Your 7-Step Guide to Start Eating Healthy
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Eating healthy meals day after day can feel like a real struggle. With so many complicated diets and healthy eating protocols, it may feel impossible to get on track, let alone stay on track. The good news: Healthy eating doesn’t have to mean steamed broccoli and a hunk of bland chicken breast for every meal. A healthy, sustainable routine doesn’t have to be painfully boring and tasteless. If you’re not sure how to start eating healthy — or how to start eating healthy again after falling off the wagon — we’re here to help.
How to Start Eating Healthy
Ready to turn over a new leaf? Here are our top seven tips to start eating healthier.
1. Start with one change
Choose one simple yet specific change you’d like to make. “For example, rather than vow to eat more vegetables, you could make it a goal to include at least one serving of vegetables at two meals and think of a few different vegetables you like or some convenient ways to incorporate them into foods you already eat regularly,” says Jessica Cording, MS, RD, CDN, dietitian, and author of The Little Book Of Game-Changers: 50 Healthy Habits For Managing Stress & Anxiety.
That could mean you add greens to a soup or sandwich for lunch and use cauliflower rice as the base of a stir fry for dinner. Georgie Fear, RD, CSSD, and author of Lean Habits For Lifelong Weight Loss echoes the one change mindset: “Start with a single change, and give yourself time to work it into your routine,” she says.
2. Think about adding rather than subtracting
When we approach a healthy eating lifestyle, it can be easy to focus on all the things we’re missing out on. “Instead, it can be incredibly motivating to take a look at what you’re doing well and at what healthy foods you can add, in order to crowd out the unhealthy stuff,” Cording says. Rather than sulk about that doughnut you didn’t buy with your pre-work latte, think about all the good you did for your body with the superfood smoothie you made before your coffee run.
3. Engineer your home environment to support you
While this tip may sound pretty obvious, it’s worth reiterating. If you set your environment up for success, you’ll be less tempted (and frankly less able) to slip up. “Keep healthy food in your kitchen, and don’t bring home large amounts of unhealthy foods,” Fear says. “If you decide you want some chips or candy, you can always go buy a single serving.” Other tips? Keep healthy food like fresh fruit and veggies on the counter or at eye level in the fridge so that you’re more apt to eat them.
4. Work with a pro
Whether you schedule a visit in person, or opt for a virtual appointment, there are plenty of ways you can connect with a healthcare professional who can provide trusted information, support, and accountability. “Working with a registered dietitian can help you start off with a solid plan that’s tailored to meet your individual needs,” Cording says.
5. Make more meals at home
It’s not just restaurant portion sizes that can get in the way of health and fitness goals. In a study across five countries, 94 percent of meals from full-service restaurants and 72 percent of meals from fast-food restaurants contained more than 600 calories. By regularly cooking out of your own kitchen, research suggests you’ll be more likely to consume fewer calories and less fat and sugar. (When you do eat out, follow our top tipsfor picking healthier menu items.)
6. Join a support system
Tell a friend, colleague, or loved one about your healthy eating goals. Just by sharing your plans, you’ll feel accountable, and research shows social support is a helpful and effective tool. “Just make sure that your support system is actually supportive and helps you feel uplifted and encouraged,” Cording says. “If you don’t feel you’re being listened to, an accountability buddy triggers unhealthy thoughts of competition or comparison, or you become obsessed with tracking, those are all red flags that an individual or approach may not be the best fit for you.”
7. Make room for indulgences
When it comes to healthy eating, being too strict can quickly backfire. By making smart choices most of the time, you have a little leeway to enjoy your favorite treats here and there. “It becomes easier to make room for a favorite indulgence on occasion when the bulk of someone’s diet is comprised of nourishing foods,” Cording says. Just be mindful of how much you treat yourself and how big that indulgence is. “Try to keep treats like candy, alcohol, or fried foods to once a day or less,” Fear says.
What Happens When You Start Eating Healthy?
Eating healthier isn’t just about losing weight. Stocking your fridge and pantry with plenty of nutritious fare can benefit you in more ways than you may expect. “Improved energy, better skin, and higher quality sleep are just a few of the benefits of eating a balanced, nourishing diet and cutting back on junk food,” says Cording.
And you don’t have to wait weeks or months to notice changes. “Emotionally, even one day of healthier eating can raise our moods and help us feel proud that we are taking care of ourselves,” says Fear.