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The word “diet” carries a lot of negative connotations with it, and rightly so. Over the years people have been duped into trying all kinds of strict diets: health shakes, cutting out fats or proteins or carbs, raw food, even eating baby food. They never seem to work, and there’s a good reason why. Restrictive eating robs us of one of the great pleasures in life. So don’t abstain from the flavors and foods that we love. Ditch the Diet. Instead, try adopting a few of these healthy food habits that can increase your energy, boost your mood, and yes, also lead to weight loss.

Eat what you love

Don’t listen to the so-called health gurus who advise you to fast, cleanse, or avoid certain types of food groups. Eating is an enjoyable activity and you should never judge yourself or feel guilty. You don’t need to give up the foods that you enjoy. The research is clear: you are more likely to rebound by overeating if your menu is too restrictive. Eat what you love – just be mindful of the amounts that you’re consuming.

Ditch calorie counting

Counting calories sounds good in theory, but it often leads to frustration and failure. Being on guard every time there’s food present is exhausting, and the people who track their calories are in a constant state of stress. Estimating, adding, tracking – it’s a full time job! Instead, spend your time and attention learning about which foods are good for you, and why. Bone up on the nutritional value of different ingredients. It’s much easier to manage your caloric intake when you’re able to choose great-tasting, healthy, and nutrient-rich food.

Spice it up

Healthy food doesn’t have to be bland and tasteless. I love the taste of fresh veggies, especially the ones I grow on my terrace, but I know that not everyone does. The good news is that it’s incredibly easy to add a quick boost of flavor to your meal with spices, sauces, and preparation. For example, try sautéing your broccoli with olive oil and garlic for an instant upgrade. Or use a spiralizer to turn a piece of plain zucchini into zucchini noodles as the base of your next pasta dish. There are so many ways to spice up those healthy foods!

Use the 80/20 Rule

The 80/20 Rule is a handy benchmark that you can apply in two ways. The first is by eating healthy 80 percent of the time and using the other 20 percent for splurges. You could have one smaller splurge each day or you can save it all up for a full meal out on the weekend. So you’re indulging, yes, but you’re doing it in moderation.  

The second way to use the 80/20 Rule is to stop eating when you are 80 percent full. In these time-pressed days we power through our meals and don’t stop to listen to what our body is saying. But what if you check in periodically through the meal to see how you’re doing? Are you starting to feel satisfied? Are you still enjoying your food or are you eating just because there’s more on the plate? Eating in a mindful manner helps you become more in tune with your body and actually enjoy your food even more!