So you want to start a new diet–maybe your goal is to lose a few pounds, or maybe your doctor has recommended you change your eating habits for better health.
How can you use kaizen to ease yourself into a different way of eating? Here’s a mini-kaizen plan for transitioning to a new way of eating that can be used with any diet plan.
(Downloadable PDF worksheet: Ease Into A New Diet Worksheet)
1. Identify the rules of the diet.
Is your goal to keep your sugar or sodium or saturated fat intake below a certain level? Do you need to stay within a certain number of calories or “points”? Is the goal to avoid certain foods?
If you’re dieting by calories, your only rule might be: Eat less than 1500 calories per day.
If you’re diabetic, your rules might be: Eat less than 15 g of sugar per day and eat only whole grains.
If you’re eating to get healthier, your rule might be: Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.
2. Start a food journal, where you write down everything you eat and track the relevant elements.
Don’t try to change the way you eat for at least a week or two. It’s crucial to get a complete picture of what you’re already eating, so you know where you’re starting.
3. Once you’ve got a complete picture of your usual diet, compare it to your goal.
What do you need to change to turn your current diet into your ideal diet?
- Cut out 25 g of sugar?
- Eat 800 calories less than usual?
- Add three more servings of fruits and veggies?
4. Evaluate your current diet.
Which of your usual foods already meet the requirements of the diet you want to adopt? Are you already having a salad every day for lunch, or eating sugar-free marinara sauce on your spaghetti?
For the foods that don’t meet the requirements of your diet, could any of them be modified to fit?
- Could you make your favorite sandwich lower in calories by substituting low-fat cheese and reducing or skipping the mayo?
- Could you add raisins and dried apricots to your trail mix, to sneak in a little extra fruit?
- Could you find a salad dressing you like that doesn’t have 6 g of sugar per tablespoon or, instead of eating blueberry yogurt with added sugar, add fresh blueberries and a touch of honey to plain yogurt?
- Instead of ordering Dominos, what about a mini-pizza made with a whole grain English muffin, sugar-free red sauce or pesto, and low-fat cheese?
For the foods that you can’t find a way to modify, are there any dishes or foods that have a similar flavor?
- Maybe you need to give up chili dogs at your favorite diner, but you could be almost as happy eating a bowl of homemade chili with a healthier version of a hot dog cut up in it.
- If you’re addicted to peanut M&Ms, could you train yourself to enjoy snacking on peanuts and chocolate chips, skipping the artificially-colored candy coating?
- Instead of eating a ham sandwich, could you add a slice of prosciutto to your chicken breast sandwich, to give you a bit of ham flavor without nearly as much salt and sugar?
5. Start with one meal.
Now that you’ve come up with some healthier versions of your favorite foods, take a look at one meal. What could you eat for that meal that fit into the diet you want to adopt?
If the rule you’re following is “stay under 1500 calories per day,” you could split that into three 400-calorie meals and three 100-calorie snacks.
Which of the things you normally eat could be 400-calorie meals or 100-calorie snacks?
If your rule is that you need to add three servings of fruits or veggies, how could you incorporate one serving into each of the meals you usually eat?
Make a list, and start eating off that list. Go easy on yourself–it’s okay to focus on getting breakfast under control for a couple of weeks before you move on to lunch. That way you won’t get overwhelmed with having to make a ton of changes and learn to cook a bunch of new recipes all at once.
Remember, the goal of this is to ease yourself into a new way of eating, not to go cold turkey on all your usual foods!
6. If the gap between your rule and the way you currently eat is too big, cut back in stages.
If you’re eating 200 g of sugar per day now, switching to a 15 g per day diet is going to put you into withdrawal and you’re unlikely to stick to it. Modify your meals to cut out the sugar in stages. Cut 20 g of sugar per meal to start. Give your body a chance to get used to that before you cut another 20 g per meal.
Same with cutting calories: if your body’s used to getting 3000 calories per day and you suddenly cut that in half, your body’s going to panic and switch to fat-hoarding starvation mode. Plus you’re going to feel miserable. Change your meals to remove 100-200 calories per day and give your metabolism a chance to adjust before you eliminate another 100-200 next week.
7. Add new foods and new recipes gradually.
If you can find time to search for one new recipe that fits your dietary requirements each week, you’re doing fantastic. One or two new recipes a month may be enough to keep you happy with your new way of eating.
As you search for new dishes you might like, think about the flavors and textures you enjoy the most. Do you have a sweet tooth? Adding new fruit-heavy recipes might be the way to go. Love creamy foods? How about smoothies with Greek yogurt, or dishes that include avocado? Look for ways to satisfy the cravings you regularly have that fit within the rules of your diet.
It’s true that you’re not going to lose 5 pounds in a week with this approach. But it’s also true that if you ease into new eating habits, you’re far more likely to stick with them in the long-term. Plus, we know from a myriad of studies that weight lost quickly tends to get regained quickly.
Slow and steady wins the diet race.
Want to eat healthier but feel too overwhelmed to get started? The Kaizen Plan for Healthy Eating is full of small, simple suggestions to ease you into eating better!
Barnes & Noble: http://tinyurl.com/42l8lod