New year, new you—you’ll hear it everywhere for at least the next three months. When January rolls around, everyone flocks to the produce aisle, crowds the gym, and cuts back on junk food in order to finally meet that health-minded New Year’s resolution they’ve been telling themselves about for years. While it’s never a bad thing to develop a healthier lifestyle, it definitely isn’t easy. One major reason people give up on those New Year’s resolutions in the first place is because they deprive themselves of good food altogether or push themselves too hard at the gym and eventually crash.
Exercise is incredibly important, but your eating habits can’t always be offset by a tough day at the gym. Thankfully, making smarter choices about what you eat isn’t impossible. There are plenty of ways to incorporate healthier habits into your diet without sacrificing all of the delicious flavors you normally enjoy.
1. Don’t take away the foods you love—just alter them
If burgers are the one meal you can’t live without, then by all means, don’t live without them. Rather than indulging in that Five Guys burger you’ve been thinking about, break out your grill pan and cook up some burgers at home. Purchase lean ground beef or ground turkey. Season the meat with pepper and spices (but not too much salt), then add a cup of chopped kale to the beef and form it into patties. You won’t notice the kale, but your body will notice its nutrients. Place your plump burger on a whole wheat bun and top it with lettuce, tomato, and a thin slice of cheddar. (These kale turkey burgers are a great place to start.)
If you’re a pasta lover, add broccoli, sautéed onions, and garlic to one serving of pasta. Toss it in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with pepper for a veggie-packed pasta dish.
2. Always eat the vegetables first
If you don’t love veggies, then it’s not easy to incorporate them into your diet—let’s face it, they’re not as delicious as cheese and meat. But if you still want to whip up your favorite meal, divide your plate in half and fill one half with your indulgence (for me, it’s macaroni and cheese), and one half with a vegetable of your choice. Then, devour those veggies before taking one bite of the other side. Most vegetables are packed with nutrients and fiber that will help you feel full, so you won’t be tempted to go back for seconds once you finish the tastier part of your dish.
3. Takeout is optional, but smarter choices are mandatory
You know the feeling of coming home exhausted and wanting nothing more than that Seamless delivery person at your door ASAP. There’s no need to nix takeout for good just because you’re dieting—but you definitely need to make smarter choices when you order. Swap out fried chicken for grilled; order brown rice in your sushi; stick with plain pizza versus meat lover’s. Any time you choose to order out, there’s a good chance the meal won’t be as healthy as whatever you’d cook at home. But if you take small steps to cut back on sodium, sugar, and fat, you’re still taking your healthy habits in the right direction.
4. Drink a glass of water before you indulge
Yes, a glass of water will help you feel more full and cause you to eat less. In addition to this being an awesome benefit of water, there are one million other awesome benefits of water. Before you sit down to eat, you should drink up not only to feel more full but also to keep your body hydrated and functioning properly. Water is something you cannot live without, but it’s likely something you don’t get enough of daily. Down a glass before breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks to make sure you’re giving your body the water it needs.
5. Keep a box of chocolates in your kitchen
It sounds counterproductive, but it’s not. Depriving yourself of something only makes you crave it more—and cutting out sugar is no exception. Instead, make healthy choices throughout the day and reward yourself with a piece of chocolate. The key is to make sure you’re not scarfing down half the box in one day; one piece daily is the perfect amount to satisfy your brain’s chocolate craving. Yes, it’s unhealthy sugar, but if you’re making smart choices with every meal, you’re not sabotaging those healthy habits.