Ask the Experts: Change a Habit, Change Your Health, Part 1

Get nutrition experts' opinion on easy changes that will make a major, healthy impact on your life.


Diet concept

Photo by: george tsartsianidis

george tsartsianidis

"If you could recommend just one habit that someone should start doing to eat, and live, healthier, what would that habit be?"

That’s the question I posed to a group of my colleagues – registered dietitians and nutritionists – in the trenches coaching and counseling people in the science, and art, of eating better. Rather than focusing on huge overhauls that may not be sustainable (i.e. no carbs, no gluten, no dairy, no alcohol, etc.), I wanted to look for keystone eating habit changes that could have a butterfly effect through the rest of your daily routine and get you the health and fitness results you want.

I was amazed -- within 24 hours I had over 60 responses. As I began sorting through the feedback, I realized that many of the recommendations fell into a seven broader categories, which I'll be summarizing and presenting in two posts.

Buckle up, here are the first four:
Eat more veggies and fruit

• "Eat your veggies first. Because they are so low in calories, veggies fill you up not out!" – Marisa Moore, MBA, RD, LD

• Have a fruit or vegetable with every meal or snack. – multiple experts

• Fill half your plate with veggies at lunch and dinner. – multiple experts

• "Try one new, healthy food every week. Try a mango or a new, healthy recipe." – Michel D. Harris, RD, LDN, CDE

Eat more frequently to avoid becoming too hungry

• Whether eating every three, four or five hours, "Never let yourself get too hungry." – Danielle Omar, MS, RD

• "Have a mid-afternoon snack to control hunger levels later in the day and avoid eating too much at dinner." – Sarah Koszyk, MA, RD

Reconnect with the process of cooking and eating

• Only eat real food that your grandma (or great-grandma) would recognize. No ingredients that you can't understand or pronounce. – multiple experts

• "Become more aware of what you are eating by checking the ingredients list when choosing packaged foods." - Karen Marschel, RD, LD, CDE, CLT

• "It's so helpful to plan a menu for the week in advance and then organize your shopping list and prep in advance…It makes such a difference in eating healthier and more home-cooked food." – Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RD, CDN

• Eat at home more often, with people. Prepare one more home-cooked meal each week. – multiple experts

Exercise and lifestyle improvements

• Whether it’s 10, 15 or 30 minutes, "Make an appointment with yourself daily to move, just like a shower or a meal." – Elisa Zied, MS, RD, CDN

• Exercise one more day per week. -- multiple experts

• Whenever possible, choose to walk or take the stairs. -- multiple experts

• Get some sleep! The stress on the body from being sleep-deprived can lead to overeating and fat retention. -- multiple experts

Review the habit changes recommended here, choose the one that works best for you and give it a shot for three to four weeks. Research shows it takes about that long for a new action to become a sustained habit. If one recommendation doesn't work for you, try another one; different approaches work for different people. Or hang tight for next month's post for the other three categories!

Do you have another habit to share? Tell us!

In addition to the quotes above, I’m so grateful for all of the wonderful feedback I received from the following nutrition professionals: Tammy Lakatos Shames, Tara Todd, Jill Weisenberger, Erin Palinski, Jackie Newgent, Alexandra Oppenheimer, Michelle Dudash, Kim Kulp, Lisa Stollman, Penny Wilson, Keri Gans, Kerriann Jennings, Emma Fogt, Rachel Begun, Anne Mauney, Jill Castle, Marilyn Jess, Lisa Dixon, Maryann Jacobsen, Beth Lutton, Rebecca Horsman, Denine Rogers, Alexandra Black and Sarah-Jane Bedwell.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Ask the Experts: Change a Habit, Change Your Health, Part 2

Get nutrition experts' opinion on easy changes that will make a major, healthy impact on your life.

One Small Change: Avoid the Health Halo

Healthy-sounding terms like "organic" "low-carb" or "all-natural" don't mean a food has fewer calories than similar foods without labels. Are you guilty of falling for foods with health halos?

Breakfast Changes Lives

We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but a new study show just how important breakfast is for kids.

One Small Change: A Powerhouse Pairing

Imagine some classic food pairings: wine and cheese, fruit and nuts, steak and potatoes…iron and vitamin C?

One Small Change: What Causes Cravings?

Ever had a junk food craving you just couldn't ignore? The first step in resisting cravings is finding out what causes them.

One Small Change: Make a S.M.A.R.T Resolution

This year, instead of empty promises, make a SMART resolution that will stick.

One Small Change: Another Old Friend, Corn

Jason Machowsky weighs in on the health benefits of corn.

One Small Change: The Three Week Challenge

If your New Year's resolution has many different components, consider revising it to include one healthy change; if you maintain it for 3 weeks, there's a good chance it will stick.

One Small Change: Eat Healthier All Year Long by Changing Your Food Environment

Have you kept your new year's resolution? Find out how small changes to your environment can have a big impact on your health.

One Small Change: Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen

Spring cleaning the kitchen means more than mopping the floor; it's a good time to toss processed junk food and fill your fridge and pantry back up with healthier snacks and staples.