Any nutritionist will tell you that in order to succeed at losing weight and keeping it off, you have to get friendly with healthy eating on a grand scale and make lifestyle changes that you can stick with over the long haul. But—let’s face it—not everyone can turn into a veggie-loving, chip-resisting perfect eater overnight. These strategies from registered dietician Kimberly Gomer, director of nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center + Spa in Miami, will help make sure your new diet doesn’t last as long as an Instagram video. Even better, these tips are designed to be so seamless that you may not even notice some of these hidden healthy eating tricks.
Your Weakness: You’ve got a raging sweet tooth
Yep, we know it’s bad, but some of us simply can’t resist sugary treats. So instead of ignoring the urge, focus on replacements. Sweet fruits like apples, oranges, and melons along with a moderate amount of sugar substitutes—preferably Stevia—can make you feel less deprived as you cut out the added stuff. “Using sugar substitutes can definitely help, especially on foods like oatmeal and in coffee or tea,” Gomer says.
“As long as you’re not consuming the equivalent of more than 10 packets/day (including diet drinks), it is felt to be safe.” Cutting back on sugar is a huge healthy eating overhaul, but there’s a silver lining: Your taste buds will become more sensitive to sweetness. And while it’s tough at first, over time, something like an apple will taste like dessert, seriously. “In my experience, it takes about three months to retrain the palette,” says Gomer.
Your weakness: You’ve got a too-hearty appetite
Whether it’s from habitually reaching for hefty portions or simply following the rules of the clean-plate club, some folks just always overdo it. Your job is to eat a lot of less calorically dense foods.
“Start your meals with a big all-veggie course,” says Gomer. “It can be a salad, vegetable soup, or roasted veggies. That way, you fill up on a lot of volume (and nutrition) for a small caloric hit.” Sometimes people overeat simply because they’re not familiar with what a proper portion size actually looks like. The USDA makes it easier with its MyPlate recommendations: One-half your plate should be fruits and veggies, one-quarter should be meat or another form of protein, and one-quarter should comprise of whole grains.
Your weakness: You hate vegetables
This kind of picky eating isn’t just common among kids—plenty of adults find garden goodies unpalatable. While veggies are nature’s best ingredient for a healthy diet, that doesn’t mean you have to turn into a rabbit overnight. Experiment with different preparations: roast them with garlic or onion, grill them with herbs, blend them into smoothies, or even add whole veggies to soups. “Eating veggies with a dip such as a healthy hummus or bean dip gets them down in a delicious way, too,” says Gomer.
Your weakness: You love to snack on the salty stuff
Cookies? Meh. But if there’s an open bag of chips within reach, all bets are off. High-fat, high-sodium (as well as high-sugar) foods are what Gomer refers to as ‘hyper-stimulating.’ “They cause the palette to want more,” she says. “Think about how hard it is to eat just one cookie or one potato chip, and how easy it is to eat just one apple or one cucumber.”
Limiting portions of the salty stuff is tricky, so your best bet for success is to cut out these foods entirely. But healthy eating doesn’t have to be all bad. There are some tasty substitutions: “Sweet potato wedges baked in the oven or made with an air fryer really taste like fries,” she says, and “air-popped popcorn with no oil or salt but seasoned with herbs or garlic seems to work well, too.”
Your weakness: Eating healthy feels like too much work
Your motto: It’s just so much easier to grab packaged foods or takeout when you’re time-crunched—which feels like all of the time. There are plenty of healthy prepared foods if you look for them. Delis and groceries actually make healthy eating more accessible with their selection of pre-cut veggies and fruit or prepared meals. (Look for buzzwords like “grilled” and “steamed” rather than “fried,” “sautéed,” or “breaded” to avoid needlessly added fats.) And if you’re going with takeout, a salad of vegetables topped with grilled chicken and dressed with balsamic or red wine vinegar is pretty easy to find, says Gomer.