How to Kickstart Your New Healthy Diet

Think changing your diet is overwhelming? Start small with these easy steps! 

With all the pressures of the new year, it can be a bit overwhelming to figure out how to kick-off a new healthy lifestyle. While the appeal of a freshly-minted year is hard to ignore, it’s also important to remember that the key to sticking to a healthy living isn’t a bunch of short-term fixes—it’s all about the permanent lifestyle change.

We want to implement changes that make us happier and healthier for life, not just the next few weeks. But even with keeping that in mind, the idea of switching your entire eating style when the calendar flips over is downright intimidating. So let’s start with some small, easy-to-implement steps that will get you on the path to a healthier, cleaner diet.

Start with a clean slate.

Yup, it’s time to do some cleaning. Grab some garbage bags, head to your kitchen, and toss out every piece of junk food on your shelves (make sure you separate the unopened items for donation). Eventually, once you’re on solid healthy diet footing, you can bring back in the occasional cookie or chip as a treat, but for now, the key is to make your home environment your safe place.

If you’re living with others who maybe aren’t so into you tossing out their Oreos, try segregating the junky foods away from the main eating area. Put the less-healthy foods out in the garage fridge or in a low cabinet. Out of sight, out of mind really does help when it comes to transitioning to healthy eating.

Fill up the kitchen with good stuff.

Now that your kitchen is looking pretty sparse, it’s time to fill it up with clean, healthy, real food. Head to the grocery store and stick to the perimeter of the store—produce, dairy, and lean proteins. Don’t worry so much about specific foods—your job right now is to figure out what you like and what you don’t like—just try to pick out foods that have low-ingredient lists (with ingredients that you can pronounce).

Bonus points: look for foods without ingredient lists (veggies, fruits, whole grains, dairy, and lean proteins). If you’re not used to shopping in the produce and natural food aisles, don’t be afraid to try out a little bit of everything. You’ll never know if you like asparagus if you don’t try it!

Figure out what you like and stick to it.

Eventually you’ll get your training wheels off and can venture out in the fun world of experimenting with healthy cooking, but for now, you’re just looking to narrow it down to a handful of recipes for each meal. No need to get complicated. Figure out 2-3 breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners that you love. Stick to those for a while. Make sure you’re honest with yourself. If you don’t have a lifestyle that lets you spend two hours on a weeknight cooking dinner, avoid recipes that require that are too time consuming.

Be proactive.

The most important part of sticking to healthy eating—plan ahead. It’s easy to be gung-ho with menu planning and grocery lists when you first start, but as that novelty wears off, heading to the drive-thru might creep into your mind. To offset the chance of making an emergency fast food stop, make sure you pack healthy snacks whenever you leave the house, keep your fridge stocked, and stash some snacks in your car, office, and gym bag.

Also, make sure to keep in mind your schedule. Are Tuesdays always crazy busy? Then plan ahead and get something healthy in the slow cooker on Tuesday morning.

What’s your go-to healthy meal or snack?

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Cassie Johnston is an award-winning food writer and recipe developer living and working in Southern Indiana. Her work has been feature in national publications such as Gourmet Magazine and The Huffington Post. Cassie’s a big fan of strenuous hikes, cheese, watching sports, Brussels sprouts, and craft beer, and she’ll talk your ear off about her love of local food and seasonal eating. She’s obsessed with social media and loves connecting with new friends!