Making any kind of change in the way you live your daily life is like being on a path. The path leads to success. Here are the first steps on that path:
- Have your own reason for healthier eating. Do it because you want to, not because someone else wants you to. You are more likely to have success.
- Set goals. Include long-term goals as well as short-term goals that you can measure easily.
- Think about what might get in your way, and prepare for slip-ups.
- Get support from your family, your doctor, your friends—and from yourself.
- Keep track of your progress. It can help motivate you to do more and help encourage you when you feel discouraged.
1. Have your own reason for healthier eating.
Your reason for healthy eating is really important. Don't do it just because your spouse, friend, or someone else wants you to. What makes you want to change how you eat?
- Want to feel better and have more energy?
- Want to improve your health?
- Want to prevent or treat health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes?
- Have another reason for wanting to do this?
Whatever your reason, you may already know what areas you want to work on. Maybe you want to cut back on high-fat snacks or eat more high-fiber foods.
If you aren't sure where to start, keeping a food diary can help. For a week or two, write down everything you eat. It will help you see which foods you need to eat more of and which foods you're eating too much of. Then compare what you are eating to the food-serving recommendations from the USDA food guide.
2. Set goals you can reach.
Ask yourself if you feel ready to begin taking steps toward big goals. If you're not ready yet, try to pick a date when you will start making small changes. Any healthy change—no matter how small—is a good start.
When you are clear about your reasons for wanting to make a change, it's time to set your goals.
- Long-term goals: These are goals that you want to reach in 6 to 12 months. A long-term goal might be to eat 7 servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- Short-term goals: You may not be ready for 7 servings a day just yet. What are the short-term goals that will help you get there? Your first small goal might be to eat 1 serving of fruit at breakfast each day. As soon as you've reached that goal, you can set a new one by adding a serving of fruits or vegetables to your lunch or dinner. Or you could try eating a piece of fruit as a snack every day.
- Updated goals: It will help you stay motivated if you track your progress and update your goals as you move forward.