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How to Stick With Your New Diet

By Kara Mayer Robinson
WebMD Feature

You're shifting your diet for better heart health. Now that you've taken that first step, you'll want to make those changes last.

Part of it is about making things as automatic as possible, so you don't even have to think about it. The other part is about outsmarting the things that are most likely to trip you up, like that craving you get every afternoon for something sweet, or being too tired after working or taking care of the kids all day to cook something healthy.

It's simpler than you think. Start with these five steps.

1. Make your grocery list a no-brainer.

You know you need to keep your fridge and pantry stocked well, so that you’ll always have smart choices to reach for when you’re hungry.

Make that process as easy as possible. Save your must-have items on your phone, so you don't have to re-create the list every time you shop.

If you have access to a grocery delivery system, use it, and set yourself up for delivery of your go-to healthy foods. The point is to take the randomness out of your food choices as much as possible, so you always have what you need.

2. Tap an app.

Use a meal-planning app as you're planning your meals for the week. There are free apps, like Evernote and Springpad, that include recipes and the ingredients you'll need.

“Poor planning is a surefire way to fall into old habits,” says registered dietitian Katie Cavuto.

3. Follow the rule of 3. 

Make only three changes at a time, says nutritionist Michelle Dudash, author of Clean Eating for Busy Families.

It's fine to have a lot of goals. Just take them in threes, so they don't get overwhelming.

Be very specific. For example, a goal may be eating oatmeal for breakfast.

Keep up those three changes for at least a month, Dudash says; then add three more.

4. Hack your hunger. 

Sometimes when you think you’re hungry, you’re actually thirsty, tired, or bored.

So question your hunger. Maybe have a glass of water first, just to test whether it's really hunger you're feeling.

Also, take notice of your mood. If you're feeling stressed or emotional, food isn't the fix. Talk to someone or take a break, and see if you're still hungry after that.

5. Regroup with a cleansing meal.

If you step off your diet for a moment, a meal, or longer, Dudash recommends trying a “cleansing meal” of fresh fruits and vegetables, fish, and maybe a whole grain to get back on track.

The meal won't "cleanse" your body. But it will refresh your motivation.

“The next day, the next meal, the next snack is a new opportunity to get back on track and eat well again,” Dudash says. “Don’t let one indulgent meal derail you.”

If your eating is mostly on track, an occasional splurge is OK. “When we eat to nourish, the occasional treat -- like a piece of cake on your birthday or an ice cream cone on a warm summer day -- is nothing more than finding balance in a healthful way,” Cavuto says.

Reviewed on June 19, 2014

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