How to Eat Healthy and Exercise

Three Parts:Improving Your DietIncorporating Physical ActivityMaintaining A Healthy Lifestyle

Eating healthy and exercising can seem like a pretty simple and straight forward goal. However, there are a lot of different components to a healthy diet and fitness program. For example, you'll need to think about when and where you'll be working out or what foods to eat, how much and how to prepare them. Starting with a more specific goal and detailed plan can help you implement the changes you need to help you eat healthier and be more active.

Part 1
Improving Your Diet

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    Do a food recall. Try to eat healthier is a great goal, but a broad one. To help you tailor your goal and figure out exactly what you need to do differently, start by doing a few days of a food recall.
    • A food recall is when you write down a few detailed notes about what you eat and drink in one day. Include all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), any snacks or nibbles throughout the day and anything you drink (or add to your drinks).[1]
    • Be as detailed as possible. If you're not good at remembering what you ate over the last few days, try keeping a food journal instead. You may even want to use a smart phone app to help you.
    • After you have your notes, review them and see where you can make changes. This will help you set goals for yourself and design an appropriate meal plan.
    • Examples of things you may want to change include: eating breakfast on a regular basis, drinking less soda, eating more vegetables or snacking less.
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    Write up a meal plan. A meal plan will be a great help to you when you're attempting to make changes to your eating pattern and style. This will be a guide or blueprint for all your food choices.[2]
    • A meal plan can be very detailed or just a few notes. But take some time and write out your ideas of what you are going to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and beverages.
    • Having a week or two of meals laid out in front of you can help you visually see if you're making the right changes to your diet. You can look and see if you're: eating a vegetable at each meal or have a scheduled breakfast everyday.
    • Use your meal plan to guide you throughout the week. You can also use it to help you write up a grocery list to make sure you purchase everything you need at the store.
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    Eat a balanced and varied diet. One of the main components to "eating healthy" is having a balanced and varied diet.[3] Without these, it's difficult to make sure you're eating a nutritious diet.
    • A balanced diet means that you're eating the right amounts of the right types of foods for you.[4] For example, you don't want to eat mostly grains and forget about fruits and vegetables.
    • Also, make sure that you have a varied diet as well. That means eating a wide variety of foods from within each food group. For example, don't only go for an apple everyday. Choose apples, oranges, berries or pineapple.
    • A combination of both a balanced and varied diet will provide the basis for a nutritious diet that provides with you with all the recommended vitamins and minerals you need.
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    Make half of your plate a fruit or vegetable. One of the ways to make your meal balanced and nutritious is by filling up half your plate with a fruit or a vegetable.
    • Both fruits and vegetables are low calories and high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.[5][6] There foods are one of the main sources of many essential nutrients.
    • Include 1-2 servings of either fruit or vegetables at each meal and snack. One serving of fruit is 1/2 cup or 1 small piece[7] and one serving of vegetables is 1 cup or 2 cups of leafy greens.[8]
    • If you can, try to choose the fruits and vegetables that are the most nutrient dense. These foods are incredibly high in nutrients compared to others and are typically darker and brighter in color.[9] For example, spinach or kale is much higher in vitamins (especially Vitamin A and K) when compared to iceberg lettuce.
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    Choose lean protein. Lean protein is another essential component to your diet. Protein provides the building blocks your body needs to function everyday.[10]
    • To meet your daily recommended needs, include a 3-4 oz serving of protein at each meal. One serving is about the size of your palm or a deck of cards.[11]
    • Leaner proteins are lower in calories and fat compared to proteins that are less lean and make an important part of a healthy diet.[12]
    • Choose foods like: poultry, eggs, pork, lean beef, seafood, tofu and legumes. Limit fattier protein sources like sausage, bacon, processed meats and higher fat beef.
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    Go for whole grains. Grain based foods make up a large part of many diets. Foods like breads, rices and pastas are delicious and can be a part of a healthy diet.
    • To help you meet your goal of a healthy diet, its recommended to make most if not all of your grain choices 100% whole grain.
    • Whole grains are minimally processed and contain each part of the grain (the bran, endosperm and germ). This makes whole grains higher in fiber, protein and other nutrients that are beneficial to your diet.[13]
    • More refined grains like white bread or white rice are stripped of those vital nutrients. These types of foods should be limited in your diet.
    • Stick 1/2 cup or 1 oz servings of whole grains.[14] Try foods like: 100% whole grain breads and pastas, brown rice, quinoa, oats, millet and barley.
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    Drink adequate fluids. Outside of foods, drinking adequate fluids can also help you have a healthier diet. Although water doesn't provide any nutrients, it's an essential part of your diet.
    • Water is important for a variety of functions in your body including regulating body temperature, maintaining acid/base balance, lubricating joints and managing your blood pressure.[15]
    • Most health professionals recommend consuming anywhere from 8-13 glasses of water daily. This will differ for everyone based on gender, age and activity level. However, you want to be hydrated so you do not feel thirsty at any point during the day.[16]
    • Stick to clear, sugar-free and decaffeinated beverages. Try: water, flavored water, unsweetened decaf coffee and tea.
    • Limit sugary drinks and alcohol. These contain excess calories and provide little to no worthwhile nutrition.[17] Keep alcohol at a max of one serving or less daily for women and 2 servings or less for men.[18]
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    Snack smart. Snacking can get a bad rap in terms of "healthy eating." Many people associate snacking with foods like chips or candies. However, eating a snack can help improve your overall diet.
    • Snacks are a great addition to your diet when you're feeling hungry and your next meal isn't for another few hours, to help you fuel up for a workout or recover from an intense exercise session.[19]
    • Snacks can lead to unhealthy weight gain when you eat when you're not hungry or you're grazing throughout the day or you choose unhealthier foods.[20]
    • Snacks, like your meals, should be well-balanced and contain either some lean protein, fruit, vegetable or a combination of those foods.
    • Limit processed foods, foods with added sugars or those that are higher in fat and calories. Desserts, candies, cookies, pastries or chips should be limited. You do not have to avoid these foods completely, but these treats should only be eaten in moderation.
    • Examples of nutritious snacks include: 1/2 cup of yogurt with 1/2 cup of fruit, 4 whole grain crackers with 1 oz of low-fat cheese, 4 celery sticks smeared with 1/2 tbsp of peanut butter each or an apple with a low-fat cheese stick.
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    Make healthier versions of your favorites. Many times people perceive healthy eating as "boring and flavorless." However, the opposite is true especially if you take the time to make foods you truly enjoy.
    • Don't misconceive healthy eating as only salads, plain steamed vegetables or baked lean proteins without any flavors. Spending some time researching different ways to make healthy foods enjoyable will be for your benefit.
    • If you're not truly enjoying the foods you're eating, you most likely won't continue with your healthy eating pattern long-term.
    • Start by reviewing the recipes of some of your favorite foods or meals. You can always add in extra veggies to baked dishes like baked pastas, meatballs, meatloaf and even cakes. Use 100% whole grain flour when baking and swap the sugar for applesauce.
    • For example, if you love mac and cheese, add some pureed butternut squash to the sauce and toss in some of your favorite vegetables with the noodles. You could also try making homemade sweet potato fries instead of regular french fries. Add shredded carrots or zucchini to cakes, cookies and muffins for an extra hit of nutrition.

Part 2
Incorporating Physical Activity

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    Plan out what exercise you're going to do. Like your meal plan for healthy eating, spend some time thinking about what types of exercise you'd like to include for your activity.
    • There are many different ways to be active. The more you enjoy your workouts, the more likely you're to stick with them long term.
    • Consider what types of activity you may want to include. Health professionals generally recommend doing both cardio and strength training activity each week for the best overall exercise.[21]
    • Gyms are a great place to join if you want to work on adding in physical activity. You have access to group classes, cardio machines, weight machines and personal training staff.
    • If you're not one for the gym, consider what activities you can do at home. You may want to purchase exercise DVD's, plan a walking/running route or find free online videos.
    • Find activities you want to do each week and schedule them into your day and week.[22]
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    Include regular, moderate-intensity physical activity every week. One main type of exercise is aerobic exercise. These activities have a lot of great health benefits when included on a regular and weekly basis.
    • The USDA recommends doing about 150 minutes or 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity cardio activity each week. Moderate intensity activities are those that make you sweat and get your heart rate elevated for at least 10-20 minutes.[23]
    • The benefits associated with cardio exercises include: weight loss or healthy weight support, decreased risk of diabetes and high blood pressure, decreased risk for obesity, improved mood and sleep habits.[24]
    • Do a combination of activities that you've planned out. They can be anything from swimming or dancing, to hiking, walking or doing a gym aerobics class.
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    Add in resistance and strength training. In addition to cardio, you should do strength training each week. These exercises offer different health benefits that cardio and will help round out your physical activity regimen.
    • Strength or resistance training exercises aim to help build your lean muscle mass. The benefits include more dense and hard bones, decreased risk of osteoporosis, increases in lean muscle mass and increased metabolism.[25]
    • Activities like weight lifting, yoga or pilates can all count as strength training. Choose your favorite activity and include it 2-3 days a week in addition to your cardio.[26]
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    Increase your baseline activity. The last main type of activity is baseline or lifestyle activity. Although it's not considered planned or consistent exercise, there are still a variety of benefits to increasing your baseline activity.
    • Lifestyle activities are those that you already perform as part of your daily life. These can include walking to and from your car, doing laundry, raking leaves and taking the stairs.[27]
    • These types of activities do not count towards your 150 minutes of planned cardio each week. These are done in addition to that.
    • Studies have shown that these activities may provide similar benefits to more traditional, planned physical activity (like going for a 30 minute jog). They can also increase or support these benefits if done in combination with planned physical activity.[28]

Part 3
Maintaining A Healthy Lifestyle

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    Visit your doctor regularly. In addition to eating healthy and being physically active, visiting your doctor on a regular basis can help support your goals to be healthier.
    • Speak to your doctor regarding your new plan for a healthier diet and physical activity routine. He/she will be able to tell you whether or not your plan is safe and appropriate for you.
    • Talk to your doctor about why you want to eat healthier and exercise more often. He/she may have some tips for you and may be able to let you know long-term whether or not your plan has had a positive effect on your health.
    • Your doctor may also be able to refer you to a registered dietitian or personal trainer to help you get additional guidance on your goals.
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    Try new things. When you're first starting with a new type of diet and exercise plan, it can be exciting and fun. Over time you might get bored with your routine which may make it more likely that you'll give up.[29]
    • Trying new things to keep your routines fresh can help you stay motivated and interested in your plan for a healthier lifestyle.[30]
    • A few ways to keep your healthy eating plan fun and fresh are by: trying new recipes, buy a new ingredient or new item you've never tried, or try recreating your favorite restaurant or comfort foods at home.
    • You may also get bored with your fitness routine. Like your diet, there are some ways to keep things fresh like: signing up for a race or competition, find a exercise buddy, sign up for a new gym class or listen to a good book on tape while you work out.
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    Start a journal. Starting a journal is a great way to help you stay on track with your new diet pattern and fitness routine.
    • Try journaling about your old eating habits, what you want to change and how it's going with your new eating habits. A food journal can provide you with a lot of insight on why you eat, when you eat and how certain foods affect your body.[31]
    • You can also use your journal to write out your meal plan and fitness plans for the week.
    • It may also be a good place to track your progress towards your goals. You can make notes about how easy or hard it's been and how your goals have changed over time.
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    Take regular measurements. Regardless of what your ultimate end goal is, taking some measurements may help keep you on track with your healthy eating and activity plan long-term.[32]
    • When you eat healthier and are more active you may lose some weight. Regular weigh-ins can help you see how your new goals have affected your weight. Keep weighing yourself once a week - you're more likely to stick with your plan if you weigh yourself regularly.[33]
    • You may also want to consider tracking your clothes size, waist or hip size as well. If you notice any of your measurements getting too big or too small, you can return to your journal and make any changes you need to your eating and fitness plans.


  • Always talk to your doctor before making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
  • Exercise is key for a healthy lifestyle as well. Go to the gym every once in a while, or daily. Or take a run around your neighborhood. Even taking your dog for a walk is good. So long as it's routine, and is at least moderately active.

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Categories: Diet & Lifestyle