1. Don’t start a diet or eating plan you wouldn’t feel comfortable following for the next five years.
“If a diet requires that you give up certain food groups, prevents you from eating out with your friends, or emphasizes any habit you can’t imagine maintaining for more than a short period of time, it’s not going to lead to success in the long run. Instead, make small healthy tweaks to your diet a little at a time.”
—Amelia Winslow, MS, MPH, nutritionist and founder of Eating Made Easy
2. Stop thinking of certain foods as “good” and others as “bad.”
“We live in a culture that embraces a good/bad food dichotomy, which vastly oversimplifies nutrition and health. [I suggest] stripping the moralization away from food. An apple is just an apple; you are not good or virtuous if you select it as a snack. A Twinkie is just a Twinkie; you are not bad, guilty, or weak-willed if you choose it instead. When we strip moralization away from food and eating behavior, nutrition becomes much easier.”
—Jonah Soolman, RD, LDN of Soolman Nutrition and Wellness
3. If something sounds too extreme for you, it probably is.
“Most people will give up any effort if they don’t think they can achieve the perfect standards of healthy eating you see today. It is possible to eat much better without eliminating foods you love. There is room for everything as long as there is a realistic structure to it.”
4. Think of every meal as an opportunity to be healthier.
“Stop the guilt. If you eat something ‘off plan’ just suck it up and move on. There’s no sense punishing yourself for food that’s long been digested. Always remember that your next meal is a clean slate.”
5. Don’t cut out all fat. Just eat it wisely.
“I encourage clients to focus on the quality of fats and not place so much emphasis on the quantity of fat. For example, if you’re a fan of using butter, I would be more concerned about what the butter is on top of. Is it spread on a cinnamon bun or over roasted asparagus? Same fat. Two different scenarios.”
—Nita Sharda, RD, owner of Carrots and Cake Balanced Nutrition Consulting
6. Ask yourself: “Is this made of real food or something that would require a lab to make?”
“Every time you need to make a choice on a meal or snack, ask yourself if you could make this at home if you had the time and simple equipment. You could make plain yogurt or applesauce from scratch, but you might not be able to find a bottle of partially hydrogenated oil in your pantry with which to make that low-fat ‘healthy’ cookie snack. You could mash together dates and almonds into a Larabar, but you’d have a hard time making the hydrolyzed soy protein found in many energy bars.
“Check the ingredient list only and ask yourself: ‘Is this product made of real food in its natural state or something that would require a lab to make?’”
—Kath Younger, RD, founder of Kath Eats Real Food
7. Think about how a food will make you feel after you eat it.
“Before you make a food or drink choice, ask yourself, ‘How is this going to make me feel afterwards?’ This doesn’t put a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ label on the food; it’s about how that particular item makes you feel physically and emotionally. Will you feel tired? Crabby? Sluggish? Or will you feel energized? Satisfied? Refreshed? Some foods and drinks sound good in the moment but can wreck your mood and your energy level. Eating should be about pleasure but it should also be about feeding yourself the foods and drinks that work best for YOU.”
—Sally Kuzemchak, RD, founder of Real Mom Nutrition
8. Don’t make daily choices based on what the scale says.
“A lot of people let the scale dictate the type of day they have and the way they eat. If the scale is up, they eat less. If the scale is down, they give themselves permission to eat more. But weight fluctuates on an hourly basis. In fact, I think you should throw your scale in the garbage and eat according to how you FEEL. Learn to trust your body and your hunger.”
—Abby Langer, RD, Abby Langer Nutrition
9. Just go ahead and avoid all those fat-free or low-fat products.
“Here’s the thing: When a product is artificially made low-fat or fat-free, it won’t be as satisfying, due to the absence of fat, which keeps you full longer. This can lead to overeating because you never feel satisfied. Also, artificially fat-free/low-fat items often have sugar and other fillers added — or you’ll add more sugar yourself because it doesn’t taste good without the fat.”
—Anne Mauney, MPH, RD, founder of fANNEtasticfood.com
10. Don’t be married to the idea that there’s only one way for you to be healthy.
“Realize your needs change throughout your life based on age, activity level, and many other factors. What is best for one person may not be best for another, and what is good for you now may not be what is best for you next year. Don’t listen to trends; listen to your body.”
11. Spend some time learning more about what you’re eating.
“I challenge everyone to try cooking more at home, starting a garden, watching a food documentary, reading a book about where food comes from, volunteering on a farm, or going to a farmers market.”
—Ryan Andrews, RD, of Precision Nutrition
12. Don’t ditch carbs “just because.”
“Carbohydrates are a necessary macronutrient (just like fat and protein), and they are the brain’s primary source of fuel. We need carbs to function at our best.”
(Learn more about carbs and how much of them you really need here.)
—Joanne Levy Soolman, MS, RD, LDN of Soolman Nutrition and Wellness
13. Give yourself lots of time to become a healthier eater.
“Not weeks – I’m talking months, maybe even a year. Your eating habits have developed over many years, maybe even your whole life up to this point in time. Learning about good nutrition and how that translates to the foods you choose to put on your plate each day will take time. That is OK!”
—Chinwe Asagwara, RD, Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL)
14. Eat healthily most of the time and indulge a little, too.
“Try to eat healthy 90% of the time and splurge for the remaining 10%. To do this, you must make it a habit of purchasing healthy groceries — veggies, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, lean meats, fish — and plan most of your meals and snacks in advance. Doing the proper prep and planning will ensure that your ‘everyday’ diet is healthy and balanced. Then, when you do enjoy that special treat a few times a week, you won’t feel guilty about it.”
—Jessica Jones, MS, RD, Food Heaven Made Easy
Responses have beed edited for clarity and length. Social image by Lauren Zaser from here.