How to Overhaul Your Diet

What habits should you change first to rebuild a healthy diet?

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS
5-minute read
Episode #211

3. Eat less processed and prepared foods. For most of us, this would require a big shift indeed. Americans currently consume about 1/3 of their calories away from home, either in restaurants, fast food joints, or as take-out. And of the meals we eat at home, a great majority comes out of boxes, packets, and cans. Preparing more food from scratch is a painless and powerful way to cut salt, fat, and calories from your diet.

You don’t have to be a great chef or spend hours a day on complicated recipes. Some of the best recipes I know (such as most of the ones you’ll find in my book Secrets for a Healthy Diet) involve fewer than half a dozen ingredients and take less than 30 minutes to prepare.

That said, there is no denying the convenience of packaged foods, especially when schedules are tight. For that reason, I dedicated an entire chapter of my book to packaged and prepared foods and how to make the best choices, which you can read for free here.

And if you eat out a lot, review my episode on how to make better choices in restaurants

If you are eating a typical American diet, these three simple changes would be nothing short of transformational. If you’ve already got these covered, the next two steps I’d suggest would be:

4. Avoid hydrogenated fats and deep-fried foods. Hydrogenated oils, which are often found in packaged and processed foods, are a source of harmful trans fats. And most 

deep-fried foods – especially those from restaurants and fast-food places—also contain harmful compounds that form when vegetable oils are heated. Although there’s certainly a place for things like butter and coconut oil in a healthy diet, I suggest making olive oil your primary source of fat.

And, finally:

5. Limit refined grains but eat all grains in moderation. For more on this please see my episode on The Truth About Whole Grains.

What About All the Rest?

That’s it? What about pesticides and hormones and BPA and acrylamide and high fructose corn syrup and phytates and all the hundreds of other things that might be standing between you and dietary perfection? Hey, if you’ve got the big stuff taken care of and you still have energy to tackle the little stuff, be my guest. You’ll find resources here on all of these topics and more. But if you haven’t taken care of the big stuff yet, I think focusing on the little stuff is sort of a waste of energy.

See also: Are Your Nutritional Priorities in the Right Order?

You be the Diva: How Would You Answer Stephanie’s Question?

While I was thinking about how I would answer Stephanie’s question, I threw it out to the community on the Nutrition Diva Facebook page and asked how they would answer this question. Several of your ideas were right in line with what I was thinking. There were also tons helpful tips and suggestions on how to stick to those priorities once you decide what they are. If you’d like to see all the great advice posted by other listeners, or add your own, you can find that discussion here.

Speaking of Facebook, we recently discovered that Facebook has changed their algorithm to hide posts from pages (such as the Nutrition Diva page) from your newsfeed. If you’ve been missing my Facebook posts, here’s instructions on how to take control of your Newsfeed.

Keep in Touch

Thanks, Stephanie, for your great question! If you have a suggestion for a future show topic, send an email to nutrition@quickanddirtytips.com. You can also post comments and questions on my Nutrition Diva Facebook Page.  I answer a lot of listener questions in my free weekly newsletter, so if you’ve sent a question my way, be sure you’re signed up to receive that.

Cola, Fruit and Vegetable Heart, Takeout Box and French Fries images from Shutterstock


About the Author

Monica Reinagel, MS, LD/N, CNS

Monica Reinagel is a board-certified licensed nutritionist, author, and the creator of one of iTunes' most highly ranked health and fitness podcasts. Her advice is regularly featured on the TODAY show, Dr. Oz, NPR, and in the nation's leading newspapers, magazines, and websites. Do you have a nutrition question? Call the Nutrition Diva listener line at 443-961-6206. Your question could be featured on the show.