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How to Stick to a Healthy Diet

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How to Stick to a Healthy Diet

Jan 19, 2022
Improving one's diet is a common New Year's resolution. But our fast-paced, busy lives make it seemingly impossible to stick to a healthful diet, right? Not according to dietitian Kary Woodruff, who says knowing what makes a healthy meal can make eating healthfully easy. Find out how to best prepare your meal for the day and other tips and tricks to eating better and healthier.

Episode Transcript

Interviewer: It seems like having a healthy diet is always on the list of New Year's resolutions for a lot of us. It's probably because it was on the list last year, and you just couldn't follow through. Overcoming diet changes is right now on The Scope.

I'm not sure if it's an American thing or a woman thing, or maybe it's generational, but it seems like a lot of people I know, when they talk about the kind of resolutions they want to be having for the New Year, diet always seem to make that list. Eating better, having a healthier diet, maintaining that diet. But I also feel like, as you get further into the year, it kind of starts to slip and you'll kind of just be like, "Oh, next year," right?

Well, we have registered dietician Kary Woodruff with us right now, and she's going to help you make that goal this year. Overcoming diet challenges, it's a hard thing.

Kary: Yeah, absolutely. We're very much a weight-focused culture, and so with that constant focus on weight there is this continual pressure to be eating healthfully and to be exercising regularly.

Interviewer: I think also, as a society, we have a lot of diet challenges that are just kind of always preventing us from following through with this resolution that we might have for ourselves. I think maybe one of it, for me anyway, is just we're so busy, right? We're always on-the-go and there's always that excuse, "Oh, I don't have the time."

Kary: Yeah. So I think we have this belief that to eat healthfully it takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. So when we're pressed for time and we're on-the-go, we then sort of throw up our hands and say, "Well, I can't do this now, and so I'll do it later." So it always gets pushed off when, in reality, there actually are some easy ways to prepare healthy meals quick and easy in even 10 to 20 minutes. There are some great websites, like that has 15 to 20-minute meals, and there are even grocery stores and other restaurants that provide to-go meals that are more healthful and have more nutrient-dense foods.

So it's just being aware of where can we go when we are pressed for time, in order to make a quick, healthy meal or to grab something on-the-go, but something that we can grab quickly that is also healthy.

Interviewer: But that's kind of hard, isn't it? Where we live, there are vending machines everywhere.

Kary: Well, absolutely. So I think we are surrounded by high-fat, high-sugar, high-sodium foods everywhere we go. I think it's also helpful to know that in some of those same places there are also some healthier options. So if you take McDonald's, for example.

McDonald's has this stereotype of only serving greasy, high-fat, high-sodium foods, and they absolutely do serve some of those foods. But you can get a grilled chicken sandwich at McDonald's. You can get a chicken salad. You can get a parfait in the morning or some homemade oatmeal. So I think, sometimes, just because we're grabbing something on-the-go doesn't all of a sudden mean that we order something unhealthful. We can go to some of these same restaurants and same places and get healthy options.

Interviewer: I think it comes down to knowing the knowledge, right? Knowing what's healthy, what's not healthy, what should you be putting into your body. But how do you gain that knowledge? How do you know what to prep in the morning and for lunch? Or if you are running out of time to prep for lunch, if you have to buy lunch, how do you know what to buy that's not unhealthy for your body?

Kary: Yeah. I mean, I think one of the simplest tools that we have, which are now provided through the dietary guidelines, is to use what we in the nutrition field call the plate method. So the plate method says that half of our plate should be comprised of fruits and vegetables, a quarter of our plate should be comprised of lean protein sources and a quarter of our plate should be a whole grain or a starch.

So if you're going to grab something on-the-go, and let's say you are at a grocery store and you're in the salad bar area, well, okay, so could you grab a great, big salad or some steamed vegetables or roasted vegetables and have that be about half of what you take with you? Could you find a lean protein, like some grilled chicken or grilled fish? Is there a whole grain option, like a whole wheat bun or some quinoa, or some other whole grain option? So just by thinking of those three things, of a lean protein, a whole grain or starch, and fruits and vegetables, then that helps to direct some of the things that we can order or grab on-the-go.

Interviewer: It all comes back to self-control though, doesn't it? When you're standing in, like you said, that line in McDonald's, and do you want to grab that salad? Or that cheeseburger sounds pretty good.

Kary: Sure. I do think so. What we also know though, is that we only have so much control that we can exhibit throughout the day. So ways that we can lessen the need for self-control and increase the likelihood of being successful with eating healthfully, is by setting ourselves up to be successful through things like meal-planning.

So if you have planned your lunch for the day, then you're not in the McDonald's line having to exhibit self-control because your meal is already ready, it's there and it's ready to go. So I think little things like setting ourselves up to be successful through meal-planning, for example, requires less self-control in the long-run.

Keeping in mind the principles of balance, moderation, and variety, so if you catch yourself in the new year wanting to try some new, crazy diet or some new fad diet, just ask yourself, "Is this balanced, is this varied and is this moderate?" If it's not, it's probably not going to be sustainable. So if we want to set ourselves up to be successful in the long-term, to eat healthfully, then we have to think about, "What's something I can do for a long time?"

Maybe we can follow a 500-calorie diet for a couple weeks, but is that something we can do forever? If we cannot say yes to that, then we probably shouldn't even start it to begin with. So if you are thinking about trying a new diet or a new dietary approach, you have to ask yourself, "Is this something I could do in the long-run?"

updated: January 19, 2022

originally published: January 4, 2017