As a kid, I remember a time when my parents followed the Atkin’s diet as a way to start eating healthy. They avoided carbohydrates like bread, pasta, and fruit to lose weight. I remember eating chicken nuggets at a fast food restaurant while my parents ate a bun-less hamburger with lettuce and tomato. Yuck! Though they had good intentions, they didn’t understand how to start eating healthy and stick to it.

Even at a young age, I was keenly aware that dieting was something that people did to lose weight and get healthy. However, what I later learned after my own quest for a healthy diet, is that crash-dieting isn’t the answer to establishing healthy eating habits.

A diet is not a short term regimen for a healthy and fit body, nor is it a way to punish your body for eating “bad foods.” Honestly, I don’t like to use the term “diet” at all because its so misconstrued. I refer to my healthy eating as a lifestyle, rather than a diet. A healthy eating lifestyle focuses on nourishing your body for everyday life. It’s a long term process rather than a “quick fix”—and that’s a good thing!

Nothing quick, easy or extreme ever yields lasting results. Think about it—when’s the last time you followed diet like this and saw lasting change? I’m talking about more than just fitness–overall health, feeling good and seeing change physically and mentally. If you’re up for that, keep reading to learn how to start eating healthy and stick to it.

11 steps for how to start eating healthy and stick to it

*I want to make it clear that you should always consult a doctor before beginning a new nutrition plan.

1. Find your “WHY.”

It’s important to think about why you’re changing your eating habits—whether it’s a weight loss goal, treatment for illness, or just wanting to feel better. This will provide the motivation for sticking to your diet amidst the stress of daily life.

2. Uncover food sensitivities.

It’s important to know which foods—even “healthy” foods—might be a source of inflammation, which could actually prevent you from losing weight. I recommend doing an elimination diet, like Whole30 or the Plant Paradox 30-day Challenge. With these short-term diets, you eliminate the major inflammatory foods from your diet (like sugar, grains, and dairy), allowing you to discover which foods may be causing irritation and inflammation in your gut. 

3. Determine your dietary needs.

What is your current diet lacking? Or which food groups are you eating to excess? Do you have any vitamin deficiencies, food-related allergies or illness? Consult your doctor or a dietitian for more personal insight.

4. Determine your daily calorie intake

This can be done (most accurately) via a health or fitness professional using devices that measure your muscle mass, body fat and resting metabolic rate. Another way to calculate your approximate daily calorie intake can be found here. Once you know how many calories your body burns at rest, you’ll know to eat around that many calories to maintain weight, or less calories to lose weight. While you don’t want to aggressively restrict calories, some calorie restriction is usually necessary in order to achieve weight loss.

5. Research various diets and see which one best aligns with your food sensitivities, preferences and lifestyle.

Do you enjoy eating plant based, or does the thought I’d giving up meat make you cringe? Do you have a gluten sensitivity, or a dairy allergy? There are lot of protocols out there like Paleo, Keto, AIP, vegan, and gluten free. You don’t necessarily have to align your diet perfectly with any one of these diets. However, it is helpful to commit to one particular diet over another, making is less complicated to research and maintain.

While I am not prescribing a specific diet, I recommend looking into the Plant Paradox Program as a way to both lose weight and heal your gut. This is the diet I largely stick to, with some exceptions. You can read about my experiencehere. Overall, a diet that completely eliminates one of the macro nutrients (carbohydrates, fat, and protein) is probably not sustainable for most people.

6. Utilize Pinterest for recipe hunting

Create boards for breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks/treats. This will help reduce overwhelm when you’re trying to figure out how to put approved foods into a meal. It will also get you more excited about cooking and eliminate time and stress when you’re deciding what meals to cook for the week. Check out my Pinterest boards for healthy meal ideas!

7. Make a list of eating-out options

That way, you will have a game plan when going out and won’t have to worry about having food options. I recommend keeping a list on your phone so it’s always with you. This will reduce temptation to stray from healthy eating, as well as make it less overwhelming to decide where to eat.

8. Stock up on healthy foods that pertain to your diet of choice, and get rid of the foods that don’t

Eliminating temptation will make it that much easier to choose the healthy option! Stock your fridge with fresh foods like proteins and produce and your pantry with staple carbohydrates (like rice, sweet potatoes, beans), spices, and oils to cook with, along with healthy snacks.

9. Meal prep

Pick a day of the week to prep, cook and potion our meals for the week ahead. That way, you always have ready-made meals on hand and busyness will never be an excuse to not eat healthy. If you’re really in a time crunch, grocery stores like Whole Foods have fully prepared meals for various diets. Meal delivery boxes are also a new way many people are choosing to cook efficiently and creatively, and there are boxes to accommodate almost any diet. For more meal prepping tips, clickhere. You can also check out my Instagram highlights for recipes!

10. Put measures in place to keep you accountable

I highly recommend a food journal. This can be a written journal, or an online food log via mobile apps like My Fitness Pal or Lose It. More importantly, include a friend, spouse or someone else close to you in the process. Whether or not they’re participating in the diet, you can still have someone hold you accountable by letting him or her know your goals and asking for accountability. Social media groups can also serve a source of inspiration and community. 

11. Give yourself grace

You will waver and downright fail at times, but persistence builds willpower. One slip-up doesn’t have to derail you completely. Get back in it the next day or even the next meal. Tell your accountability partner and turn to what motivated you in the first place—revisit your “WHY.”

Make it happen!

Now that you now how to start eating healthy and stick to it, it’s time to make it happen! Don’t be overwhelmed by the process, just take it one step at a time! Remember, anything that produces lasting change will require time, effort, consistency and commitment. Once you actually see results and experience the lasting benefits of eating healthy, you’ll never look back. I promise you, it will be worth it!