How to Start Eating Healthy, According to Dietitians
Whether you're trying to lose weight or want to slash your risk of chronic disease, adopting a healthier diet is a priority for countless people.
That said, switching up your diet in favor of healthier fare is often easier said than done.
Luckily, you don't need to forgo all of your favorite foods or adopt Spartan-like discipline to improve your diet—read on to discover dietitians' top tips on how to eat healthy without feeling deprived. And for more simple ways to improve your eating habits, check out The 7 Healthiest Foods to Eat Right Now.
Add one new healthy food to your diet each week.
You don't cut out all of your favorite foods overnight to get healthier. Instead, just try incorporating one new food into your meal plan on a weekly basis.
"Many adults assume they do not like certain foods based on past experiences or just what they've been told about these foods. Trying one new food a week can help expand the healthy foods in your diet," explains Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD, a registered dietitian at Balance One Supplements.
Adopt a meatless day every week.
Even if you have no plans to go vegetarian or vegan, opting for a single meatless day during the week can have major benefits for your health.
"Taking one or more days a week to avoid animal products will help to cut your saturated fat intake while also increasing your whole food intake," says Best.
Prep veggies as soon as you get them home.
Instead of letting that produce languish in your fridge, cut it up into snackable pieces the moment you get home.
"Wash and cut produce like peppers, celery, and carrots, and store in reusable containers so they are ready to go when you are, minimizing waste and saving you money by eating at home. You can get midweek meals together in minutes by planning ahead," says Tina Marinaccio, MS, RD, CPT, an integrative culinary registered dietitian nutritionist with Health Dynamics LLC. For more, check out 30 Healthiest Foods to Meal Prep.
Prep and freeze smoothie ingredients.
Think you don't have time to eat a healthy breakfast in the morning? Think again!
"Add one cup of your fruit of choice, like berries or mango, plus a tablespoon of fat, like chia seeds or nuts, one teaspoon of turmeric or a small piece of fresh ginger, and any veggies you may have around, like spinach or parsley, then store in the freezer," suggests Marinaccio.
"When you make your smoothie, just dump the container contents in the blender, and whirl with a couple scoops of your favorite protein powder and water."
Add vegetables to your breakfast.
Whether you're adding some spinach to your smoothie or topping your eggs with some arugula, kicking off your day with some vegetables can help make your diet healthier in an instant.
"Adding veggies to your daily breakfast will increase your overall intake of nutrients, like vitamins and fiber, that support immunity, metabolism, gut health, and reduce the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes," says Katie Massman, RDN, founder of Katie Massman Nutrition.
Cut out sweetened beverages.
While it may be a hard habit to shake, ditching sweetened beverages is a great way to kick off your healthy eating journey.
"Sweetened beverages, like soda, are the main contributor of added sugar and empty calories for most people. Depending on how many you drink a day, start by cutting out one drink. As that gets easier, cut out another one," says registered dietitian Holly Klamer, MS, RDN, with My Crohn's and Colitis Team, who recommends replacing those drinks with sparkling or fruit-infused water.
While you're cutting those sweet drinks from your diet, check out the 108 Most Popular Sodas Ranked by How Toxic They Are.
Add beans to your regular meal plan.
Whether you're adding them to a salad or incorporating them into a veggie chili, adding beans to your diet can help you stay full longer and make your diet healthier overall.
"Beans are a nutritional powerhouse, packing in high amounts of protein, fiber, and key minerals like potassium, magnesium, calcium, and iron. This particular combination of nutrients is perfect for keeping the heart, bones, and muscles healthy, and can even help with lowering cholesterol, keeping blood pressure in check, and stabilizing blood sugar levels," says registered dietitian Megan Wong, RD, an expert with AlgaeCal.
"To maximize the benefits of iron in beans, eat your beans with a source of vitamin C, like citrus fruits, bell peppers, or berries," Wong recommends.
Stop eating when it gets dark out.
If you want to limit those late-night cravings for refined sugar and other unhealthy convenience foods, give yourself a specific time at which you plan to stop eating at night.
"When we're constantly eating/drinking during all waking hours, our body is always busy digesting. Giving our gut rest allows for our cells to focus on repair and cellular clean-up," says registered dietitian Susannah Juteau, MS, CLT, RD, of Headache Nutritionist. "Even 12 hours can make a huge difference."