Take Baby Steps to a Healthier Diet

Eat better; cut back on sugar; eat more veggies; drink less caffeine: does this sound like your New Year's resolution list? The trouble is, most people try to go from gorge-on-it to give-it-up overnight.

The holidays are a time of gluttony for many. Workouts take a more leisurely pace and tempting, high-calorie foods are lurking around every turn. If you take a more moderate approach to the holiday season, however, you can set yourself up for success in the New Year.

Challenge yourself to avoid those holiday pig-out sessions and begin taking baby steps to healthy eating before January 1 rolls around.

More: 8 Tips to Have a Healthier Holiday Season

Eating well requires planning, commitment and dedication, but it can be done. Remember that crazy 90's flick, What About Bob? Bob's journey of self-discovery was all about taking baby steps to accomplish his goals. He was instructed to take one day at a time and avoid breaking off more than he could chew. Learning to make healthy choices and eat well can also be achieved with this same philosophy.   

A healthy diet isn't about restricting whole food groups and loading up on tilapia and broccoli at every meal only to binge on doughnuts in a couple weeks time. It's about awareness, accountability, balance and commitment—the ABC's of great nutrition. Follow these simple steps and set yourself up for lasting dietary success.

More: 5 Healthy Makeovers for Holiday Sides

Awareness

The first key to improving your diet is to know what you're eating. Eliminate bad choices by reading food labels. Reading labels helps you to confirm good options and find better substitutes when necessary. Take peanut butter for example: many brands add sugar and oil to their peanut butter, when in fact, peanut butter should have one ingredient: peanuts. The best rule of thumb is to choose the brand that has the fewest ingredients.  

Balance

You should also understand the basic nutrient composition of the food you consume. Know when you're eating a carbohydrate, a protein, a fat or a combination. Balancing the right ratios of carbohydrate, fat and protein for meals and snacks is more important than strict calorie adherence. By understanding macronutrient composition of foods, you can even out daily meals and snacks.

Strive to include a fiber (quality carbohydrate), protein and fat source at every meal and snack, with plenty of added vegetables. An example of this would be grilled salmon (protein, fat), baked sweet potato (fiber, quality carbohydrate) and roasted asparagus.

By adding fat and protein to carbohydrate food sources, you will keep blood sugar and energy levels stable and consistent. Next time you reach for that apple (great snack choice by the way), add a tablespoon of almond butter. Balance is all about eating well most of the time but still allowing for treats occasionally.

More: 10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Accountability

Hold yourself accountable to your goals. You can do this by seeking the help of a friend or a professional. Whether your budget allows for professional nutrition services, or maybe just the ear of a good friend, family member or spouse, share your goals with someone and they can help you walk the line.

Commitment

Eating unhealthy is easy; eating well takes work. Challenge yourself to take the tough road this year and establish great eating habits. Once habits are changed, making those good choices becomes much easier. Respect yourself by feeding your body the food it deserves. Not only will good food improve your quality of life, it can help you live longer, too.

Follow these simple ABC's of a healthy diet and start your year off on the right foot. Take baby steps to ultimately meet big goals.

More: 100 Foods to Help You Fight Holiday Stress

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