How many of you have started a diet and failed to accomplish your goals? Maybe 10 pounds a month over the next three months...

How many of you have started a diet and failed to accomplish your goals? Maybe 10 pounds a month over the next three months for a total of 30 pounds lost. That is an admirable goal if that is what you need/want to lose. For those who accomplish this goal, how many manage to keep it off? Often the course of action is lose the weight, quit the diet, and within six months to a year, you’ve gained it all back. There is a term for this: a yo-yo diet. Lose, gain it back, and repeat. Not a healthy practice.

Studies show that between 40 and 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and dieting is one of the top three. If this is one of your goals, are you setting yourself up for failure even before you start? After all, only 6 to 8 percent actually achieve their goals.

I associate the word “diet” with deprivation – denying yourself of something you really want or feel like you can’t live without. In the realm of food, it might be a chocolate chip cookie, potato chips, or soda. Foods that won’t help you lose the weight. You may be able to hold out for a while, but what often happens is, after you lose the weight and the diet plan is gone, you start rewarding yourself with the very foods that made you put on the weight to begin with. So whoa there Nelly, let’s turn in a different direction.

A sustainable weight loss plan is not about deprivation; it is about long-term substitutions. Reprogram your sweet tooth with healthy alternatives. That does not mean no-calorie or low-calorie sugar substitutes. It means unprocessed sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, and coconut sugar. I love the smell of coffee and enjoy a cup in the morning, but to be honest, for years I drank coffee for the creamers – hazelnut, peppermint mocha, pumpkin spice, etc. But when I finally looked at the ingredients, I wasn’t happy with what I saw: all kinds of additives high in sugar and artificial flavors. Now I substitute by adding a teaspoon of cocoa powder, cinnamon, and two teaspoons of maple syrup, and I love the new flavors. I also add a drop or two of therapeutic grade ingestible essential oils like clove and ginger to spice it up. Occasionally I add a few ounces of almond milk to make it a latte.

I get my chocolate fix now with dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate or semi-sweet. Instead of chocolate chip cookies, now I make granola/oat bars with a layer of melted dark chocolate chips on top. I look for easy recipes with five or so ingredients. There are some healthy bread substitutes like Ezekiel bread and Dave’s Killer Bread, made with sprouted grains and whole grains rich in nutrients. No enriched white flour and a low gluten content. Garden of Eatin’, Wild Roots, and Off the Eaten Path are companies that make great snacking chips with no trans fats, artificial flavors or genetically modified ingredients.

A great soda substitution is Kombutcha, a fermented tea with natural fruit flavors and all the fizz of traditional soda. This drink actually supports your digestive system by adding healthy gut bacteria – probiotics to boost your immunity. No added corn sugars or artificial sweeteners or flavors.

These are just a few food substitutions that can help you turn a short-term gain into a lifetime achievement. Start with substitutions and you won’t feel deprived of the foods you thought you loved. I no longer crave sweets, but feel satisfied with the natural flavors of food that had been disguised with additives my taste buds didn’t need after all.