Transitioning To Healthy Eating

What is healthy eating?

The Mediterranean dietary approach, or DASH, or Blue Zones are all good examples to draw from when it comes to healthy eating.


But if healthy eating was simple, we may enjoy a world with fewer nutrition-related chronic diseases such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and digestive disorders. Yet in fact, most of these conditions are increasing.

Healthy eating can vary between individuals. Finding a sustainable approach is key. Many people also have a reasonable understanding of what healthy eating is. Such as, eat enough vegetables, increase colour on your plate, drink more water, avoid ultra-processed foods and takeout, get enough fibre and protein. 

Going beyond the basics above, research shows that specific nutrition strategies have the potential to support physical activity, mood, sleep, mental health, digestive health, and much more! 

But even with the understanding of these basics, many people are not integrating healthy eating more into their daily lives. Why is that? 

How can we harness the power of nutrition to improve our daily lives? How will our body adjust, and how will we be able to recognize some of the softer indicators of success?

A good first step is reflecting on what healthy eating means to you.

Food choices are dynamic to the individual

Our food choices are dynamically reflected in our taste and texture preferences, costs, convenience, availability, cultural norms, even our genetics. Did you know that those who find cilantro tastes like soap is actually based in genetics?

Yet most food choices people make are done so subconsciously. Or at least, not with the consideration of all the factors above. We form habits, which become routines, which in many ways shape or are a reflection of our identity.

Barriers to healthy eating

In many, if not all cases, there is a barrier, perceived or real, that is preventing the individual from improving their health through nutrition. Again, healthy eating is many things to many people and depends on many factors. 

Healthy eating

Take a moment to reflect. What is healthy eating for you? What factors influence your eating, and how?  What are your barriers to healthy eating? And importantly, is there alignment between your habits, and your short- and long-term goal(s)? 

Reflection is a powerful tool in defining which habits will help you reach which goals.

So, should you be setting a goal, or should you be…

Setting a habit!

Start small, build a habit.

James Clear wrote an excellent book called “Atomic Habits” which discusses the impact of small sustainable habits that can add up over time. He posits that goals are fine, even necessary, but they are rather static, lifeless. 

Rather, it is focusing on the process of habit-building that leads to the attainment of goals. Small habits add up and become a subconscious way of living. They bring your goals into alignment with your identity.

In other words, the goals you define should be able to be converted into a habit.

For example, a goal of wanting to lose weight vs a goal of wanting to increase fibre in the diet. What sounds more actionable? 

The former is vague, static, lacking action and direction. The latter is a proven, actionable strategy that can assist in weight loss. For myself this year, I decided I will eat more plant-based, and incorporate more green leafy vegetables in my diet. I will do so by ensuring these foods are always available at home. I will create a habit of purchasing legumes and greens each time I am at the store. I will create a habit of adding more greens to my plate and doing my weekly meal prep with the addition of legumes. 

These are goals that can be converted into actionable habits. They are specific, can be measured, visualized, and over time I can tell whether or not I am achieving it. 

What to expect when transitioning to healthy eating

Sometimes the addition of a new food means replacement of another. Reducing saturated fat in a diet typically means a reduction in meat, so it’s important to have good knowledge of alternative protein such as nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy, cheese, eggs, and legumes.

Increasing fibre in diet requires increasing water to ensure proper digestion and bowel movements.  Increasing water can also lead to increased urination frequency. 

Food is also converted to energy, so take note of your cognition and energy levels throughout the day in relation to your meal patterning. Improving meal patterning also requires shifting your schedule, or having different types of foods available. 

Nutrition can impact our mood, sleep, energy, immune system, and more. Some of these “soft cues” can be great indicators of success to help you stay motivated and keep doing your newly formed habit. 

Need Support?

Book an appointment with me, Daniel, the Dietitian at Preventous. I can help you navigate web misinformation, help prevent or manage chronic disease, support you in sports nutrition, and more. I can also assist you in defining and implementing some practical nutrition habits for you or your family.

Dan Neuman
Registered Dietitian MSc

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