Basics About Nutrition and Weight Loss

The basics of eating healthy

Healthy Meals Beet Salad

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Whether you want to get in shape, lose weight, or build muscle, nutrition plays a major role in reaching your goal. A healthy diet doesn't just help you lose weight, it keeps your body in top shape for exercise and for your other daily activities.

So, how do you know if your diet is healthy and how do you change it if it isn't? The following steps take you through the basics of creating a healthy diet.

Where to Start With Your Diet

  1. Find out if your diet needs some work: Are you getting the recommended amount of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, protein, dairy, etc.?
  2. Find out how many calories you need each day: Use the women's calorie calculator or men's calorie calculator to get an estimate of your daily calorie needs.
  3. Keep track of your eating: Keep a food diary to track your meals and calories. This will give you crucial information to help you figure out changes you might need to make.
  4. Make small changes: Experts know that we do a much better job of making permanent changes when we keep them small and reasonable. For example, if you usually skip breakfast, make it your goal to eat something each morning, even if it's just a glass of orange juice or some yogurt. Skipping breakfast can actually slow your metabolism, which can hurt your weight loss goals. It can also make you hungrier later in the day.

Add rather than subtract: If you don't know where to start, add something healthy to your diet instead of taking something away. For example, drink a glass of water before a meal or add an extra vegetable to your next meal.

More Tips for Better Nutrition

  • Be aware of emotional eating or nibbling out of boredom. Find out what triggers this type of eating and keep yourself busy during those urges to munch. It helps to keep a food journal and note the times when you eat when you're not really hungry. We often fall into patterns of emotional eating without even realizing it.
  • Try to avoid eating in front of distractions, like the tv, cell phone, or even standing up.
  • Stay hydrated. Often, a feeling of hunger is actually your body telling you it's thirsty.
  • Eat more fiber. Fiber fills your belly and helps you feel full so you naturally eat less. It's also much easier to add healthy foods to your diet than it is to add more restrictions, which only makes you crave the very foods you're trying to stay away from.
  • If you're starving, eat a healthy snack. When you wait too long, you may end up eating more food to satisfy that gnawing hunger.
  • Prep for the week. One of the easiest ways to avoid the fast food trap is having healthy meals available. 
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 Paige Waehner, CPT
Paige Waehner is a certified personal trainer, author of the "Guide to Become a Personal Trainer," and co-author of "The Buzz on Exercise & Fitness."