How can I make a healthy eating plan?

Ms. Ashley Koff, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
I designed this 8 day plan to inspire and refresh:
  • Day 1: Get rid of any packaged foods containing high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, colors with #s by them (ex. blue lake #3), and msg (monosodium glutamate) or autolyzed yeast.
  • Day 2: Aim to eat one serving of each of these colors, ideally organic! Red, blue, green, and orange -- hint, frozen organic is a great option.
  • Day 3: Eat 1-2 (1 for weight loss/low activity) servings of carbohydrate, protein, and 1 of healthy fat per eating occasion. Still hungry? Unlimited vegetables (ex. Apple + 1 Tbsp almond butter or palm size wild salmon + sauteed garlic spinach + fist size of rice or a bowl of organic berries with a drizzle of chocolate sauce).
  • Day 4: One cup of coffee or tea max for the day (hint green tea and oolong have metabolic/fat burning advantages). Go decaf the rest and no beverages with sugar -- even if they say "just a tad sweet."
  • Day 5: Treat Day! But a non-food treat that is to remind yourself how great non-food gifts can be to give and receive. I always love a massage -- what do you want to treat yourself to?
  • Day 6: Swap an animal for a vegetarian source of protein today -- nut butter on an apple? A veggie burger? Hemp granola or hempseeds on a bowl of berries? Hummus and veggies? Quinoa bowl with chopped walnuts, ground flaxseed, cinnamon, and ginger?
  • Day 7: Swap high-fat dairy and less healthy animal fats for vegetarian sources (hemp, flax, olive, avocado) and wild fish (sardines, cod, salmon) or fish oil supplementation.
  • Day 8: Digest better with tools like a probiotic, cultured vegetables, and spices like cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, and fennel seeds.
Clinical Psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula explains what a healthy eating plan is and how to implement it. Watch Dr. Durvasula's video for tips and information on overall health and wellness.
Here are some essential rules of building an eating plan that will give you the results you want:

Rule #1: Exercise.
Seems obvious, but regular physical activity has a more direct effect on your eating habits than you may realize. Scientists have recently discovered that exercise can strengthen the part of the brain responsible for "inhibitory control." Said the researchers in the journal Obesity Reviews: "Increased physical activity may help compensate and suppress the hedonic drive to overeat." Exercise can also make the brain more sensitive to physiological signs of fullness. Thus, the benefits of exercise are short-term (affecting metabolism) and long-term (affecting behavior). To get better results, try to burn approximately 1,500-2,000 calories per week through physical exercise.

Rule #2: Eat slowly.
A recent study found that those who ate fast were heavier. Specifically, fast eaters consumed about 3.1 oz of food per minute, medium-speed eaters ate 2.5 oz per minute, and slow eaters consumed 2 oz per minute. Interestingly, most people eat high-calorie refined grains, such as white breads, pasta, and potatoes, faster than healthier whole grains. Also, portions, people! Keep them modest.

Rule #3: Choose behavioral programs if you need extra motivation.
This depends on the individual, but the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force funded a study that found that weight-loss programs that focus on changing behaviors with eating plans were more successful. These include commercial programs like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and other plans that involve group support, accountability, clear goals, and exercise encouragement.

Rule #4: Be patient.
Don't beat yourself up if the weight doesn't drop off even if you follow every fat losing edict in the universe. Sometimes the deck is stacked against you due to our evolutionary wiring that developed during periods of starvation. One recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine strongly suggests that weight regain has a lot more to do with hormones involved in appetite regulation than lack of willpower. Maintaining fat loss can be complicated, so keep at it and make healthy living your first priority.
Christina Rollins
Nutrition & Dietetics
While each person has unique dietary requirements, there are some basics that everyone can follow. The MyPlate initiate is a great place to start. This plan recommends filling half of each meal plate with grains, including at least 3 servings of whole grains per day. Next, fill a quarter of the plate with fruit and a quarter with a protein source food such as meat or beans. Add a glass of milk or other serving of dairy, and you've built a balanced meal! 

In addition to building a balanced plate, be certain to also choose a variety of colors in food each day. Different colors means different vitamins, minerals and other nutrients known as phytochemicals. These nutrients work in different ways to keep you healthy. For instance, a red apple and a yellow banana are both healthy choices, but they provide different nutrients. 

For more information, visit www.choosemyplate.gov.
Jessica Crandall
Nutrition & Dietetics
The keys to a healthy eating plan are: making half of your plate fruits and vegetables, eat more whole grains, and consume lean protein/dairy. Information and examples of how to do this is available at www.myplate.gov. 

Another thing to be mindful of is variety. In order to meet all of our vitamin and mineral needs we need to consume a variety of foods from each category. You can do this by choosing fruits and vegetables from different color families (i.e. red, orange, green, purple, etc.).

Snacking is another important aspect of a healthy eating plan. By consuming a well-balanced snack at the proper time, we can keep our metabolism running and our energy levels up in-between our meals. A healthy snack should consist of a protein and a carbohydrate. The protein will keep you feeling satisfied and full until your next meal and the carbohydrate will provide your body with the energy it needs to keep going. Some simple examples include: string cheese and some crackers, peanut butter and apple slices, and low-fat cheese in a whole grain tortilla.

By following these guidelines and making sure that you are consuming proper portion sizes, you will be eating a well-rounded and nutritious diet.
Rose Reisman
Nutrition & Dietetics
The key is to make a strategy for healthy eating. You can’t “wing it” with your meals daily. You’ll end up eating poorer nutritional foods. Planning the foods you like to cook and eat is number one. You’ll never maintain your weight if you’re not enjoying your foods.

Outline where you’re going wrong today. Perhaps it’s late night eating; skipping breakfast or other meals; eating excess processed foods or drinking your calories. Once you know your pitfalls you’ll be able to set up a better strategy.

Try eating 3 meals daily which contain at least 3 of the four food groups: Fruits and vegetables, grains, dairy and protein. For example breakfast can be as easy as lower fat yogurt, a cup of fruit and high fiber low sugar cereal. Lunch might be a salad with 3 oz. of protein and a variety of vegetables and a lower fat dressing. Your dinner plate should be 25% protein, 25% grains or starch vegetables and 50% non-starchy vegetables.

Enjoy 3 snacks daily consisting of about 200 calories of nutrient dense food. A piece of fruit and handful of nuts or a piece of cheese and fruit is perfect.

What you’ll find is that eating the right combination of foods continuously throughout the day is definitely the secret to a healthy eating plan and permanent weight loss.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
To start incorporating new dietary choices, you can follow these steps:
  • Make every calorie you eat delicious and nutrient-rich. Don't eat foods that taste only "okay." If they're not really delicious, don't eat them at all. You deserve to treat yourself well.
  • Eat breakfast, preferably one containing whole grains and a little healthy fat. You'll start the day off with energy, avoid hunger pangs that lead to unwise food choices, and have more stable blood sugar levels.
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The following are some planning tips for a healthy eating lifestyle:
  • Set aside a few minutes each week to think about the meals you'll make the next week. Ask yourself three questions: (1) Which foods do I need from the store to make these meals? (2) What other foods do I need to eat healthy breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks? (3) What foods do I already have in the house? Make your shopping list from your answers to these questions.
  • Keep a good stock of the basics on hand. Always have on hand such staples as vinegars, mustards, lemon and lime juice, canola or vegetable oil, tomato sauce, cans of tuna fish and salmon, broth, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables, seasonings, etc.
  • Buy and keep mostly healthy foods. If only healthy foods are in your house, then that's what you'll eat. Weed out the not-so-healthy foods. If they aren't there, you are less likely to eat them.
  • Create a simple system to track the foods you have and the food you need to buy. Start by taking a few minutes to list the foods you always like to have in the house -- the ones that help you eat healthy. Make copies of this list and use one copy at a time as the start of your shopping list. Create this list with foods grouped together the way your supermarket is laid out. For example, all fresh fruits and vegetables together, all dairy foods together, etc.
  • Keep your food tracking list somewhere in your kitchen and keep a pen nearby. When you run out of an item and need to replace it, make a note on your list.
Cindy Gay
Nutrition & Dietetics
Start with fruits and vegetables. Shop at a farmer's market or a large retail market and look for items you like and will eat. Choose new items one at a time.

Next, look for whole grains to replace 1/2 of your grains. There are many brands of 100% whole wheat breads on the market. Find one you like.

Look for new recipes to prepare lean meats like fish or poultry. Use unsalted seasonings. Use 92% lean ground beef.
For cuts of beef, choose those with  "loin" in the name. 

Choose natural peanut butter instead of the hard peanut butter. Storing the jar upside down with the lid tightly close keeps the oil mixed.

Portion and try roasted unsalted nuts, like almonds, walnuts or sunflower seeds. 1/4 cup or less is the optimal serving.

Drink cold skim milk with the meal. Low fat or lite yogurts are great snacks or milk alternatives.

Include family and friends in the healthy eating plan. It becomes fun to try new things and these become healthy habits the more you stick with it.
Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
You can start a healthy eating plan by first deciding on the eating plan you’d like to follow and then setting weekly goals that you feel confident you can achieve. The Sharecare Fitness App under your Coach tab has several healthy menus to choose from. You can also use the SMART goal setting strategy to help you make consistent progress. SMART stands for specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time-bound. Here are a few suggestions:
  • Eat 1 fruit at lunch 5 days a week.
  • Eat a high-fiber cereal 4 days a week.
  • Pick 3 healthier alternatives from my favorite restaurants by the end of the week.
  • Keep a log of everything I eat 6 days a week.
Create any goal that you’d like to work on, set 1-3 weekly goals and calculate your success percentage at the end of each week. You can always adjust your goals along the way as you learn more and discover what works best for you. Eventually, you’ll master each goal and your healthy eating habits will become second nature.
Eating right doesn't have to be complicated. Start with these recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Here are tips for a healthy eating plan:
  • Make Your Calories Count. Think nutrient-rich rather than "good" or "bad" foods. The majority of your food choices should be packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients -- and lower in calories. Making smart food choices can help you stay healthy, manage your weight and be physically active.
  • Focus on Variety. Eat a variety of foods from all the food groups to get the nutrients your body needs. Fruits and vegetables can be fresh, frozen or canned. Eat more dark green vegetables such as leafy greens and broccoli and orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes. Vary your protein choices with more fish, beans and peas. Eat at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day.
  • Know Your Fats. Look for foods low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol to help reduce your risk of heart disease. Most of the fats you eat should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Check the Nutrition Facts panel on food labels for total fat and saturated fat.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.