Create a healthier lifestyle for 1 week at a time
Instead, try setting weekly mini-goals that can help make goals like losing weight, lowering cholesterol, or adopting a more plant-based diet less intimidating — and achievable.
This is how I’ve always worked with clients: I teach them about slow, gradual behavior changes that, when combined, result in significant health improvements over time.
The beauty of setting small goals—and what makes them achievable—is that they don’t require big changes in your daily routine. To be successful, such goals should be realistic and specific, with measurable results.
Here’s an example of a simple weekly guide to eating well and becoming your healthiest self:
Week 1: Upgrade your breakfast by making it high in protein
If you eat a high-carb breakfast and struggle with mid-morning hunger and energy slumps, add some protein to your morning meal. Protein helps keep your blood sugar levels stable and keeps you full.
Week 2: Add a vegetable to lunch and dinner
This is an easy way to make your plate more plant-based while boosting fiber. Here are some creative ways to add veggies to your daily diet.
Add spinach leaves in a sandwich; grab baby carrots and hummus for snacks; add a mixed green salad as part of dinner; enjoy a cauliflower mash instead of baked potatoes; Roasted Brussels sprouts, rainbow carrots or diced aubergines as a side dish; add broccoli, mushrooms or cherry tomatoes to pasta; Make a skillet with bell peppers, kale, or hearts of palm; or enjoy sliced ripe tomatoes or sliced cucumbers with a small amount of olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Week 3: Add two fruits each day
Adding fruit to your diet increases vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber and is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth without consuming extra sugar. It’s easy as a snack on the go or as an addition to a meal.
Add strawberries or blueberries to breakfast cereal or yogurt; grab a clementine for a snack; eat a banana with almond or peanut butter to ease midday hunger pangs; cut a kiwi in half and eat it with a spoon; for dessert, eat berries with whipped cream or peaches with non-fat whipped cream; or enjoy apple chips or mango chips as a portable snack.
Week 4: Add an 8-ounce glass of water to each meal
This is an easy way to remind yourself to stay hydrated. Replacing higher-calorie beverages with water can also help you reduce added sugars from your diet and limit your alcohol consumption. To spice up water, add lemon or orange slices to still water or seltzer.
Week 5: Take a tea break
Week 6: Cut your portions in half
One of the easiest ways to cut calories without having to measure or weigh food is to simply halve the portion size.
For example, eyeball can make an 8-ounce serving of chicken, fish, or meat 4 ounces; Similarly, a 2-cup bowl of pasta divided in half becomes 1 cup. Each day, choose your largest portions of protein and starches and scale them down by dividing them in half.
Week 7: Find 20 minutes a day for fitness
Maintaining fitness can be challenging, especially with a busy schedule. Start small by planning 20 minutes of cardio, stretching, weights, or any other activity that makes your body feel good. Exercise can increase blood flow and lift your spirits, and it can also help you eat and sleep better.
Week 8: Shift from refined grains to whole grains
Try eating a whole wheat sandwich instead of white bread, oatmeal for breakfast, opting for whole wheat pasta or crackers instead of refined versions, and opting for brown rice (even with sushi) instead of white rice.
Week 9: Add one “meatless meal” per week
Week 10: Swap out a high-sugar food for a low-sugar version
Examples include sliced fruit instead of sugary jam on toast, salsa instead of ketchup, or frozen banana “Nice” cream instead of ice cream. You can also use cinnamon instead of sugar as a spice for muesli, oatmeal, and baked goods.
Week 11: Stop buying trigger foods and drinks
It can be difficult to resist tempting foods and sweets when they occupy a prime place in your kitchen. There’s a lot to be said for out of sight, out of mind. Make it easier to stick to your goals by avoiding your trigger foods. Do not bring home cookies, chips, candy, high-calorie drinks or similar foods from the supermarket.
Week 12: More rest
By making these changes to your daily diet, you will naturally eliminate unhealthy foods and drinks while creating a healthier lifestyle week at a time.
Lisa Drayer is a nutritionist, author, and CNN contributor to Health and Nutrition.