12 ways to get your diet back on track

Don’t let a few extra pounds become a bigger problem. If you’ve put on weight over Christmas or during a holiday then try these 12 quick tips to get yourself back on track.

1. Don't put it off - start now, not tomorrow


Ticking a box to start today - Motivation

Don't wait for tomorrow, next Monday or next month to put your plan into action. Start with your next meal. If you’re going away, have something in the fridge or freezer that you can cook easily when you return or, if you shop for food online, book in an order of healthy foods to arrive when you get home.

It’s easy to let the holiday slide into normal life so start as you mean to go on with your next meal and get back on track. Even if you've had a big lunch, a chocolate bar, or a piece of cake already today, don't let that stop you making a start today.

2. If you're offered a drink, choose a sugar free one

Glass of drinking water

It’s easy to consume lots of calories from sugary drinks. Whether it’s a fizzy drink, fruit juice, squash, sugary tea or a coffee shop flavoured latte, they can all add up. Go sugar free, whether it's water, a hot drink without sugar or a 'diet' fizzy drink.

3. Cut out alcohol

Glass of white wine with a meal

Alcohol delivers a triple whammy of being high in calories, increasing appetite (if drunk in small amounts) and lowering inhibitions - which means you’re less likely to stick to your healthy eating and activity plans if you’ve had a few drinks. Cutting it out for a few weeks, and then making sure you have a few alcohol-free days each week, can help keep you on track.

4. Don't buy biscuits, snack on fruit

Fruit bowl

Too much choice can sometimes be a bad thing. Rather than trying to find a healthy snack from the huge range in the shops, limit yourself to fruit or veg for between-meal snacks. These are low in calories, provide plenty of nutrients and help you towards your 5-a-day. And it has the advantage of being a really simple goal and you'll easily be able to tell whether you are achieving it.

To reduce temptation, don't go down the supermarket aisles with cakes, biscuits and sweets - and try not to be tempted by end-of-aisle special offers on fatty and sugary goods.

5. Only eat between meals if you are hungry

Healthy snacks on a plate marking out a clock

It’s easy to eat when you’re not hungry – out of habit, or because you’re bored, for example.

On holiday you can get into the habit of “grazing” through the day, which can be hard to change. So make sure you have three meals a day that are balanced, filling and that are regularly spaced out over the day. That will help you manage your hunger – and have fruit on hand so that you can follow the tip above if you do get hungry between meals.

6. Have a healthy weekend

Gardening in a flowerbed

Although weekends or days off might normally be when we relax the rules a little, if you’re trying to shed a few pounds then aim to stick with your changes as much as you can throughout the week. A weekend can go by in a flash, but it actually makes up about a third of our week so it can make a difference to your weight loss plans.

Rather than indulgent meals out or a takeaway in front of the TV, find healthy versions of your normal weekend treats. Choose activities that will keep you off the sofa, like gardening or walking, and allow some time to make plans that will help you stay on track in the week ahead.

7. Plan your meals

Supermarket shopping with list on a smartphone

Planning your meals for the week ahead might seem like a bit of a hassle, but it will set your intention as well as making it easier to make healthy choices even when you are busy. It could save money too, by reducing the chances that you’ll buy takeaways or other convenience foods because you don’t have any food in the house.

Write a shopping list based on what meals and snacks you are going to eat and only buy what is on it. Make sure that you have included enough fruit and veg to give you at least five portions a day. 

8. Put more vegetables on your plate

Balanced meal with chicken salad vegetables and bread

A simple way to lower the calories on your plate is to increase the amount of veg and salad you have on it. Put this on your plate first and there will be less room for other parts of the meal that will be higher in calories. You will still get a variety of foods and food groups, but less calories overall. Using a smaller plate is another simple change that helps reduce the amount you eat.

9. Take lunch to work rather than buying it

A healthy lunchbox

If you make your packed lunch yourself, it’s much easier to make healthy choices and to check nutrition information.

Try one of our healthy packed lunch options:

10. Use measuring cups and spoons when you are preparing meals

Close-up of a set of measuring spoons

Weighing and measuring out every ingredient can be off-putting. But using measuring cups or spoons is a quick and simple way to control portions, especially if the amount you eat creeps up over time. For rice, pasta, breakfast cereals, plate up the portion you normally eat and then find a cup or scoop that this fits into to maintain this, or find a measure that is slightly smaller to help you cut down. If you would like more guidance on reducing portion sizes to help you lose weight then our guide to healthy weight loss can help you to identify how much you need of each of the food groups.

For oils and spreads, it’s particularly important to measure your portions. One tablespoon of oil contains 100kcals, so pouring it straight from a bottle can quickly increase the calorie content of your food. Measure out oil with a teaspoon, or use a low calorie cooking spray. If you use a non-stick pan, less than a teaspoon of oil will often be enough for frying. 

11. Get moving

Walking in a forest

Although it’s good for your heart, exercise alone isn’t usually enough to shift the pounds. However, the combination of regular physical activity with changes to your diet has been found to be more effective than diet alone. As well as the extra energy you will be using, making an effort to be more active on a regular basis can help you to stay on track as well as having positive effects on your mental health which could motivate you to keep up the good work.

12. Even if you can't change everything, change the things you can

Choice of an apple or a donut

When you’re back to normal life after a break, things quickly become busy again – which can mean that despite your best intentions, healthy eating and being active end up taking a back seat. Avoid this by focusing on the quick wins and the things you can control, and make a fresh start. 

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