Four Steps to Healthier Eating

Four Steps to Healthier Eating

Step 1: Understand how you eat

To eat healthier, you first need to know what constitutes a balanced diet. The food pyramid is a great guide to understanding nutritional requirements. You can even customize your plan at by entering your gender, age, height and weight. Once you understand which food groups and portions make up a balanced diet, you can decide what changes to make.

I usually recommend keeping a food diary for a week or two. Recording everything you eat and drink helps you gain a better understanding of how well you’re meeting your needs and determine areas for improvement. After the first week, review your food diary.

Ask yourself: “Do I…”

  • Get the minimum number of servings for each food group?
  • Eat enough fruits and vegetables each day?
  • Consume mostly foods low in fat, sugar, and salt?
  • Prepare my meals at home, or instead eat fast foods or convenience foods?
  • Drink beverages that are high in sugar?
  • Drink plenty of water? 

After reviewing your food diary, did you identify areas that need improvement?

Step 2: Start thinking about changes

Consider this: If you…

  • Eat out a lot, you may be consuming more fat, salt, and calories than you need or want. Try to prepare more meals at home.
  • Eat a lot of meat but not many vegetables, your diet may be too high in saturated fats and too low in fiber. Eat smaller meat portions and add more vegetables to your plate.
  • Rely on packaged convenience foods; you may be getting too much salt and sugar. You have more control when you make your meals from scratch and avoid pre-packaged foods.
  • Find your portions are larger than recommended; you may be getting too many calories. Using a smaller plate can help reduce portion sizes.
  • Miss meals, you could end up overeating later. Try to keep healthy snacks around – fruit, yogurt, nuts – in case you have to skip a meal.

Step 3: Start small

Don’t try to make big changes in your eating habits all at once. You will likely feel overwhelmed and deprived of your favorite foods and, therefore, will be more likely to fail. Start slowly, and gradually change your habits. Try any of the following:

  • Use whole-wheat bread instead of white bread.
  • Eat brown rice instead of white rice.
  • Try whole wheat pasta instead of pasta made with white flour. Or try a mixture of the two.
  • Use skim (nonfat) or 1% (low-fat) milk instead of whole milk or 2% milk.
  • Try low-fat cheeses and low-fat yogurt.
  • Add more fruits and vegetables to meals, and/or have fruits and vegetables available for snacks.
  • Add lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions to sandwiches.
  • Add fruit to cereal.

Step 4: Make healthier choices more often

We don’t have to be perfect in how we eat, just work on eating healthier more often! For more information visit our Nutrition Education programs.


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