How to start a healthy diet: 6 steps to success

Starting a healthy diet doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here's how to meet your goals with 6 steps to success when starting a healthy diet.

Beginning something new isn’t always a walk in the park. But by simply arriving here, you’ve already taken the first step. A momentous milestone on the path towards your personal goal. 

Learn how to gear up and get ready to take on life’s challenges with 6 steps to succeed when starting a healthy diet.  

Define your why

Just like we choose different paths in life, a healthy diet is based on what best suits you and your lifestyle. You may find that you want to make small daily changes that build up to long-lasting results. Or perhaps you thrive best with a total diet makeover. Regardless of your “how” it’s first important to understand your “why”.

When habits relate to feelings of identity, they are associated with more self-esteem, drive to change, and motivation to stick with it (1). Many of the goals we set help achieve a deeper-rooted need. Discovering this reason helps when the going gets tough. 

For instance, maybe your goal is to lose weight. Will losing weight help you be a healthy role model for the people you care about? Will it help you feel more confident and successful at work? Or maybe it will help you live longer in order to be there for your grandkids. 

Keep a food journal 

Keeping track of what you eat is one of the best ways to start a healthy diet. This is because it helps you become aware of what you’re eating on a regular basis.

Here’s helpful basics to include:

  • What: Write exactly what you’re eating and drinking. Include how it’s made (fried, boiled, baked), and any additions such as dressings or toppings.
  • When: Recognizing your food patterns can give you insight into when you may be mindlessly eating. Eating at regular intervals (every three to four hours) can help curb hunger and keep you energized. 
  • How: How are your portion sizes? Are you eating because you’re stressed or bored? Are you actually hungry?

Try to observe what you eat without judgement. Consider a food journal a way to get to know your eating habits. 

Keep it simple

Healthy eating in general doesn’t have to be complicated. Regardless of the type of diet that works for you, the main thing to focus on is replacing professed food with whole foods as much as possible. 

Think about eating foods that are simple, such as a fresh potato versus a potato chip or french fry. Focus on the foods you’d typically find at your local farmers market. When you go to the grocery store, shop on the outskirts instead of the inner isles since these foods tend to be more natural. 

Think about keeping it simple when it comes to ingredients as well. Something as simple as bread can have an extensive ingredient list, full of preservatives and additives. These foods also tend to be very high in added sugar and fat, which are main contributors of weight gain and certain diseases (2). Instead, try to find a bread with a short ingredients list with food items you recognize - aim for the ones that are high in dietary fiber and low in sugar and sodium. Whole grain bread such as rye bread is a great option! 

Stay satisfied: pair protein and fiber

The macronutrient protein (lean meat, eggs, yogurt, tofu, beans) can help you feel full and keep your blood sugar stable (3). High protein meals help maintain energy and prevent cravings. It’s partly due to the fact that it reduces hunger hormones such as ghrelin (4).

Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that the body can’t digest. This adds bulk to what you’re eating which can help fill your tummy. Whether you feel best on a low-carb or higher carb diet, when you do pick your carbs, aim for the ones with higher fiber content (whole grain pasta, whole grain breads, brown rice, fruits and vegetables).

Pair protein and fiber for most meals and snacks:

  • Beans and brown rice
  • Fruit and yogurt
  • Eggs and whole grain bread
  • Chicken and vegetables 

Be prepared 

Meal (and snack) prep can save you from those times you lack energy to make a healthy meal so swing by the closest fast-food restaurant instead. It also ensures that you get a variety of healthy foods on a regular basis. 

Dedicate at least one day to grocery day. If you’re not good at whipping up quick meals and recipe ideas, make a list before you go. Keep non-perishable healthy foods on hand at all times such as whole grains, dried or canned beans, and root vegetables. Try keeping “emergency snacks” on hand such as nuts and dried fruit in your bag or car. 

Learn how to meal prep for success

Consider calories

Calories are basically energy that our bodies needs to perform their daily functions and activities. We get calories from food and drinks that we consume, and burn calories through body function and movement. 

Calorie counting isn’t always required for healthy eating, but the total amount of calories you eat per day can impact weight and health. For maintaining weight. the goal is to maintain a balance of calories in versus calories expended, and focus on getting calories from foods with lots of nutrients

Your calorie goal is very individual and varies depending on age, sex, weight, height, daily activity level and amount of exercise so it’s helpful to check in via a nutrition app

It’s never too late to start 

Eating a healthy diet can reduce your chances of developing disease (5). It can improve the way you feel, it boosts physical performance and benefit your brain. And the good news is, it’s never too late to start. 

Don’t take our word for it? Check out these testimonials from people who have succeeded in starting a healthy diet: Lifesum

5 references (hide)

All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice.

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