As we enter into a new year, we can never seem to avoid making resolutions. We know they’ve failed us in the past, but for some reason we feel compelled to keep making them. With the hectic work and travel schedule of an entrepreneur, making your health a priority starts with a well thought-out plan.
The first thing to consider is the limit of your willpower. Just because you want to cut calories and exercise more, simply banking on your willpower to do it is not going to work. Relying on willpower is like putting yourself on defense. Instead, go on the offense with a plan.
Of course, any plan starts with an achievable, realistic goal. A good goal is not: “I want to lose 40 pounds by spring.” A better goal is: “I want to eat healthy foods every day.”
Once you choose a realistic goal, here are 10 tips for healthy eating that will help you achieve it:
1. Start the day with a healthy breakfast.
Try whole grain cereals (cold or hot) with skim milk and fruit. Stock up either at home or at the office, wherever you eat breakfast most consistently. Some suggested brands include: Kashi Go Lean, Go Lean Crunch and Barbara’s, which are full of flavor and fiber. You can also keep Kashi or Kind bars in your briefcase or desk for emergencies. Just add a piece of fresh fruit and your breakfast is complete.
2. Pack lunch if possible to save time, money, and calories.
Just a simple turkey and low-fat cheese sandwich with tomatoes and lettuce on whole grain bread can save you hundreds of calories if made at home.
Buyer beware: regular cheese at most restaurants contain at least 8 grams of fat and 94 calories per slice. Low-fat cheese can cut this to approximately 4-5 grams of fat and 70 calories per slice, or by over 70 calories per 3-ounce serving. Fat-free cheese can save you even more fat and calories, at 0 grams of fat and 75 calories for a 3-ounce serving — a savings of over 200 calories.
As for condiments, add any flavor mustard for some zing at only 0-5 calories and 0 grams of fat per tablespoon, compared with 15 grams of fat and 150 calories per tablespoon of mayonnaise.
Load up on veggies. The more veggies you eat, the more you will be satisfied and the fewer calories you’ll consume. Not a huge fan of tomatoes? Buy a jar of roasted peppers and throw some on your sandwich for extra crunch and flavor.
Skip the chips. If you need a salt “fix”, pack yourself baked chips or whole grain pretzels. One ounce of regular chips is a minimum of 7 grams of fat, while baked chips are about 2 grams.
Finally, pack some fresh fruit or even a low-fat cookie (like Snackwell brand cookies) to get your sweet fix minus the love handles.
3. Make vegetables or fruit 50% of every meal and snack.
Be sure to consume fruits or veggies at breakfast and lunch, cover half of your dinner plate with vegetables, and bring some fruits or veggies to work for snacks. Spending a little more money for pre-chopped and ready-to-eat fruits and vegetables is worth it. You make up for it with the time and calories you save by having them readily available.
4. Keep healthy snacks accessible at work.
Stock a fresh fruit bowl, 100-calorie packs of almonds or pistachios, and healthy nutrition bars (Luna bars are another good brand).
5. Set alarms in your smartphone for meals and snacks.
Daily reminders will help you stay on track. If you miss a meal or snack, you will be starving by the next meal and will have set yourself up for overeating. A good daily goal is to eat five times a day. It may sound like a lot, but the goal is to eat less at each point. And that’s only possible by eating more frequently.
6. Have a plan for business dinners.
Find out your options ahead of time, and figure out the healthiest option that appeals to you. To be satisfied, you must actually want to eat what you are eating. Try to build a “perfect plate”. A perfect plate is 50% produce (vegetables and fruit), 25% lean protein (such as chicken or fish), and 25% whole grain carbohydrates (including whole wheat couscous or brown rice). This may not always be possible, but be creative when you need to be. Ask for what you want.
7. Eat a healthy snack before dinner.
This strategy will help keep your appetite in check, as well as help you make better choices at a function or dinner. Think about the last business dinner you went to. Did you “save” most of your calories that day because you knew you would be out and indulging? Think instead of how you will be most successful eating healthfully. Taking the edge off your appetite pre-dinner will definitely give you the advantage. Don’t let the offerings win!
8. Schedule a workout with a colleague instead of lunch or dinner when possible.
Go for a walk, play racquetball or tennis, or hit a round of golf (without the cart).
9. Track your progress.
Weigh yourself every day. Log your food daily. You can use one of many online food logging sites, or log wherever is most convenient for you. Just keeping track of food intake has been proven to lead to success.
10. Stay on course.
When you see a change on the scale or food log that is either a weight gain or a pattern of bad choices, do not throw in the towel. Get right back on your plan — the sooner the better. 2013 is here, so make a plan and hold yourself to it. Start today!
* This article is part of a monthly health column for entrepreneurs, in partnership with Retrofit. Retrofit, the expert-led, data-driven weight loss program for busy professionals, is designed to deliver lasting results. Its innovative year-long program includes wireless monitoring of a client’s weight, activity, and sleep, as well as private lessons with a registered dietitian, exercise physiologist, and behavior coach. Learn more about the company at RetrofitMe.com, Facebook , and Twitter. *