14 Simple Ways to Stick to a Healthy Diet
It can also improve your mood and reduce your risk of disease.
Yet despite these benefits, maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle can be challenging.
Here are 14 ways to stick to a healthy diet.
1. Start With Realistic Expectations
Eating a nutritious diet has many benefits, including potential weight loss.
However, it's important to set realistic expectations.
For example, if you pressure yourself to lose weight too quickly, your plan to achieve better health may backfire.
Researchers found that obese people who expected to lose a lot of weight were more likely to drop out of a weight loss program within 6–12 months (1).
Setting a more realistic and achievable goal can keep you from getting discouraged and may even lead to greater weight loss.
Having realistic expectations increases your chances of maintaining healthy lifestyle behaviors.
2. Think About What Really Motivates You
Remembering why you're making healthy choices can help you stay on course.
Making a list of specific reasons why you want to get healthier can be helpful.
Keep this list handy and refer to it when you feel you need a reminder.
When you're tempted to indulge in unhealthy behaviors, remembering what motivates you can help you stay on track.
3. Keep Unhealthy Foods Out of the House
It's difficult to eat healthy if you're surrounded by junk foods.
If other family members want to have these foods around, try keeping them hidden rather than on countertops.
The saying "out of sight, out of mind" definitely applies here.
Keeping unhealthy foods out of the house, or at least out of sight, can increase your chances of staying on track.
4. Don't Have an "All or Nothing" Approach
A major roadblock to achieving a healthy diet and lifestyle is black-and-white thinking.
One common scenario is that you have a few unhealthy appetizers at a party, decide that your diet is ruined for the day, and proceed to overindulge in unhealthy foods.
Instead of considering the day ruined, try putting the past behind you and choosing healthy, unprocessed foods that contain protein for the remainder of the party.
This will help you feel full and satisfied rather than stuffed and frustrated.
A few off-plan choices make very little difference in the long run, as long as you balance them with healthy foods.
Rejecting the urge to judge your day as "good" or "bad" can prevent you from overeating and making poor choices.
5. Carry Healthy Snacks
Sticking to a healthy diet can be tough when you're away from home for extended periods.
When you get too hungry on the go, you may end up grabbing whatever is available.
This is often processed food that doesn't really satisfy hunger and isn't good for you in the long run.
Some examples of good, portable snacks are almonds, peanuts and jerky. Also consider filling a small cooler with hard-boiled eggs, cheese or Greek yogurt.
Take healthy, high-protein snacks when you're on the road or traveling in case you're unable to eat a meal for several hours.
6. Exercise and Change Diet at the Same Time
You may have heard you shouldn't change too many things at once when trying to improve your health. In general, this is good advice.
Still, research shows that when you make both dietary and physical activity changes at the same time, the results tend to reinforce each other.
In a study in 200 people, those who began eating a healthy diet and exercising at the same time found it easier to maintain these behaviors than those who started with either diet or exercise alone, then added the other later (5).
Simultaneously beginning to exercise and changing the way you eat increases your chances of healthy lifestyle success.
7. Have a Game Plan Before Eating Out
Trying to maintain a healthy diet while eating out can be very challenging.
Still, there are ways to make it easier, such as checking out the menu before you go or drinking water before and during the meal.
It's best to have a strategy in place before you get to the restaurant rather than being overwhelmed once you get there.
Having a plan before eating out can help you make healthier food choices.
8. Don't Let Traveling Derail You
Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, being outside of your familiar territory can make it difficult to stick to a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few tips:
- Research the restaurants and supermarkets ahead of time.
- Pack some healthy foods that don't spoil easily.
- Challenge yourself to stay on track for most of the trip.
You can stick to a healthy eating plan while traveling. All it takes is a bit of research, planning, and commitment.
9. Practice Mindful Eating
Eating mindfully can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Take time to enjoy your food and appreciate its ability to nourish you. This increases your chances of making successful, lasting behavioral changes.
In a four-month study, overweight and obese women who practiced mindful eating significantly improved their relationship with food (6).
Another 6-week study in women with binge eating disorder found that binge episodes decreased from 4 to 1.5 per week when the women practiced mindful eating. Plus, the severity of each binge decreased (7).
Adopting a mindful eating approach can help you achieve a better relationship with food and may reduce binge eating.
10. Track and Monitor Your Progress
Measuring your exercise progress is also beneficial and provides you with motivation that can help you keep going.
In a three-month study, overweight women who were given pedometers walked farther and lost six times more weight than those who didn't use them (11).
Tracking your food intake and exercise progress can provide motivation and accountability. Studies show that it helps you stick to a healthy diet and leads to greater weight loss.
11. Get a Partner to Join You
Sticking with a healthy eating and exercise plan can be tough to do on your own.
Researchers studying data from more than 3,000 couples found that when one person made a positive lifestyle change, such as increasing physical activity, the other was more likely to follow their lead (13).
Having a partner join you in making healthy lifestyle changes can increase your chances of success.
12. Start the Day With a High-Protein Breakfast
Eating a high-protein breakfast helps you stay full and can prevent overeating later in the day.
13. Realize That It Takes Time to Change Your Habits
Don't be discouraged if it takes longer than you expect to adapt to your new, healthy way of living.
Researchers have found that it takes an average of 66 days to make a new behavior a habit (16).
Eventually, eating healthy and exercising regularly will become automatic.
Do your best to stay motivated and focused while you adapt to a healthy lifestyle. It takes 66 days to make a new habit, on average.
14. Figure Out What Works Best for You
There is no perfect way that works for everyone.
It's important to find a way of eating and exercising that you enjoy, find sustainable and can stick to for the rest of your life.
The best diet for you is the one you can stick to in the long run.
Weight loss methods that work for some people are not guaranteed to work for you. To lose weight and keep it off, find effective strategies that you can stick to in the long term.
The Bottom Line
Breaking your habits and improving your diet is not easy.
However, several strategies can help you stick to your diet plans and lose weight.
These include mindful eating, keeping unhealthy snacks out of sight, carrying healthy snacks and managing your expectations. Still, one of the keys to a successful diet is finding out what works for you in the long term.
If you're trying to lose weight, some of the strategies above may give you a significant advantage.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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By Alexander Richard Braczkowski, Christopher O'Bryan, Duan Biggs, and Raymond Jansen
A Cute But Threatened Species<p><a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/what-is-a-pangolin" target="_blank">Pangolins</a> are the only mammals wholly-covered in scales, which they use to protect themselves from predators. They can also curl up into a tight ball.</p><p>They eat mainly ants, termites and larvae which they pick up with their sticky tongue. They can grow up to 1m in length from nose to tail and are sometimes referred to as scaly anteaters.</p><p>But <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780128155073000332" title="Chapter 33 - Conservation strategies and priority actions for pangolins" target="_blank">all eight</a> pangolin species are classified as "<a href="https://www.pangolins.org/tag/endangered-species/" target="_blank">threatened</a>" under International Union for Conservation of Nature <a href="https://www.iucnredlist.org/search?query=pangolin&searchType=species" target="_blank">criteria</a>.</p><p>There is an unprecedented demand for their scales, primarily from countries in Asia and <a href="https://conbio.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/conl.12389" title="Assessing Africa‐Wide Pangolin Exploitation by Scaling Local Data" target="_blank">Africa</a> where they are used in food, cultural remedies and <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/141072b0" title="Chinese Medicine and the Pangolin" target="_blank">medicine</a>.</p><p>Between 2017 and 2019, seizures of pangolin scales <a href="https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2020/02/pangolin-scale-trade-shipments-growing/" target="_blank">tripled in volume</a>. In 2019 alone, 97 tons of pangolin scales, equivalent to about 150,000 animals, were <a href="https://oxpeckers.org/2020/03/nigeria-steps-up-for-pangolins/" target="_blank">reportedly</a> intercepted leaving Africa.</p>
Reintroduction of an Extinct Species<p>Each year in South Africa the African Pangolin Working Group (<a href="https://africanpangolin.org/" target="_blank">APWG</a>) retrieves between 20 and 40 pangolins through intelligence operations with security forces.</p><p>These pangolins are often-traumatised and injured and are admitted to the <a href="http://www.johannesburgwildlifevet.com/our-hospital" target="_blank">Johannesburg Wildlife Veterinary Hospital</a> for extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation before they can be considered for release.</p><p>In 2019, seven rescued Temminck's pangolins were reintroduced into South Africa's <a href="https://www.andbeyond.com/destinations/africa/south-africa/kwazulu-natal/phinda-private-game-reserve/" target="_blank">Phinda Private Game Reserve</a> in the KwaZulu Natal Province.</p><p>Nine months on, five have survived. This reintroduction is a world first for a region that last saw a viable population of this species in the 1980s.</p><p>During the release, every individual pangolin followed a strict regime. They needed to become familiar with their new surroundings and be able to forage efficiently.</p>
A ‘Soft Release’ in to the Wild<p>The process on Phinda game reserve involved a more gentle ease into re-wilding a population in a region that had not seen pangolins for many decades.</p><p>The soft release had two phases:</p><ol><li>a pre-release observational period</li><li>an intensive monitoring period post release employing GPS satellite as well as VHF tracking tags.</li></ol>
Why Pangolin Reintroduction is Important<p>We know so little about this group of mammals that are vastly understudied and hold many secrets yet to be discovered by science but are on the verge of collapse.</p><p>The South African and Phinda story is one of hope for the Temminck's pangolin where they once again roam the savanna hills and plains of Zululand.</p><p>The process of relocating these trade animals back into the wild has taken many turns, failures and tribulations but, the recipe of the "soft release" is working.</p>
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By Jake Johnson
In a move that environmentalists warned could further imperil hundreds of endangered species and a protected habitat for the sake of profit, President Donald Trump on Friday signed a proclamation rolling back an Obama-era order and opening nearly 5,000 square miles off the coast of New England to commercial fishing.
Why You Should Wash Fresh Produce<p>Global pandemic or not, properly washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a good habit to practice to minimize the ingestion of potentially harmful residues and germs.</p><p>Fresh produce is handled by numerous people before you purchase it from the grocery store or the farmers market. It's best to assume that not every hand that has touched fresh produce has been clean.</p><p>With all of the people constantly bustling through these environments, it's also safe to assume that much of the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fresh-vs-frozen-fruit-and-vegetables" target="_blank">fresh produce</a> you purchase has been coughed on, sneezed on, and breathed on as well.</p><p>Adequately washing fresh fruits and vegetables before you eat them can significantly reduce residues that may be left on them during their journey to your kitchen.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is a proven way to remove germs and unwanted residues from their surfaces before eating them.</p>
Best Produce Cleaning Methods<p>While rinsing fresh produce with water has long been the traditional method of preparing fruits and veggies before consumption, the current pandemic has many people wondering whether that's enough to really clean them.</p><p>Some people have advocated the use of soap, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/white-vinegar" target="_blank">vinegar</a>, lemon juice, or even commercial cleaners like bleach as an added measure.</p><p>However, health and food safety experts, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC), strongly urge consumers not to take this advice and stick with plain water.</p><p>Using such substances may pose further health dangers, and they're unnecessary to remove the most harmful residues from produce. <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/chlorine-poisoning" target="_blank">Ingesting commercial cleaning chemicals</a> like bleach can be lethal and should never be used to clean food.</p><p>Furthermore, substances like lemon juice, vinegar, and produce washes have not been shown to be any more effective at cleaning produce than plain water — and may even leave additional deposits on food.</p><p>While some research has suggested that using neutral electrolyzed water or a baking soda bath can be even more effective at removing certain substances, the consensus continues to be that cool tap water is sufficient in most cases.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>The best way to wash fresh produce before eating it is with cool water. Using other substances is largely unnecessary. Plus they're often not as effective as water and gentle friction. Commercial cleaners should never be used on food.</p>
How to Wash Fruits and Vegetables With Water<p>Washing fresh fruits and vegetables in cool water before eating them is a good practice when it comes to health hygiene and food safety.</p><p>Note that fresh produce should not be washed until right before you're ready to eat it. Washing fruits and vegetables before storing them may create an environment in which bacterial growth is more likely.</p><p>Before you begin washing fresh produce, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/how-long-should-you-wash-your-hands" target="_blank">wash your hands well</a> with soap and water. Be sure that any utensils, sinks, and surfaces you're using to prepare your produce are also thoroughly cleaned first.</p><p>Begin by cutting away any bruised or visibly rotten areas of fresh produce. If you're handling a fruit or vegetable that'll be peeled, such as an orange, wash it before peeling it to prevent any surface bacteria from entering the flesh.</p><p>The general methods to wash produce are as follows:</p><ul><li><strong>Firm produce.</strong> Fruits with firmer skins like apples, lemons, and pears, as well as <a href="https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/root-vegetables" target="_blank">root vegetables</a> like potatoes, carrots, and turnips, can benefit from being brushed with a clean, soft bristle to better remove residues from their pores.</li><li><strong>Leafy greens.</strong> Spinach, lettuce, Swiss chard, leeks, and cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts and bok choy should have their outermost layer removed, then be submerged in a bowl of cool water, swished, drained, and rinsed with fresh water.</li><li><strong>Delicate produce.</strong> Berries, mushrooms, and other types of produce that are more likely to fall apart can be cleaned with a steady stream of water and gentle friction using your fingers to remove grit.</li></ul><p>Once you have thoroughly rinsed your produce, dry it using a clean paper or cloth towel. More fragile produce can be laid out on the towel and gently patted or rolled around to dry them without damaging them.</p><p>Before consuming your fruits and veggies, follow the simple steps above to minimize the amount of germs and substances that may be on them.</p><p><strong>Summary</strong></p><p><strong></strong>Most fresh fruits and veggies can gently be scrubbed under cold running water (using a clean soft brush for those with firmer skins) and then dried. It can help to soak, drain, and rinse produce that has more dirt-trapping layers.</p>
The Bottom Line<p>Practicing good food hygiene is an important health habit. Washing fresh produce helps minimize surface germs and residues that could make you sick.</p><p>Recent fears during the <a href="https://www.healthline.com/coronavirus" target="_blank">COVID-19 pandemic</a> have caused many people to wonder whether more aggressive washing methods, such as using soap or commercial cleaners on fresh produce, are better.</p><p>Health professionals agree that this isn't recommended or necessary — and could even be dangerous. Most fruits and vegetables can be sufficiently cleaned with cool water and light friction right before eating them.</p><p>Produce that has more layers and surface area can be more thoroughly washed by swishing it in a bowl of cool water to remove dirt particles.</p><p>Fresh fruits and vegetables offer a number of healthy nutrients and should continue to be eaten, as long as safe cleaning methods are practiced.</p>
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>