Get started on healthy eating
If you're trying to eat in healthier ways, you may need to change some of your daily habits. But you don't need to make huge changes. Over time, small changes can make a big difference.
Here's how to get started.
- Start slowly.
Small changes are easier to make than big ones. So change your eating habits a little bit at a time. For example, try switching from white rice to brown rice or white bread to whole-grain bread. Or drink water instead of high-sugar drinks.
- Add some healthy foods.
Focus on adding healthy food to your diet, rather than just taking unhealthy foods away. For example, add vegetables to sandwiches or add fruit to yogurt and cereal.
- Help yourself make healthy choices.
- Keep more healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, at home.
- Pack a healthy lunch and snacks for work.
- Have friends or family try a healthy meal with you.
- Put your snacks on a plate instead of eating from the package.
- Limit how often you eat out.
- Try mindful eating.
- Be aware of your hunger and respond to what your body tells you.
- Try to include foods that you enjoy eating. They can be healthy or just something you like.
- Fully enjoy the flavor, smell, texture, and color of your food.
- Take your time when you eat.
- Avoid distractions, such as screens or books, while you eat.
Avoid unplanned eating and drinking
Having regular low-calorie snacks throughout the day along with regular smaller meals is a good way to manage your hunger. Plan snacks as part of your overall calories for the day, and avoid eating unplanned calories.
- Try not to sample food while cooking.
- Don't eat unplanned snacks.
When you're tempted to snack at times that you didn't plan for, substitute a glass of water with lemon, and snack on carrot or celery sticks. Avoid sweetened drinks like sodas, special coffee drinks, energy drinks, and juices. They add a lot of calories.
- Try a different activity.
When you feel the urge to have an unplanned snack, try an activity that does not involve eating, such as taking a bath, reading a book, or doing a hands-on activity.
- Make dinner the last thing you eat until breakfast.
- Use portion control.
Measure one portion of a snack into a bowl so you aren't tempted to keep reaching into the box or bag.
If you drink, limiting alcohol may help you manage your weight. Alcohol provides a lot of calories but no nutrition. The number of calories in a drink depends on how much alcohol it contains. Drinking 1 beer at dinner every night adds more than 4,500 extra calories each month.
These are estimates of the calories in drinks:
- Beer: 153 calories and 13.9 grams of alcohol in 12 fl oz (355 mL)
- "Lite" beer: 103 calories and 11 grams of alcohol in 12 fl oz (355 mL)
- Table wine: 123 calories and 15.4 grams alcohol in 5 fl oz (148 mL)
- Gin, rum, vodka, whiskey, and other "hard" liquor [ 1.5 fl oz (44 mL)]:
- 97 calories and 14 grams of alcohol (80 proof)
- 110 calories and 15.9 grams alcohol (90 proof)
- 124 calories and 17.9 grams alcohol (100 proof)
Physical activity helps you burn more calories. Experts say that more than 5 hours a week of moderate activity can help. Aim for 60 to 90 minutes a day. Moderate exercise is safe for most people. But it's always a good idea to talk to your doctor before you start an exercise program.
Current as of: March 1, 2023
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Rhonda O'Brien MS, RD, CDE - Certified Diabetes Educator