Want to eat healthier in 2022? Here's how to stick to your food goals

Skip the restrictive diets and make some small tweaks instead to make long-lasting changes

Woman preparing to cook
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Many of us usually set New Year's resolutions around weight loss, fitness, and diet. But researchers have found that most of us only stick to our targets for 17 days. Fortunately, there are ways to keep your healthy eating on track this year.

Learning how to eat healthily is a crucial part of switching up your diet, but knowing what you need to do and putting it into practice are two different things. As the December holidays end and we get back to our everyday routines, it can be hard to create new ones.

This is where 'choice architecture' comes into play. By thinking ahead to the decisions we'll have to make through the day, like what to eat at mealtimes and the snacks we reflexively reach for, we reduce the choices available to us at the time.

Many diets or weight loss programs assume that we'll always make the so-called rational decision to choose the 'healthy' option over a more desirable alternative. But if you've ever had a long day or felt extremely happy or sad, you'll know that's not always the case.

Instead, we tend to act in the moment, making a decision based on a complex mix of factors that are usually very personal and individual. Choice architecture promotes making the desired outcome the only choice you have available.

It's more straightforward than the name suggests. If you tend to keep snacks in your cupboards, replace them with alternatives you'd rather eat this year. Similarly, planning your meals in advance makes it easier to resist take-out or convenience food.

Two people cooking at home

(Image credit: Getty Images)

According to a recent study, taking this approach with food has an effect 2.5 times larger than other interventions. The team analyzed 214 publications on the topic and found the most significant results were on food choices, with financial decisions the least affected.

This is a style of "nudge theory", where small changes gently guide you in the right direction without making drastic lifestyle modifications. These could be something as seemingly trivial as the size of the container you keep food in.

One study looked at the effect of storing a portion of food in a large container compared to a small one. The participants ate 129% more calories when the same amount of food was held in the larger box.

These nudges can have powerful effects, but they're just one of several surprising ways you can improve your diet. If you're after another approach, learning how to meditate can change the way you eat too.

Meditation helps us focus on the present moment, so we're more aware of our actions and what's happening around us. This increased awareness can keep our attention on our dietary goals.

But there's a specific technique known as mindful eating, which can also play a role. You apply deep awareness to what you're eating; the texture, taste, smell, look and feel. That means turning the TV off and concentrating on our meal, which slows our eating and can help us appreciate our food, too.

In tandem with behavioral changes, you can eat healthier this year using one of the best air fryers and best grills for your home cooking. These evenly cook your food and allow excess fat to drain away.

James Frew
Fitness Editor

James is a London-based journalist and Fitness Editor at Fit&Well. He has over five years experience in fitness tech, including time spent as the Buyer’s Guide Editor and Staff Writer at technology publication MakeUseOf. In 2014 he was diagnosed with a chronic health condition, which spurred his interest in health, fitness, and lifestyle management.

In the years since, he has become a devoted meditator, experimented with workout styles and exercises, and used various gadgets to monitor his health. In recent times, James has been absorbed by the intersection between mental health, fitness, sustainability, and environmentalism. When not concerning himself with health and technology, James can be found excitedly checking out each week’s New Music Friday releases.