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Simplicity key to lasting dietary and exercise changes

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Feb 15, 2019

Life is complicated enough.  Why makes things more difficult when “keep it simple” applies to so many aspects of our lives and is a good mantra to follow. That’s why healthy eating and exercise efforts should be straightforward, accessible, natural, and simple.  In fact, simplicity is your key word for long-lasting health changes. If you’re looking to hit the refresh button towards better health, start by setting simple yet realistic goals guiding you to a better style of eating and exercise habits.

When considering making dietary or exercise improvements, it’s best to not “bite off more than you can chew.” In other words, work on just one or two changes at a time, with the intention of making them a permanent part of your overall lifestyle. Trying to completely overhaul your current way of eating or exercising all at once is overwhelming, again making life more complicated. Remember, simplicity is your friend, ultimately leading you to successful lasting lifestyle changes.

Lasting dietary changes

To start down the path of healthy eating, first and foremost, make it convenient.  When striving to eat healthier becomes complicated and time-consuming, its longevity won’t last long. Here are several steps to consider making it work for you:

  • Keep healthy food front and center.  A bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter, healthy snacks in the cupboards, fresh veggies at eye level in the fridge, are all ideas on making nutritious foods the star of your kitchen.
  • Toss food indulgences. If you still have leftover Halloween or Christmas candy lurking in your cabinets, it’s time to purge them.  
  • Stock your kitchen with healthy food staples.  A “staple” food is one you use often. Make sure these foods can always be found helping pull together last-minute meals and snacks.  Examples of healthy staple foods are peanut butter, frozen fruit and vegetables, canned beans, canned tuna or salmon, whole grains and nuts.
  • Cook more meals at home. You are in charge of the ingredients and portions sizes.
  • Consider buying an air fryer or an instant pot to quickly get a meal on the table in no time flat.
  • Eating well requires proper planning. Pick a day of the week to sit down for an hour or so, to plan meals according to your schedule. This makes weeknight meals a snap when you already know ahead of time what you’ll have to eat for dinner.
  • Use this time of meal planning to also meal prep.  This could be simply washing and cutting up fresh fruit, baking chicken breasts, batch cooking a variety of roasted vegetables, or cooking up rice for meals for the week ahead.
  • Incorporate ready-made food to cut down on cooking. Rotisserie chickens from the supermarket or pre-bagged spinach are great examples.
  • Practice mindful eating.  Slow down and savor your food.  Make it a rule to have no electronic devices on while eating a meal.  
  • Honor your hunger cues. Stop eating when you feel full so you don’t overeat.
  • Don’t demonize food. Give yourself permission to have a dessert every now and then.  Remember, it’s not about all or nothing.

Lasting exercise changes

The human body is built to move.  Too much sitting and little movement will only result in less muscle mass and gains in fat mass. Exercise is just as important as the air we breathe – without it we are more likely to develop many debilitating health conditions.  Make it your mantra to move more by using the practical tips below:

  • Set realistic exercise goals. If you’ve been leading a sedentary life, start off slowly.  This reduces the risk of injury. Find an activity you enjoy doing and gradually with time, increase the duration, intensity and frequency.
  • Try out fitness classes that sound interesting.  There are plenty of opportunities from yoga, joining a walking club to working with a personal trainer.
  • Block off time each day reserved just for exercising.  Make it a priority to prevent it from being last on your list.
  • Have a back-up plan in case your schedule changes. If you miss your regular morning exercise, plan to take a walk after dinner instead.
  • Be consistent.  If you take off several weeks or months from exercising, you will notice gains you made will be harder to maintain.
  • Learn to enjoy movement.  It feels good to stretch, lift weights, and move joyfully.  When you see how well your body responds to regular exercise, you’ll want to keep doing it as long as you can.


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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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