No matter what nutritional program you choose to follow for 2013, use the tips below to stay on course.
All New Years’ nutritional goals are well intentioned—lose 10 pounds, lower cholesterol and blood pres-sure or simply eat more veggies. For the first few weeks or even a month or two, all goes fairly well. Staying on track and achieving dietary goals requires dedication and focus, much like cranking out training miles. No matter what nutritional program you choose to follow for 2013, use the tips below to stay on course.
Keep It Simple
According to research, simple diets with fewer foods are followed longer. I think a simplified diet works mainly because it’s clear as to what one should and shouldn’t eat. No long list of foods to remember and no more food labels to study, not to mention the ease in planning and preparing meals. When following a simple diet most people also tend to eat less processed foods. Make sure your eating plan of choice is balanced and not deficient in macro and micronutrients. I love variety in my own diet, but until you master yours it may be easier to pare down the food list.
PRACTICE: Pick 10 foods that fit your diet and eat only those foods for one to four weeks. Learn creative preparations and combinations of your chosen 10 for variety.
Know Your Food Zone
Some of the biggest challenges for any diet are eating out, social meals and traveling. They are also impossible to avoid. The key to staying on a diet and in your “food zone” is being prepared. At the same time, it doesn’t mean you have to tote around your food wherever you go, unless you have an extremely restrictive diet. I actually embrace the times I get stuck at steakhouse or in an airport and need to navigate my vegan “food zone.” I think of it as modern hunting and gathering.
PRACTICE: Before you eat out, go online to find one or two different meals you can order at your favorite restaurants. Do the same for your family and friends’ favorite eateries, as well as for less likely restaurants, such as airports. Take notes to have handy for unexpected occasions.
Unless you master every restaurant menu or stubbornly refuse to cook, most diets will have you in the kitchen to do some of your own cooking, and that’s a good thing! Preparing your own food is the best way to know what you are putting into your body. Whether you are an elite athlete or a novice runner, this knowledge is key to increased performance and good health.
PRACTICE: Learn how to cook two new meals per week that work with your diet. Each week pick one new food and learn how to incorporate it into familiar meals and new recipes. Choose inspiring, tasty-sounding recipes, but be realistic about your kitchen mastery so you can keep things relatively simple.
Endurance athletes love to monitor progress and see the fruits of their labor. The same structure can be beneficial for those following a new diet. Whether counting calories or making grocery lists and menu plans, online programs and smart phone apps make logging nutritional information easy. If you keep track of your nutrition, you will be more aware of your habits and thus make better choices.
PRACTICE: Experiment with different nutritional logs and find one that works best for your lifestyle. You can also use software and apps to be more efficient with menu planning and grocery lists.
Above all, make sure you embrace the opportunity to improve your diet this year, keeping it fun and positive no matter what your goals.
This column first appeared in the January 2013 issue of Competitor magazine.
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