With so many quick-fix diet plans out there, nutrition Expert Courtney Ferreira reminds us that the best one starts by having fun in your own kitchen.

Why does every program, challenge, cleanse, or quick fix stem from the idea that restriction is equivalent to “healthy”?

It isn’t. Restricting meals and replacing them with shakes or foods you have to choke down. This is not what being healthy, or happy, is about. These types of plans can backfire when the allotted days are over and you find yourself right back where you started:

Craving sugar, overeating, and not listening to your body.

One of these plans may be right for you, but remember, they don’t last for a reason. They are not meant to be a long-term solution, but if you find yourself needing to do a challenge or cleanse every other month just to “reset”, you should start thinking bigger. Start thinking about your forever” health, and how you are going to maintain a healthy (and happy) lifestyle for years to come.

Remember: restriction does not equal healthy.

How can you stop this cycle? What do you need to do to find a consistent, happy, and effortless relationship with what you eat? What is a challenge you can do that doesn’t involve restricting yourself? It starts with knowing what you are putting into your body by creating healthy meals that you cook for yourself. The goals are simple:

  1. Embrace and enjoy food. Instead of thinking about all of the things you can’t and shouldn’t eat, think about all of the delicious, healthy foods that you’re excited to eat.
  2. Experiment in the kitchen. Try cooking with new ingredients and use those kitchen tools that are collecting dust.
  3. Use your cookbooks. You bought them for a reason.
  4. Get out of a cooking rut. Guilty here. I keep things simple, simple, simple. I could stand to have at least one exciting meal mixed in.
  5. Eat more home cooked meals. When you cook at home, you eat at home, and you pack your lunch. All of a sudden you’re saving money AND eating better quality food.

Here are the 3 easy steps to get started:

  • Pick a cookbook that you were excited to get your hands on but never really used. Don’t have a cookbook collection? Pick a Pinterest board or a blogger that you like.
  • Pick a specific section of the cookbook.  Starting with casseroles and chilis since they are all in one meals that last a while and freeze well.
  • Pick a recipe, one per week, and make it. What this will look like and how you will accomplish this may be a different. I like to select a recipe on Saturday, food shop and prep on Sunday, and then eat throughout the week.

Going page by page through your selected section will allow you to focus on cooking rather than thinking about what you have to prepare. Try this out for at least 4 weeks (or longer!) to make cooking healthy dishes a new habit.

All it takes is setting up your new cooking habit to jumpstart your latest diet plan!


Courtney Ferreira, MS, RD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian based in Baltimore, MD with a passion for helping individuals reach their health and wellness through flavorful whole foods and freedom from counting calories, fat, and minutes on a treadmill. For more insightful tips on living your healthiest life from Courtney, visit her at the RealFoodCourt.