If you’ve tried to make changes to your diet, but just can’t get them to stick, start with these 5 things and you’ll be eating clean in no time.
1. Have a protein source at every meal, and load up on greens!
Proteins are the building blocks of the human body, essential for muscle repair and growth. Including a protein source, such as chicken, fish, eggs or pulses like lentils, will ensure you’re equipping your body with the right fuel and you’ll also feel fuller for longer, so less likely to reach for snacks.
Eating a wide variety of vegetables will pack in fibre and micronutrients to optimise your body’s functioning. A good rule of thumb is to enjoy 5 portions of vegetables a day, with 2 portions of fruit (that’s 7 a day, not the famous 5!).
2. Cut down on booze
While we’re not going to say cut alcohol from your diet completely, it’s best to limit it to specific occasions, certainly within the first few months of a lifestyle change. Pick two or three events over a period of a few months that you’d really like to enjoy, then try to find substitute beverages for the occasions when you won’t drink.
Flavoured fizzy water, spicy tomato juices, or diet drinks can all be lower-kilojoule options that aren’t loaded with kilojoules. When you do choose to have alcohol, go by the rule of matching one alcoholic drink to one glass of water so you stay hydrated.
3. Do your prep to stay on top
Planning your food for the week can ensure you don’t end up eating less nutritious options out of convenience. Set aside a few hours a week, perhaps at the weekend, to plan and prepare delicious, nutritious food. This can be as easy as batch-cooking chicken breasts and roasting sweet potatoes. You can also toast nuts and prep fruit for snacks. Store in airtight containers in the fridge and grab as you need them.
4. Keep hydrated
Your body is made up of 60 to 70% water, and not consuming enough has repercussions beyond just feeling thirsty. Dehydration decreases blood flow to the brain, leaving you feeling lethargic. It can also impair kidney function and your digestion and slow your metabolism. Try making your own flavoured water with cucumber, mint or fresh lemon, and always carry some with you so that you’re never dehydrated.
5. Don’t be too hard on yourself
Sticking to a big lifestyle change is the single most important factor. It’s all very well eating clean for a week, but maintaining it long term is the tricky bit. That’s why a balanced 80/20 approach, without total restriction or guilt attached, is often the best idea.
Yes, it’s important to eat a wholesome diet 80% of the time to encourage healthy habits, but life also happens: parties, weddings, dinners out with the family, and it’s learning that it’s OK to have one bad meal, as long as it doesn’t mean you give up on clean eating entirely. Indulging on occasion will mean you are less likely to feel restricted, which makes sticking to a new way of eating a lot more manageable.
Read more: 22 easy ways to lose weight without dieting