Once you’ve decided to take the first steps in healthy eating, creating a plan to guide you will help you in your efforts. Eating healthier can start with small changes at first and you can progress from there, but creating goals for yourself in advance will help you stay focused and measure your progress.

Make Realistic Goals

If losing weight is what you hope to accomplish with your new healthy eating habits, set reasonable goals for yourself in terms of how much weight you’d like to lose. For some, gaining weight, lowering cholesterol, or building muscle may be the goal. Regardless of what you’re working towards, making goals that aren’t too easy or too impossible is a great way to stay motivated.

Stay Away From Convenience Foods

Not in every case, but quite often, packaged foods that are ready to eat are much less healthy than something home cooked. Cooking healthy meals from fresh meats, vegetables, and whole grains allows you to see what you’re putting into your meal and cut down on the excess fats and sugars you don’t need. You’re also potentially cutting out quite a bit of preservatives and toxins by eating this way.

Don’t Be Afraid To Snack

Sticking to a healthy eating plan doesn’t mean you need to cut snacks out of your day. Switching up your snack choices to a healthier alternative will allow you to fulfill your cravings while helping you to feel full and satisfied all day. Have a snack alternative option ready for every different craving you have, such as sweet, salty, hot, cold, or crunchy. Eat a piece of fruit in place of a candy bar or have a handful of nuts rather than a bag of chips.

Start Slowly

Making too many drastic changes at once could be discouraging if you become overwhelmed with denying yourself all the foods you’re used to. Start by reducing your portions on your regular meals and cutting out the little things like that bag of chips you wolfed down on the way home and didn’t really taste. Once you’ve become accustomed to paying more attention to your diet, add a few more healthy eating habits in one at a time and soon you’ll notice your whole routine has changed for the better.

Most people slip up or cheat at some point when trying to eat healthier but it’s important to not let these instances discourage you and to focus on the things that will help you stick to your goals. Be proud of what you do accomplish and don’t allow yourself to be wracked with guilt over what you can’t. That doesn’t mean, of course, that you shouldn’t learn to be strict with your eating habits.

Be Honest and Realistic With Yourself

Decide what your healthy eating goals are and be realistic with yourself about what you hope to achieve. Making goals that are too easy will prevent you from pushing yourself while making impossible goals will just discourage you and could cause you to give up. When you accomplish your goals, reward yourself and set new ones, but avoid rewarding yourself with junk food as that will only undo all of your hard work.

Don’t Give Up Everything You Love

You don’t have to swear off snack foods entirely, just make healthy eating choices when you can and start your efforts off slowly. Rather than watching TV with a bag of potato chips, snack on a small bowl of plain popcorn. Plan your snack alternatives in advance and have a choice ready for every different taste you crave. Trade sweets and candy in for fresh fruit or eat a smaller piece of dark chocolate in lieu of a sugar loaded candy bar.

Don’t Starve Yourself

Feeling full throughout the day will prevent you from giving in to the urge to snack on something full of sugar or fat. Be sure to drink plenty of water and have healthier snacks during the day rather than saving your hunger up and going crazy on the cheese puffs in the evening. Try eating multiple smaller meals a day rather than three larger ones if this helps you to feel satisfied and less hungry.

Clear Out Your Junk Cupboard

If it’s there, you’re far more likely to grab that convenient bag of cookies sitting at the back of your cupboard when you don’t feel like taking the time to prepare a healthy snack. Throw out all the junk food you have and when you really can’t fight the urge make sure you only buy smaller packages of your favourite treats so you don’t have leftovers sitting in your kitchen to tempt you.

Your healthy eating habits should be a lifelong journey rather than a crash diet, so don’t get too down on yourself when you eat a little more than you should have or just can’t resist that delicious looking pastry. Rather than thinking all hope is lost, throwing your goals out the window, and finishing off the whole pizza because you’ve had one piece, just start over then and there and stay positive about your goals.