The Journey to a Healthier You

Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, MS, RD

If you are looking to develop healthier eating habits or know you have a family history of heart disease, diabetes or cancer, chances are you’re probably wondering, “What can I do to start my journey?”

Healthy eating habits don’t develop overnight. It takes time and effort to change them and make them part of your daily routine. In this article, I’ll share my top tips to get you started. These are some of the steps you can take to develop healthy habits and make smart food choices every day.

Start slow – Decide on one specific change at a time and be sure not to rush. Remember, a healthy lifestyle is important throughout your lifetime, not just for a day or a week. Take your time – change is hard, but far from impossible with the right attitude.

Get organized – Start by making small changes to your meals, like replacing sour cream with Greek yogurt or using olive oil instead of butter for cooking. Try incorporating a green salad or a fruit and vegetable with every meal, and start focusing on quality and balance rather than focusing on how many calories you’re consuming at each sitting. Over time, your meals will get healthier and healthier.

Balance grains – Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation to make half of your grains whole grains and the other half enriched grains. There is a great body of research supporting the benefits of grains in your diet – these foods provide dietary fiber, minerals and vitamins such as folic acid, B vitamins and iron, making them the perfect match for all your meals.

Get creative – Get everyone involved with the cooking. Allow your family to help you in the kitchen with age-appropriate tasks. Letting kids help out gets them excited about a meal and can spark creative healthy meals your entire family will eat.

Be a good role model – Kids usually want to do what their parents do. Eating a variety of foods is a great way to model healthy habits. Research shows children are often more willing to eat healthy foods and be active if they see their parents and other family members doing these things first.

Never give up – It’s okay if your family doesn’t like every meal you serve. If you keep exposing them to new varieties, there is bound to be one they’ll like! Persistence will pay off eventually, so even when the family does not show much progress or interest, do not be discouraged. Chances are that you are making progress in many other ways: You are probably eating together more often, planning meals together or feeling more energetic. If you stay the course, you will continue to make progress.

Take time to celebrate – When you have turned a healthy change into a habit, it’s time to celebrate!  Reward yourself and your family with a fun activity everyone will enjoy. Activities such as camping, visiting an amusement park or just a night in your backyard will let them know that you really care.