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By: Whitney Stuart

Whitney Stuart MCN, RDN, is a board-certified dietitian-nutritionist, diabetic educator and award-winning Whole30 Certified Coach. She holds a “real food first” approach through her holistic practice, Whitness Nutrition, which offers full spectrum nutritional assessment, corporate wellness challenges and seminars. Here, she offers her tips for living a healthier life.

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be a dietitian. The 2000s started off a bit rough; there was a strong theme of scrutinizing calorie intake, promoting juice cleanses, categorizing foods as “good” or “bad,” subduing the effects of sugar and demonizing fat. But as the field continues to revolutionize, it has become more obvious that it’s not what you eat, as much as why/where/how you eat it. The strong themes of self-care, the stress and diet connection, body acceptance and the anti-diet movement continue to hold strong for 2019! I urge all of my clients to focus on a diet that is balanced, nutrient-rich and realistic for their lifestyle, goals and individualized dietary needs. It is possible to lead a healthier life with zero restrictions.

RELATED: 5 Self-Care Habits You Should Ditch in 2019

I call myself a realist and realistic dietitian. I’m someone who accepts the situation as it is and takes realistic action to improve it. Thus, I readily gulp down the same messaging I dish out. I’ve found an absolutely personal eating style that fits me, and likely, me alone. Remember: You are unique, along with your dietary needs. 

How to Start Living a Healthier Life Now

Don’t Ban Foods

My definition of health stems from a colorful and varied balance of nutrients that leaves ample room for sprinkles on top. Thus, I focus on nutrient options first. But I never restrict or avoid cravings. Not allowing yourself certain foods can lead to binging. If I want a cookie, I eat it.

Instill the 80/20 Rule

As a realist dietitian, I know all about that 80/20 split and the importance of a flexible diet. Restriction leads to an eventual breakdown and a loss of self-control. Are you eating five “healthy” apples instead of one “unhealthy and bad” cookie? Focus on 80% quality, while allowing the beautiful 20% imperfection of a guiltless cookie. Guilt will cause you to eat more sugar than the actual craving will.

Always Eat Dessert with a BFF

I do not expect my clients to be perfect, but I do expect them to create safe and healthful environments where they are more likely to thrive. Thus, I suggest never eating desserts alone in a situation that could lead to guilt. Avoid stocking the house with anything tempting. Instead, schedule a social sweets day at least once a week and use it as an equally beneficial excuse to catch up with a busy girlfriend. Isn’t splitting a cookie over juicy gossip more delicious and better for your soul, anyways?

RELATED: No, Mindful Eating Does Not Mean Eating in Silence

Be Honest About Your Emotions

The next time you feel hangry, take a moment to write down, or state aloud how you feel. It is okay to be upset. But grabbing a cupcake won’t improve that. A walk, phone call to a friend, or a good journaling session, on the other hand, might. Aim to eat food when you feel in control, not when emotions desperately say, “I need it.”

meal prep

Try Meal Prepping

I batch-cook easy meal options on the weekends. This does not mean eating out of perfectly portioned glass jars. I do have proteins, veggies and roasted starches ready to combine and heat. It’s not restrictive to have meals on hand; it’s reassuring. Ever come home to an empty fridge after a 12-hour day? It’s the worst. And it quickly leads to a game of “How can I replace this bag of potato chips before anyone notices?”

RELATED: An Easy Meal Prep Recipe You’ll Love

Gauge Tempting Settings

I’m realistic about hard environments, like the break room oozing with store bought treats. I pack veggie packs and single-serve dips (hummus, guacamole and almond butter) to munch on. And I keep a meat stick and nuts in my purse for emergencies. If there’s a homemade treat that sounds appetizing, have a bite! Otherwise, ask yourself if it’s worthwhile.

Start Your Day Off with Coffee

… or whatever beverage makes you happy. Vital Proteins recently launched Vital Coffee, premium coffee beans that are globally-sourced and expertly-roasted. I always drink water as the coffee is brewing. I’m more prone to staying hydrated throughout the day if I make the intention early on.

Not a coffee drinker? Try Matcha Collagen, a naturally caffeinated alternative that delivers an “alert calm” thanks to amino acid L-theanine.