Tips for Starting to Eat Healthy
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How to Start Eating Healthy: 7 Tips for Beginners

Written by Ana Reisdorf, MS, RD on March 21, 2024


It’s never too late to start eating healthy. There are plenty of obstacles that can make healthy eating hard today. It’s easy to find yourself stuck in a rut of choosing ultra-processed foods that are high in added sugar, sodium, and saturated fat (but taste good) and wondering how to make lasting changes. 

You already know that good nutrition is important for your health today and for years to come. Taking just one step toward starting to eat healthy today can not only help you start feeling better but improve your overall well-being. 

Ready to start eating healthy? We're covering 7 tips for healthy eating for beginners that are suitable for anyone. 

Why Start Eating Healthy and Develop Healthy Eating Habits

Nutrition is one of the most important pieces of your overall health and wellness. After all, you likely eat multiple times per day, each of which is an opportunity to nourish your body well.

There are so many reasons why adopting healthier eating habits is a great idea, including: 

  • Improved physical health
  • More energy and stamina
  • Healthier weight management 
  • Stronger immune system
  • Better mental health
  • Improved quality of life and longevity
  • Reduced risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and certain cancers
  • Positive body image and self-esteem

By fueling your body with nutritious foods, you can support your physical, mental, and emotional health and even reduce your risk of various diseases. 

Why Do We Tend to Lean Toward Junk Food Over Healthy Food?

Everyone can relate to the craving for a donut or bag of potato chips sometimes. Obviously, these aren’t the healthiest foods, but they can bring some degree of comfort and temporary satisfaction. Given the food landscape that surrounds us, plus the influence of our ancestors, it’s not surprising that we’re often pulled toward these types of foods. Here’s why. 

It’s Evolutionary

Our craving for sugary foods can be traced back to our evolutionary past when it was a survival mechanism. When food sources were uncertain, our ancestors relied on high-calorie foods like fruits and honey to provide quick energy for survival. Sugary foods were associated with nutrients and energy, helping people endure periods when food was scarce. 

It Rewards Your Brain

Plus, when we eat sugary foods, our brains release a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which is associated with pleasure. This reward system reinforces our desire to eat these types of foods again. 

We have access to an abundance of sugary food options today, which can lead to overconsumption and related health problems. But our preference for sweetness dates back to those ancestral survival skills.

It’s Complicated

Today, our tendency to choose junk foods over healthier options is quite complicated. There are psychological, physiological, social, and environmental factors involved, like: 

  • Palatability: Ultra-processed foods taste good. The combination of fat, sugar, and salt stimulates the pleasure centers in your brain. This triggers cravings and makes ultra-processed foods more appealing than healthier options.
  • Convenience: It’s super easy to find junk foods, whether you’re looking in a vending machine, fast-food restaurant, or convenience store. These are made more attractive because of our on-the-go lifestyle. 
  • Marketing: Food companies put a lot of money into marketing campaigns, using persuasive techniques to make us want to buy their products. 
  • Emotional Eating: If you’ve ever turned to food as a form of comfort, you’re definitely not alone. The pleasure we get from eating something high in fat and sugar (hello, bucket of ice cream) temporarily replaces negative feelings with relief. 
  • Social Pressures: Gatherings and celebrations are often centered around indulgent foods and treats. Peer pressure, social cues, and the desire to fit in can make us more likely to choose junk foods in social settings. 
  • Cost: Ultra-processed foods are cheaper than healthier options in some communities, especially where access to fresh produce and nutritious foods is limited. 
  • Habits: We develop habits over a lifetime, and they can play a significant role in our food choices. Adopting healthier eating habits requires a conscious effort and consistency. 

7 Tips on How to Start Eating Healthy for Beginners

Wondering how to start eating healthy but not sure where to begin? No problem! Here are 7 tips to help you start eating healthy, no matter where you are. 

1. Make Gradual Changes

Don’t try to take on the world overnight. Start by making small, manageable changes to your diet rather than tossing out your whole kitchen. Try adding one specific healthy habit at a time. 

For example, add more vegetables to your meals or swap your nightly sugary snack for fruit. This can help prevent you from becoming overwhelmed and make changes more sustainable. 

2. Prioritize Balance and Variety

There’s no single “best” food to eat for optimal health. Instead, aim to eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrient-rich foods in your meals and snacks. Get a balance of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and lean proteins. 

This will ensure you’re getting a variety of important nutrients like protein, healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

3. Practice Mindful Eating

Mindfulness is the practice of becoming more present and attuned to your body while eating. It helps you become more aware of your hunger and fullness cues. This takes practice. Try to slow your eating, savor each bite, eat while sitting versus standing, and eliminate distractions. 

4. Read Food Labels

Reading food labels helps you make more informed choices about the foods you consume. It can be surprising to realize how many of the packaged foods we perceive as healthy are loaded with added sugar. Look for products with minimal added sugars, sodium, and saturated fats, and choose whole, minimally processed foods whenever possible.

5. Plan and Prepare

A little planning goes a long way. Meal planning and preparation can be incredibly helpful when you’re trying to eat healthier. Doing so can help you avoid relying on last-minute decisions like convenience items or takeout when you’re busy and hungry.

 Set time aside to do some meal planning each week, make a grocery list, and gather the ingredients you need. It’s helpful to do some meal prep as well, like batch-cooking a pot of rice, chopping veggies, or preparing your lunches for work.

6. Stay Hydrated

Drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated and support your body's functions. Limit sugary beverages like soda, sports drinks, and fruit juices. Instead, opt for water, herbal teas, or water flavored with fresh fruits and herbs. Keep a water bottle with you at all times to encourage regular fluid intake versus trying to chug it all in one sitting. 

7. Seek Support

Having a support system makes it easier to pursue healthier eating habits. You likely have a friend, family member, roommate, or colleague who is also interested in eating healthy. Can you do it together? Having accountability partners and mutual encouragement can help you stay on track.

It's Time To Kickstart Your Journey and Start Eating Healthy!

Good nutrition is one of the most important things we can do for our health and wellness. Starting to eat healthy can improve physical and mental health, give you more energy, improve your immunity, and reduce your risk of developing various lifestyle-related diseases. 

When making healthier choices, start slowly and make gradual changes, do it with a friend if possible, learn to read food labels, and prioritize a variety of minimally processed plant foods. All it takes is one simple change to get started on your long-term healthy eating journey.

As you’re planning the details of your healthier eating pattern, Chomps meat sticks make a great snack! They’re convenient, flavorful, satisfying, and provide 10-12 grams of protein per serving. 

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