Whether you kicked off the year with a new diet or not, we have some good news: Healthier eating is easiest when it’s flavorful, craveable — and convenient. Two of our favorite DC-based nutrition experts shares her tips for better-for-you eating habits that last all year long.

Create routines you’ll want to stick to

For Janis Jibrin, a registered dietitian and health writer who teaches nutrition at American University, extreme diets, like long juice cleanses, make very little sense. “There’s a lot of sugar in juice, you do not learn any new habits – and then you go right back to your old habits once it’s done,” she says.

“Restrictive eating or forcing yourself to eat kale every day may sound healthy, but it sure doesn’t feel good,“ says Samantha Attard, yoga teacher, Ayurvedic couch, and doula with a Ph.D. in nutrition.

“Sustainable habit changes happen when you create routines that feel so good that you want to stick with them,” she says.

Make realistic plans for busy, stressful days

One way of making your new eating aspirations actually sustainable? Be ready for extra busy and stressful days that would typically send you straight back to unhealthy habits by making a list of healthy takeout and delivery options ahead of time, says Attard.

Got your list ready? Make a plan for the week – you’d be more likely to stick to it if it’s planned, says Jibrin.

“Take a look at your week, make a rough plan for what you eat every day, including eating in and out,” says Jibrin.

Then, form your grocery list around that plan. Make sure to include fast options that are also good for you, like a can of salmon in water, a tub of hummus, some baby carrots — so that you’re not tempted to order that less-than-ideal takeout option.

Janis Jibrin (left) and Samantha Attard

Janis Jibrin (left) and Samantha Attard (right)

Don’t beat yourself up

Got that takeout after all? Don’t beat yourself up – and don’t let minor setbacks spiral into big ones, either.

“A two-day sugar bender only gets worse if you let it continue,” says Attard. “So pause, take a deep breath, and make a better choice now.”

What to eat —and what to avoid

“Go for the lentils,” says Jibrin. They’re a powerhouse: packed with fiber, iron and other minerals, B vitamins, rich in phenolic compounds (which are antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory), and high in protein.

“Steer clear of hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated fats and oils (they most often show up in store-bought cookies, frosting, and baked goods)”, says Attard.

“Red meat is linked to heart disease, among others, so I’d choose chicken or falafel, instead. If you love red meat, have it just once or twice weekly, at CAVA or elsewhere,” recommends Jibrin.

What the pros get at CAVA

Attard is vegan, so her perfect bowl consists of SuperGreens, Black Lentils, Traditional Hummus, Seasonal Roasted Veggies, diced cucumber, cabbage slaw — and all things pickled. Plus, Lemon Herb Tahini on the side for extra dipping.

Jibrin gets half greens and half Black Lentils too. Then, Eggplant + Roasted Red Pepper dip and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus – just two to keep her sodium consumption in check. Then, half portion Grilled Chicken and half Seasonal Roasted Veggies. Then, it’s cabbage slaw, tomato + cucumber, fresh mint, lemon wedge – and Lemon Herb Tahini dressing on top.

Ready to find your healthy cravings in 2019? Start here.