Top 15 Diet Hacks

Every Friday is Health Tip Day at Zen Habits.

You’ve read and enjoyed the Top 20 Motivation Hacks and Top 10 Productivity Hacks … and now you want hacks to eat healthier and to get a flat tummy. Well, Zen Habits has never been one to hold back on you, so at reader request, here are the best hacks I’ve found for eating healthy.

Top Diet 15 Hacks

  1. Don’t diet. Diets never work, because they are too restrictive and temporary. Once you’re off the diet, you let go, and all bets are off. Aim for gradual change, something you can sustain for the rest of your life. If you’re about to make a change to your diet, ask yourself: “Is this something I can do forever?” If not, perhaps you should consider a smaller or different change.
  2. Change one food at a time. As a corollary to the above hack, just change one thing in your diet, and get used to it. For example, instead of eating sugar cereal, try oatmeal or whole-grain cereal with low sugar. Or instead of eating a burger, try a healthier sandwich. Once you’re used to that change (give it at least 2 weeks, a month is better), change another food. There’s no need to change your entire diet overnight, and in fact that’s not as sustainable.
  3. Veggie Day. Go vegetarian one day a week. It’ll reduce the fat you take in (and thus the calories) and also increase the fiber and nutrients you get.
  4. Toss the junk. The best way to ensure that you don’t eat a bunch of junk food is to make sure it’s not around. Go through your fridge, your cabinets, and that secret drawer you have at work, and toss all the junk food. Don’t buy any more. Now move on to the next tip.
  5. Stock up on good snacks. Instead of junk food, you need snacks that are good for you — fruits and veggies are my favorites, but whole-wheat crackers, nuts, and the like are also good. Have your home stocked with it, take it on the road, and have it available at work.
  6. Brown bag it. Take a healthy lunch with you to work, instead of eating at a restaurant. More on that here.
  7. Atkins Hack. I don’t recommend the Atkins diet. I’ve tried it. It literally makes you sick — that’s what ketosis is. And it’s not something that is sustainable for very long — ask anyone who’s tried it. But one thing that Atkins did was bring to our consciousness the fact that not all carbs are created equal. Replace white carbs with whole-grain carbs, and you’ve made a good change.
  8. Flax it up. Often ignored are essential fatty acids, and ground flaxseeds are an excellent source. I toss ground flaxseed in pancakes, cereal, anything I bake, and especially my oatmeal (with some frozen blueberries – yum!).
  9. Forsake juice. Juice is good fruit, with all the fiber removed. What’s left is mostly sugar. Eat fruit instead.
  10. Water powered. Instead of juice or coffee or soda or tea, drink water. It’s really the best drink there is. I drink water all day long.
  11. Say nay-o to mayo. Mayonnaise is filled with fat. So is butter, and cream cheese and eggs and cream … find healthier replacements. I like Veganaise for mayonnaise, “better than cream cheese”, canola-oil margarine, and I basically nix the eggs.
  12. Olive you. I think olives are magical. But in any case, they’re great additions to salads and home-made pizza and other dishes, and I use olive oil on just about anything. Replace saturated fats with healthy fats. Canola oil is great too.
  13. Nuts to that. Nuts are great sources of good oils and proteins. Add some nuts to your diet for snacks, or on salads. Raw is best — raw almonds are great. Avoid ones that are too high in salt.
  14. Berry good. Berries are another magical food, and easy to add to any diet. Blueberries are best, but any berries are great. Eat them plain as a snack, or add them to cereal, yogurt, smoothies. Mmmmm.
  15. Baked, not fried. Yeah, you know this one. Basically, less fatty, and still tastes great.

What are your diet hacks? Let us know in the comments.