Kara Morton is a third year medical student at University of Louisville School of Medicine. You can follow her on instagram.
If you are motivated to eat a healthier diet but feel intimidated or overwhelmed by the information on this page, never fear! Significant behavior changes Oare best achieved by setting smaller, achievable goals. Use the tips and tricks in this section to pick out some realistic goals for yourself. Celebrate the small goals you reach and continue setting achievable goals for yourself throughout your nutrition journey.
- Plan your meals each week and make a grocery list to stick to. This will help you intentionally plan out healthy meals throughout the week, and you won’t have to spend time deciding what to cook when the time comes.
- Look for sales and coupons. Try to make a habit of skimming the weekly ads of your grocery store when you are making your grocery list.
- Buy in bulk, especially shelf-stable items like rice, dried or canned beans, canned vegetables, and spices. It will seem expensive initially, but these items last a very long time!
- Spend most of your time shopping the periphery, or the edges of the grocery store. This is where you find fruits and vegetables, frozen items, fresh meats, dairy and dairy alternatives, and bulk foods. The processed and packaged foods
- Try to build up a spice cabinet with variety. Spices add a new level of flavor and can enhance healthy foods that may seem bland! Stock up on spices you know you will use often, like black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, and onion powder. Also, look up recipes for low-sodium spice mixes that you can make at home. Investing in spices is worth the money!
- Shop produce in-season. This is where you will find the fruits and vegetables with the best price! This also helps you add more variety to your plate. Check out this webpage from the USDA for which produce items are in season at different times of the year.
- Frozen fruits and vegetables are your best friend if you are guilty of letting produce go bad! Frozen fruits and vegetables can last for months, are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, and they are often much cheaper!
- Try to steer clear of processed or pre-made meals, snacks, and other packaged foods. If these items are staple components of your pantry, try to look for versions with as few ingredients as possible.
COOKING AT HOME
- Make sure you have basic cooking equipment! Some must-have cooking utensils for the new chef include a large nonstick skillet, a saucepan, a large pot, a nonstick sheet pan, measuring cups, a basic chef’s knife (or knife set), cutting board, a plastic cooking spoon, and a plastic spatula. Once you get the hang of a few recipes, you can expand your kitchen equipment little by little!
- Find a few recipes you like and stick to them. There are recipe-sharing websites and blogs all over the internet, and you are bound to find some you like! Try searching “easy recipes” or easy versions of your favorite meals. After some practice, you won’t need to follow the recipe!
- Try searching for healthy versions of your favorite meals to replicate. You’d be surprised at how delicious a healthy homemade meal can be.
- Double or triple your recipes for easy meal prep. Store pre-measured leftovers in reusable containers for a quick lunch or dinner for the next couple of days.
- Try a Meatless Monday. Search for some new vegetarian or vegan recipes or think of vegetarian meals you already enjoy. These may include oatmeal, salads, soups, vegetable stir-fry, or pasta primavera. Making at least one day per week meat-free is a great way to increase your fruit and vegetable intake!
- Maximize vegetables in lunches and dinners. Consider making extra of the roasted vegetable side dish, having grilled veggies as a main dish, or starting your meal with a big fresh salad.
- Hide veggies by blending them into sauces. This works especially well for those who don’t like many vegetables, or for those who are cooking for picky children.
- Try having meat as a side dish instead of the main meal. Make vegetables, whole grains, or beans the star of your dish with a small amount of lean meat as a complement to comply more with a Mediterranean-style diet.
- Make fruits or vegetables the base of your snacks instead of packaged bars or chips. A piece of whole fruit is nature’s fast food! Make it even easier on yourself by cutting vegetables and fruits ahead of time for an easy grab-and-go snack.
- Add salt to your final meal instead of adding it while cooking. This method has been shown to drastically decrease the amount of sodium people eat in a meal without sacrificing flavor.
- Make water your beverage of choice. If you need flavor, try adding slices of lemon or lime, or even a few chopped berries. A sugar-free sparkling water may also do the trick.
- Eat the rainbow, literally! Including a variety of colors on your plate from fruits and vegetables is a visible cue that you are getting a multitude of vitamins and minerals. The vibrant colors in plants come from their unique blend of nutrients. The more natural color you eat, the healthier!
- Read the menu ahead of time. Most restaurants have their menus online. This makes it easy to look through the healthier options and plan ahead.
- Ask for modifications. Most restaurants are happy to cater to special requests! Ask for extra vegetables, sauces, and dressing on the side, or no butter, for example.
- Try the vegetarian or vegan dishes. These tend to be naturally full of healthy vegetables and plant-based ingredients. Plus, the spices and seasonings used in these dishes can make them even more flavorful than other options.
- Choose vegetable soup or salad with vinaigrette before your meal to fill up. These options also add a serving or two of extra vegetables to your meal.
- Ask for no cheese, mayo, or other creamy toppings. These are often unnecessary sources of fat, salt, and calories that quickly add up. Skip the creamy toppings to get a better appreciation for the rest of your food.
- Eat slowly and plan for leftovers. It takes our stomachs roughly 20 minutes to process that we are full. Try to slow down and take smaller bites to enjoy your food. This also gives your body a chance to send you proper satiety signals! You can feel satisfied with eating half of your meal and get the opportunity to enjoy it again later.
More information from the AHA can be found at gives some more helpful guidance about eating healthy at restaurants.
For more detailed information, visit any of the following pages: