SALT LAKE CITY — Understanding what a balanced diet is, and what it is not, is one thing. But once you've decided your diet could use a bit more balance, how do you go about making a change?
Here are five simple tips that will help you get started on your journey to a more balanced diet and healthier life.
Assess your diet
An important part of a balanced diet is eating from each of the five food groups, so it is important to have an idea of how much of each food group you eat regularly. To accomplish this task, you'll need to track your eating for three days.
Two of the days you track should be weekdays, and one should be a weekend day. This way you have a good snapshot of what a typical week of eating looks like for you. The point of this should be to look at the variety of foods you eat, not the caloric value they have.
Once you have three days of eating tracked, compare your intake to the recommendations found on choosemyplate.org. This will give you a good idea of how to set goals moving forward.
Start with simple goals
Using the diet assessment and the recommendations from Choose My Plate think up some specific and simple goals. For example, if you don't eat enough vegetables you could set the goal of eating one serving of vegetables for lunch every day. This goal is specific and simple.
Set one or two goals to start. As you become more comfortable with the changes you have made, you can add new specific and simple goals to work on.
Identify your belief surrounding food
This can be the most difficult part of transitioning to a balanced diet. In order to fully accomplish a balanced diet, you will need to believe that all food can fit into a healthy diet. You will need to stop classifying foods as "good" and "bad," or "healthy" and "unhealthy." You will have to stop restricting certain food which you believe are "bad" and learn to make peace with food.
An excellent resource for identifying your beliefs about food is the book "Intuitive Eating," by Elyse Resch and Evelyn Tribole.
Be patient with yourself
This is a transition process that will take time, and you will likely have setbacks. When you experience setbacks, go back to the simple goals you have set and start again. This process is like riding a bike: At the beginning you may fall off multiple times, but if you keep getting back up you will be able to ride the bike with time. Even people who have been riding bikes for years fall off, so be patient.
There is no place for shame in a balanced diet, so be patient and start again when you get off track.
Set long-term goals
Although your day-to-day goals should be simple and specific, it is just as important to set long-term goals. Determine what you would like to achieve. These goals should not be tied to weight loss. Here is an example: "I would like to have more energy each day."
Making lifestyle and diet changes can be challenging, remember to be patient and kind to yourself.
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