaining a balanced diet. Stock up on shelf-stable foods for quick and easy balanced meals: canned beans, no-salt-added canned vegetables, canned tuna or chicken, 100% whole grains (like quinoa, 100% whole wheat pasta or brown rice) and nut butter.
  • Stock up on frozen items like frozen vegetables (without sauces or seasonings), frozen fruit, frozen pre-cooked grains (like brown rice or quinoa), low-calorie frozen dinners (for busy nights) and frozen proteins (fish or chicken).
  • Keep a supply of fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy (like low-fat milk, yogurt and cheese and lean proteins (chicken, fish, pork or lean beef).

Start the day with a high-protein breakfast

If your first meal is well balanced and contains adequate protein, you’re more likely to maintain stable blood sugar levels and not overeat for the rest of the day.

In one study, overweight women who consumed at least 30 grams of protein at breakfast felt more satisfied and ate fewer calories during lunch than those who ate a lower-protein breakfast.

Carry healthy snacks

Sticking to a healthy diet can be tough when you’re away from home for extended periods.

  • When you get too hungry on the go, you may end up grabbing whatever is available.
  • This is often processed food that doesn’t really satisfy hunger and isn’t good for you in the long run.
  • Having healthy high protein food on hand can help keep your appetite in check until you’re able to have a full meal.
  • Some examples of good, portable snacks are almonds, peanuts, and jerky. Also consider fillng a small cooler with hard-boiled eggs, cheese, or Greek yogurt.

Heading to the Gym

You may have heard you shouldn’t change too many things at once when trying to improve your health. In general, this is good advice.

Still, research shows that when you make both dietary and physical activity changes at the same time, the results tend to reinforce each other.

  • Head to the gym to do some exercise and workout to tone up your body.
  • Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity each week. Exercises like jogging, biking, and swimming are good options.
    Aim to participate in strength training at least two times a week.
  • Lifting weights or going to a Pilates class are good options.

Bring a Partner with you

Sticking with a healthy eating and exercise plan can be tough to do on your own.

  • Having a diet or exercise buddy may be helpful, especially if that person is your partner or spouse or maybe your close friend.
  • He/She could be beside you encouraging you to keep going on and not giving up.
  • When one person made a positive lifestyle change, such as increasing physical activity, the other was more likely to follow their lead.

 Don’t let traveling derail you

Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, being outside of your familiar territory can make it difficult to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few tips:

  • Research the restaurants and supermarkets ahead of time.
  • Pack some healthy foods that don’t spoil easily.
  • Challenge yourself to stay on track for most of the trip.

Realize that it takes time to change your habits

Don’t be discouraged if it takes longer than you expect to adapt to your new, healthy way of living.

Researchers have found that it takes an average of 66 days to make a new behavior a habit. Eventually, eating healthy and exercising regularly will become automatic.

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