Steps to Start a Healthy and Nutritious Diet

Healthy and Nutritious Diet

If you have never learned to eat healthy and have no understanding of proper nutrition, making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle can seem difficult, but it really doesn’t have to be.

All you need to learn are a few basic pieces of information. The reality is that with a little knowledge anyone can start on the road to good health.

Healthy eating is essential if you want your body to continuing functioning properly over the long-haul; if you want to have lots of energy and vitality; and if you want to live a healthy, disease-free life.

The biggest challenge for most people when they first start the process of changing their diet for the better is breaking unhealthy habits that have been in place for a long, long time. But, if you are committed to living the best, healthiest life possible, you cannot compromise on your diet. You must choose a healthy, nutritious way of eating and stay with it for the long term.

The first and most important step in the process (once you are fully committed) is to clean out your refrigerator, pantry, and cupboards.  You must clear your home of bad foods.

Get Rid of All Bad Foods in Your Home

Packaged food with additives
Unhealthy Food
Image by Honey Bunny

Get rid of anything (and everything) that is processed. This means all packaged foods, including snacks, chips, cookies and soda (especially energy drinks). Processed, packaged foods typically contain very few nutrients that the body needs AND are filled with additives.

If you don’t have junk food, processed snacks, pre-packaged dinners, and soda in your kitchen you will not be continually tempted to eat them.

In place of all those “bad foods” you should stock your kitchen with healthy snacks, such as, fresh fruit and veggies, cheese, unsweetened non-fat Greek yogurt, and if you must have carbs – try 100% whole grain products, like crackers and rice cakes. (Read the labels and avoid those that contain additives.)

If you know you will struggle with a sweet tooth, try eating a spoonful of peanut or almond butter, or a handful of nuts.

If you still struggle and are unreasonably tempted by bad snacks, opt for Atkins Nutrition Bars that come in a variety of flavors, including, Brownies. They taste good and have zero sugar.  If you can avoid going this route, I would encourage you to do so, but it is a good choice if you MUST have something sweet.

Learn to Cook Healthy Meals

Healthy meals are made up of lean proteins, and healthy carb sides, including whole- grain starches and vegetables. Fruit and/or nuts are good choices for dessert.

Overall, a healthy eating plan includes the recommended daily allowances from all the food groups. Please note when you look at the chart that SUGAR IS NOT a FOOD GROUP, in fact it is not listed at all.

It is important to take the time to learn which foods are healthy and how they work in the body. I am sure that you already know that fruits and vegetables are at the top of the healthy food list.  You have probably also heard that low-fat and skim dairy products are better for you that whole milk products. But, you may have no idea why any of those foods are healthy.  The secret is the nutrients they contain – you should not only know what they are, but also how they contribute to your health.

Once you have a clear understanding and appreciation of how specific nutrients work in the body, you will be more likely to make healthy choices at meal and snack times. Knowledge is power – so take the time to educate yourself!

Start Cooking at Home

The only sure way you can control the ingredients in your meals and the cooking methods used to prepare them is to cook at home.  Don’t leave the health of your family in someone else’s hands.

Once you are clear on the healthy foods that you should be eating, take the time to learn healthy cooking methods to ensure that you are preparing and serving your family the meals they deserve.

Eat at Regular Times

When you first start on the journey of eating a new and healthier diet, it is wise to eat on a regular meal schedule. The majority of people who eat unhealthy foods most of the time are always in a hurry and frequently eat in a rush or at odd times of day.

Yes, people lead very busy lives, and eating junk and fast food on the go is typical – so, to break the pattern, you must plan ahead.  To avoid grabbing whatever fast food is handy, get a small cooler and take your lunch with you. A fresh tuna salad, or roast chicken sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread is much healthier for you than a Big MAC. If you have the convenience of a lunch room, try packing a nice salad.

Plan Ahead

The weekend is a good time to plan for the week, and prep food that can be used easily throughout the week.

Plan ahead for healthy dinners as well, by cooking ahead of time and using the freezer to its fullest advantage. Check out my cookbook, Cook Ahead – Freezer to Table, which can be purchased through Amazon.com.  It is filled with healthy recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, frozen, and pulled from the freezer for quick, healthy meals any time.

There are healthy frozen meals available at the market as well, and can be a good alternative for those who really cannot cook. These include, Healthy Choice and AMY’S Organic Meals, among others. Be careful with your choices, not all frozen meals are healthy – read the labels carefully.

Shop the Periphery of the Market

The periphery of any super market has all the healthy foods, and  the inside aisles carry all the processed and unhealthy ones. Think about it, the produce section, the fresh meats, and the dairy products are all on the periphery. Next time you are at the market take a stroll and look around the periphery to see what is there. In fact, do most of your shopping there.

Final Thoughts

Begin with small steps. Some people can make the change to a healthy diet cold-turkey and be highly successful at it. If you do not believe that is possible, take it one small step at a time.  Even if you merely substitute one soda a day with a glass of water, or one candy bar with an apple, it counts. If you normally eat fast food each day for lunch, try eating a healthy meal instead at least every other day.

When you begin with tiny steps, it will not feel as drastic. This will also give you plenty of time to learn about healthy foods and healthy cooking methods, which I promise you will learn to love over time, if you stay the course.

AND . . . the best part of all is that you and your family will look better, feel better, stay more in control of your weight, and live longer, healthier lives.