Four Ways to Stick With a Healthier Diet


DIETING CAN create a desire for quick fixes and unsustainable choices. When you don’t see instant results or can’t make them last, you get frustrated. Jennifer Brunelli, a registered dietician, is familiar with this cycle. She’s the sports dietician and nutritionist for the Carolina Panthers and owner of Sports RDpro, a sports nutrition, weight management, and corporate wellness practice. Creating a daily wellness routine is a personal, long-term process, she says, and she recommends meeting with a registered dietician first. “Let them help you figure out a realistic goal that will create positive change in your energy levels, health, body composition, performance,” Brunelli says. “You want to know if the things you are trying to change are going to actually help you reach your goal, or if it is just a short-term Band-Aid.” Here are four other tips to help you get started.

Drink the right amount of water
The amount of water you should drink per day is based on your body weight, activity level, and lifestyle. A good beginning guide is to drink half an ounce to an ounce per pound of body weight. To account for water loss during exercise, try weighing yourself before and after a workout and drink eight to 16 ounces of fluid for every pound you lose.

Don’t deny yourself
Focus instead on being emotionally and physically satisfied. “It is not about taking foods away, or ‘eating the rainbow,’” Brunelli says. “It’s about having what you need, when you need it.” Eliminating certain foods, ingredients, or food groups is a common dieting strategy that might not work if it leaves you feeling deprived. For example, the Atkins Diet calls for removing nearly all carbohydrates, while other diets mandate snacks or small meals every three hours. These rules don’t suit everyone. “You can lose weight without starving, feeling exhausted, or putting yourself at risk,” Brunelli says.

Make smart swaps
Along with eating a variety of foods from all food groups and doing so in moderation, Brunelli advises trading less healthy foods for more nutritious ones. At a restaurant, if the plate comes with rice or pasta, ask to substitute a vegetable. If at home, you always serve stir-fry with fried rice, try sautéing some extra vegetables instead. Also consider the time of day you’re eating and what your energy needs will be. Try to incorporate protein, carbohydrates, and fat into every single meal to stabilize your energy levels. 

Be careful when dining out
​Brunelli suggests asking for a to-go box when your meal arrives. Look at your plate, visually determine what is appropriate to eat in one sitting, and place the rest in the box. “I can’t tell you how many times I have received a plate at a restaurant and thought, ‘Wow, I am never going to finish all this,’” Brunelli says. “But seven minutes later, my plate is empty and I am stuffed. [Boxing the excess first] removes the hurdle in front of you, rather than trying to manage it.”

This article appears in the March 2016 issue of Charlotte Magazine

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