How to Ease Into a Healthy Diet

Sandwich in a Wrap

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman

Is your diet less than healthy with too much fat, sugar, sodium, and processed foods? Don't feel bad. It's a common situation, but it's something you can change with a little help.

These simple tips will help you take charge of your diet. You don't need to do all of them at once. In fact, it's probably best to pick one or two things to change this week and add another one or two the next week. Continue adding new healthy steps until you're comfortable with your new diet. 

Start With Breakfast

Breakfast is often called the most important meal of the day. There may not be any hard science to back up that claim, but it makes sense that eating healthy foods in the morning could set the stage for healthy eating all day long. The thing is, it's not easy to make good choices when you're rushing off to work or school.

Get a head start on breakfast. Hard-boil some eggs the night before, or make a healthy batch of cupcake-sized bran muffins. When you're in a hurry you can grab an egg and a muffin before you go. That way you won't be tempted to eat the giant-sized bagels or pastries at the coffee shop on your way to work.

When You're at Work (or School)

Do you go out for lunch every day? Most restaurant food is high in fat, calories and sodium. Cut back on high-calorie restaurant food and pack your lunch a couple of days each week.

Start with a healthy sandwich. Choose whole grain bread, lean low-sodium meat or poultry, and lots of tomatoes, onions, lettuce, avocado or other sandwich vegetables. Go light on the mayonnaise or use a low-fat mayonnaise. Buy a small insulated container for a cup of vegetable soup and add a piece of fresh fruit for dessert. Now you have a tasty and healthy lunch. If you must eat lunch at a restaurant, try a salad as a meal or, at least, choose a salad instead of French fries.

When snack time rolls around, and you find yourself staring at the vending machine, choose a package of mixed nuts instead of a candy bar. Drink fresh water instead of sugary soda or that third cup of coffee.

It's Dinner Time

Here's an easy way to plan a balanced meal. Mentally divide your plate into four quadrants. Half of your plate should be covered with green or colorful vegetables and fruit. One-quarter of your plate can be home to your protein source (chicken, meat, eggs, fish, and seafood or a vegetarian dish). Finally, you can use that last quarter of your plate for something starchy like potatoes, whole grain pasta, or brown or wild rice. 

Buy prewashed and prepackaged salad ingredients so that you can make salads quickly and easily. Salads are an easy way to add vegetables to your diet, and they take up space in your stomach so that you can feel satisfied with a smaller entree.

Get more omega-3 essential fatty acids by eating fish at least twice per week. If you don't want to eat fish, nibble on some walnuts or pumpkin seeds. Soy, canola oil, and flax seeds are also good. You can drizzle the oil on sandwiches, vegetables or salads. 

Choose baked or grilled meats, chicken, and fish rather than fried. And avoid heavy creamy or cheesy sauces.

After Dinner

Instead of having a big bowl of ice cream for dessert, choose a cup of plain Greek yogurt. It's an excellent source of protein and calcium. Add nuts and berries or sliced fruit and some honey.

Do you like snacks like potato chips or corn chips? Baked chips are better than fried. And if it's the dip you love, try scooping your chip dip with fresh vegetables like raw carrots or green beans instead.

A Word From Verywell

It's not easy to switch from a junk food-laden, high-calorie diet to a healthy diet overnight. However, it's okay to take small steps to improve your diet. Over time, all those little steps will add up. You'll form new healthier habits and hopefully improve your health. 

Be patient, because it takes time and practice and don't get down on yourself if you slip up now and then. Just make good choices starting with your next meal.

Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

By Shereen Lehman, MS
Shereen Lehman, MS, is a former writer for Verywell Fit and Reuters Health. She's a healthcare journalist who writes about healthy eating and offers evidence-based advice for regular people.