Whether you are dieting to lose weight or changing your food choices to improve your health, making change isn’t always easy.

The research says we have to stay with a change for at least 21 days to make it “stick.”

Here are 10 ways to make your new food habits a solid part of the “new you.”

1. Start slowly and be realistic

The reality is that old habits die hard.  So don’t try to do too much too quickly. Make one or two changes at first, solidify those new habits, and then when you feel ready, take the next step. It’s better to make a few healthier choices—not drinking sugary soft drinks or switching from fast food to home-prepared food—than to completely change the way you have been eating all at once.

2. Get support

Find a nutrition buddy! It’s easier to make changes when you declare your intention to others out loud. Once you do, select a few supporters to lean on during those times when you feel yourself wavering. Team up with a friend. Ask a sibling or spouse to cheer you on. Get the support of your social circle for when you go to parties or get-togethers.

3. Clean out your kitchen

You can’t eat those potato chips if they aren’t there! Working with your nutritionist or healthcare professional, decide what a “healthy” pantry looks like. Then clean out your cupboards and restock them with the healthier alternatives. Grocery stores are changing to meet the growing consumer demand for healthier foods, especially snack choices, so look beyond the brands you are accustomed to buying on automatic pilot.

4. Dare your taste buds

Most people eat the same foods over and over again, and tend not to roam too far afield in the culinary world. Seek out tasty new recipes that use the foods you are substituting into your new diet. Dare yourself to be adventurous in your palate. Love burgers? Try a portobello mushroom burger instead. Always wondered what a kiwi tastes like? Now is the time to find out!

5. Plan ahead

Temptation tends to strike when we are away from home and can’t control our food choices. So if you are planning to go out to dinner, go online first and see if the restaurant posts its menu on its website. That way you can determine if their culinary offerings support your new dietary preferences. When it comes to work, travelling and on-the-go activities, prepare some healthy snacks and pack them to take with you.

6. Deal with cravings

When the craving for a donut strikes, have a healthy alternative available. Better yet, wait out the craving by busying yourself. You will be surprised how quickly a craving passes when you occupy yourself with something else.

7. Go easy on yourself

No one is perfect. If you occasionally slip in your new dietary habits, that’s okay. Let go of any guilt, move on, and renew your commitment to the new, healthier you.

8. Set goals

Work with your nutritionist or healthcare provider to set realistic goals. Then write them down! By having clear, identifiable goals and tracking your progress, it will be to celebrate your successes, which keeps you motivated, and to alert yourself to problem areas and find solutions.

9. Accentuate the positive.

Continually remind yourself why you have made the dietary changes you have. Post positive affirmations around your home and workplace, even in your car. The more you remind yourself of the benefits of healthy eating, the more motivated you will be.

10. Reward yourself

Changing a habit isn’t easy, so celebrate your decision to do so. Give yourself regular pats on the back. If you have a support person or group, celebrate milestones with them. Doing so on a weekly, or even daily, basis not only will help you stay motivated but also will help you feel good about yourself and your progress.

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