Year after year, “exercise more” and “eat better” are at the top of virtually everyone’s list of good intentions (as detailed in my recent post). Now the first week of the New Year is behind us – and so many of our ambitious New Year’s resolutions have already been forgotten.

© Franzi Schädel

It’s been a while since I figured out my path to long-term healthy eating, and today I’m happy to share all of my tips for nourishing yourself in a way that feels good all year round – not just in those first few weeks!

Long-term adjustments instead of short-term diets

As I’ve mentioned before, Clean Eating is about a new approach to one’s lifestyle, and is not just a short-term crash diet. I used to go from diet to diet myself, even though I wasn’t overweight: every Monday (or alternatively on the first of the month) I started eating less. I didn’t pay attention to what I was eating, only how much I was eating. In other words: I’d eat fewer calories to lose weight, but was shoveling a lot of crap into myself instead of properly nourishing my body.

Diets and restriction lead to frustration, bad moods, and often the dreaded yo-yo effect, which is preprogrammed – because restriction doesn’t work. Most people are not able to maintain the diet indefinitely, and eventually go back to eating what they’re missed out on. And yes, that’s exactly what my thinking used to be: I’d go on a diet for a month, lose a few kilos, and then eat whatever I’d been deprived of! Not good!

Exceptions are okay, but things have to be balanced!

Today I eat a healthy diet (according to the Clean Eating Concept), and now and then I eat something “unhealthy.” I’ve written about the 80:20 Principle in detail here. By allowing myself exceptions, I avoid out-of-control cravings which I always dealt with every time I tried a diet (which inevitably led to “failure”).

I’ve said and written it so many times but I’ll say it again, since it’s so important: the most important thing is balance! Life should be fun, and quite honestly, ordering a salad with vinegar and oil and a glass of water while eating out with your friends … is just no fun. That would have to be one extraordinary salad! ;-) It’s perfectly fine to choose something less healthy in such situations – just go back to eating well again in the following days, and you’ll be just fine.

On the other hand, make sure the “exceptions” don’t get out of control – this is what I mean by “balance!” Never deny yourself something you really want, but keep things in perspective: you’re aiming to achieve maximum health – physically and spiritually – so be sure to eat well as much as possible while also allowing for the occasional less-than-healthy food.

© Franzi Schädel

Cooking for yourself is key!

The more you cook at home, the better! If you make your own food from scratch, you’ll automatically be eating better – because you’ll know exactly what’s in your food, and there won’t be any room for flavor enhancers or other additives if you’re cooking solely with fresh, natural ingredients. If you’re trying to cut down on your sugar consumption, or aren’t a big fan of greasy food, you have more control over these qualities when you’re cooking at home.

Clean out the cupboards and fridge and stock up on healthy supplies

You know the feeling: you get home from work, have no idea what to cook, and that frozen pizza’s in the oven before you can think twice – or maybe you actually ordered delivery before you walked back through your front door?

Unfortunately, this happens far too often – especially if you don’t have a kitchen stocked with healthy, easy-to-cook ingredients, and haven’t really thought about what you want to eat.

In this post as well as in my book Clean Eating Basics,* I’ve written extensively about weekly planning, stocking up, and advance prep.

Additive-filled processed foods like frozen pizza, sauce mixes, canned soups, chips, milk chocolate, and the like don’t need to be in your house! So de-junk your cupboards and fridge. If you’ve done this before, and noticed that the junk has crept back into the house, repeat this step again: you may even find that you don’t want to eat these things anymore and just bought them out of habit.

After clearing out the crap, go to the (organic, if possible) supermarket or the farmer’s market, if those options are available to you, and stock up supplies – specifically natural food! In addition to fresh produce, you’ll want to pick up dry goods to keep on hand, including legumes (lentils and beans) and (pseudo)grains like millet, quinoa, and so on. If you know you’ll be strapped for time during the week, you can also cook big batches of food over the weekend, portion them out and freeze them, and then thaw and cook them throughout the week as needed.

Plan your shopping

For me, planning out my shopping in advance is essential. I never go shopping without a shopping list, and every weekend, I plan out all my meals for the forthcoming week. This keeps me from getting tempted by less-than-healthy food at the supermarket. Also, try not to go shopping on an empty stomach – eat a few nuts or an apple beforehand! This makes it less likely that you’ll get carried away and start buying things that aren’t on your list.

Prevent ravenous hunger

Prevent out-of-control cravings by eating regularly. Besides the main meals – breakfast, lunch, dinner – I eat 2–3 snacks per day. This keeps the blood sugar levels constant, which in turn wards off cravings. My snacks are usually quite unspectacular: a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts, a few dried fruits, etc.

I hope these tips can be of help! For more info, please also visit my Clean Eating post, where I’ve linked plenty more articles about healthy eating. Good look with integrating healthy changes into your life – and if you’ve already started, I wish you lots of fun and continued success!

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