Focus on What to Add, Not Restrict

By: Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

As the countdown to 2023 nears, you are probably starting to set your New Year’s resolutions. These may include changes to your diet to lose weight, but many times these changes are incredibly restrictive. Not to worry – I’m going to review 7 healthy eating habits you can easily implement in 2023 – no deprivation required.

If you’re like most people, your past resolutions were likely lofty and involved some sort of restriction. But the truth is diet changes that focus on restriction or an all-or-nothing diet mentality feel negative. They also don’t work in the long term and are one of the biggest reasons why most resolutions fail. 

This year, why not focus on what to add to your diet instead of centering resolutions around avoidance?

Why New Year’s Diet Resolutions Fail

Many new year’s diet resolutions only stick for a month or two, mainly because they are too difficult to sustain. When implementing these new habits, you’ll need them to easily adapt to your life. They also need to be focused on the positive, rather than the negative.

For example, saying “I will cut out bread starting Jan 1 because it’s bad” has a negative, restricting connotation versus saying “I will eat whole wheat bread 80% of the time because it leaves me feeling more satisfied.”

So when starting to think about your healthy eating resolutions this year, check in to see if they have a positive or negative feel to them, and switch the narrative if they make you feel restricted.

Let’s dive into 7 healthy food habits to start now.

7 Healthy Eating Habits for 2023

1. Drink water as soon as you wake up

If you’ve already Googled healthy habits, I’m sure you’ve seen “drink water” as one of the top recommendations to support weight loss. But while you probably know this, you may not be doing it consistently.

One way to get yourself to drink more water is by drinking it as soon as you wake up. Yes, this means before you have your morning coffee and before you eat breakfast!

If you start out with coffee, chances are you’ll drink more coffee and it will replace some of your water. This makes it harder to play catch-up at the end of the day and meet your water goals. Drinking water has multiple health benefits on its own, but drinking more of it also makes it easy to cut down on high-calorie drinks like lattes, soda, or juice.

Drinking water right away will get you into the habit of doing it and will make it easier to keep drinking it throughout the day. To do this, keep a water bottle by your bed or near your coffee maker to remind yourself to drink this first as part of your morning routine.

2. Add a fruit or veggie to every meal

Eating more fruits and vegetables is linked to a lower calorie intake and greater weight loss (without intentionally trying!). A simple way to eat more plants is by including one with every meal. 

Veggies are naturally low in calories and are therefore centered around many weight loss patterns such as volume eating, a way of eating that emphasizes foods high in water and fiber (like vegetables!).

I’ve had many clients ask if there are certain fruits or “starchy” veggies that should be avoided if you’re trying to lose weight. My answer is always absolutely not! No fruits or veggies are off-limits, and the best ones are the ones that you enjoy and fit easily within your meal-planning routine.

When planning your meals for the week, add “fruit” or “veggie” to breakfast, lunch, and dinner to remind yourself to include one at every meal.

7 healthy eating habits
Image copyright – @Natalie’s Health

3. Include enough protein at breakfast

Adequate protein is necessary when it comes to weight loss, but it’s especially important at breakfast. If you’ve ever had a carb-heavy breakfast sans protein like a bagel or English muffin, you probably found yourself ravenous shortly after. 

When your breakfast lacks protein, you’ll likely get hungry sooner. In fact, you may even feel more hungry than you did if you had not eaten at all! This is because protein is a necessary nutrient for regulating your hunger hormones and sustaining your blood sugar levels. Without it, your meals won’t hold you over long.

If you miss your protein opportunity at breakfast, it can lead you to crave carbs (and food in general) all day long, resulting in a higher calorie intake when the day is said and done. 

To fix this, make sure to include a solid protein source with breakfast with at least 15-20 grams of protein. A few examples are:

  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup of cottage cheese and 1 egg
  • 6 oz of Greek yogurt and a handful of nuts
  • 2 scoops of whey or plant-based protein powder in a smoothie

This easy habit helps kick cravings to the curb and can prevent late-day overeating.

For more on protein, check out my blog “High Protein Meal Prep for Weight Loss.”

4. Keep a food journal

Keeping a food journal is one of the best 7 healthy eating habits out there.

If you’re feeling stuck in your weight loss journey, keeping a food journal can offer clarity in your habits. It’s easy to eat without real awareness of what, how much, and why you’re eating in the first place. 

Logging your food intake in a paper journal or a food-tracking app like MyFitnessPal can provide insight into your habits and what needs to be changed. When working with my clients, we have discovered habits that are often subconscious that are slowing down or preventing weight loss.

Examples are eating at night out of habit, eating too fast and overeating at dinner, or taking “bites” of snacks here and there where it adds up to be a lot by the end of the day. Commit to logging your food for at least 2 weeks, then evaluate and reassess.

5. Focus on how you feel after eating

Many times our culture focuses on “good” or “bad” foods, and what to avoid if you’re trying to lose weight. Instead of doing this, focus on how certain foods make you feel.

This is where food journaling comes in handy again – by logging your food you can track how you feel after eating a certain way and after different-sized portions. This can help you determine which foods provide energy and hold you over versus those that leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, or hungry shortly after. 

You also may notice a trend if you eat too fast or eat too much portion-wise, you don’t feel too well. This practice is not intended to make you feel any sense of guilt or shame for eating a certain way. It’s merely to help you better connect your eating habits to your physical (and mental) health.

Taking note of all of these things can motivate you to eat in a way that better matches your goals and helps you feel your best. 

If you struggle with motivation, check out my blog “How to Stay Motivated to Lose Weight.”

6. Eat more whole foods

Instead of saying all processed food is bad, focus on filling up your grocery cart with more whole foods that don’t come in a package or can. Doing this will naturally help you eat less processed foods, and will increase the satisfaction factor of your diet.

Research shows eating more whole foods can help improve health and support weight loss. This may be especially the case when it comes to eating more whole foods derived from plants.

A realistic goal may be to fill 80% of your meals with whole foods and allow 20% of your foods to be more convenient and processed foods.

healthy eating habits
Image copyright – @BBC Food

7. Simplify your meal planning

Meal planning can help you eat more nutritious meals and lose weight. It also saves you time and energy, when done right. The problem is that many people make meal planning too complicated, and end up not sticking to it after a few weeks.

Keep things super simple by choosing quick recipes with minimal ingredients that can be used in several recipes. Don’t feel the need to cook for an entire week – if you only can get 1-2 days ahead, that will still do wonders for your healthy eating rotation.

Keep a binder of all your favorites so you have easy go-to’s when you don’t have the mental capacity to try something new, and feel free to stash a handful of healthy frozen meals when things don’t go as planned. A few of my favorite frozen meals are Healthy Choice Power Bowls, Kashi Protein Bowls, and Evol branded meals.

Want more specific tips to start a meal planning routine? Check out my blog “Meal Planning 101 For Busy Women.”

Conclusion

Creating healthy food habits in 2023 should not feel like a chore. Implementing these 7 healthy eating habits in this article will give you a sense of abundance rather than restriction, which makes the habit that much more sustainable. 

Remember to take things one step at a time, as changing habits and healthy weight loss takes time. Be patient with the process and remember that Rome was not built in a day. Keep practicing, stay consistent, and don’t give up. You can do this!  

Cheers to a happy and healthy you in 2023!

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