Developing a Plan for Healthy Eating
Developing a plan for healthy eating means setting goals, tracking your progress, and rewarding yourself.
Set goals you want to achieve. It is generally best to set small, measurable goals. You can set them on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. When setting goals, consider:
- Where you want to start. This could be with meals or food. For example, begin by working on a healthy breakfast, and move to other meals after this goal has been reached. Or, decide to eat more fruits and worry about other foods later.
- Making one change at a time. Rather than changing your diet overnight, make your changes one at a time. For example, try to eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day, cut back on eating out to once a week, or eat seafood in place of meat or chicken twice a week.
- Adding something to your diet instead of taking something away. Add foods that you think you need more of, like fruits and vegetables. Taking things out of your diet (for example, foods that are high in fat or sugar) may leave you feeling deprived, which may make it more difficult for you to make a change.
- Choosing more of the healthy foods that you enjoy. Make a list of the foods you like and see how you can change them to make them healthier. For example, make pizza at home using low-fat mozzarella cheese and lots of fresh vegetables. Substitute healthy foods you like for less nutritious ones in your diet.
- Writing down your goals. This provides clear direction on what you want to achieve. Also, reading your goals can serve as a helpful reminder.
- Not setting goals that involve rapid weight loss. Rapid weight loss is unhealthy and is hard to maintain.
Track your progress
One way to evaluate your progress is to start recording what you eat in a food journal. People who keep track regularly may be more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. (See the food record form(What is a PDF document?).)
To help you track your progress:
- Record the healthy things you do in a notebook or journal. Look over this when you begin to doubt yourself or your abilities.
- Pay attention to how you feel. Can you notice any difference when you are eating better? Or do you notice any difference when you sometimes eat poorly?
- Notice whether your food preferences change. As we change what we eat, we learn to like new foods. You may find you don't like some of the foods you used to eat before you started making changes in your diet. And you may have learned to like new foods that you thought you didn't like.
- Look over any lab tests you might have if you are following a special diet. You might notice improvements.
- Blood sugar tests will tell you whether your diet is helping to control your diabetes.
- Periodic blood tests can measure your cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
- You or your health professional can measure your blood pressure to see whether dietary changes are improving it.
When you reach one of your goals, reward yourself. Tie each reward to a specific, measurable goal, such as eating 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day for 1 week.
But do not reward yourself with food. Go to the movies, buy new clothes, or have a massage.