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A guide to eating healthy (12 proven ways)

Written by John Davis

Last updated: September 15, 2022

Over the last few years, people have become more concerned with their eating habits. Due to the modern lifestyle, most people have realized that their diets can’t compensate for the damage caused by sedentarism. However, switching to a healthy eating plan is not as difficult as it sounds.

By ingraining a few healthy habits into your meals, such as adding vegetables and cutting back on sugar, you’ll be able to start reaping the benefits of a healthy diet. Plus, some tips will work for everyone — even college students and people with a tight budget. Here’s what you need to know.

How to Eat Healthy Everyday

Eating healthy is one of the most important aspects of maintaining a healthy body and avoiding conditions such as obesity. From eating more vegetables to chewing more slowly, there are dozens of ways you can improve your meals.

However, our rushed modern lifestyle makes it difficult for us to change our deeply ingrained food-related habits. But luckily, there are a few simple tips you can follow to improve your meals without much effort. 

12 easy-to-follow ways of eating healthy

1. Mix Up Your Diet

One of the easiest ways to eat healthy is simply to start mixing up your diet. Dietary diversity has been shown to increase life expectancy while also improving the overall health of people. However, this doesn’t mean you should eat everything that’s in front of you (1).

Studies show that the most effective way to mix up your diet is to include more vegetables, seafood, and other nutrient-rich foods. At the same time, you should reduce your intake of red meat and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages. People who don’t follow these guidelines and opt for a less varied diet have a higher risk of obesity (2).

If you’re unsure of how to approach dietary diversity, try to separate foods into five separate groups. By dividing your meals into grains, vegetables, fruits, meat, and dairy products, you’ll be able to easily see which ones are lacking some intake (3).

2. Watch Out for Processed Foods

Processed foods are a hot topic among nutritionists all over the world. Usually, they’re defined as chemically modified meals, fractioned from whole foods, or assembled with food substances. As you may already know, they are considered some of the most unhealthy foods out there (4).

Ultra-processed foods have up to five times the number of calories as a similar natural meal. However, they probably won’t make you feel as satiated as a whole food — considerably increasing your caloric intake (5).

While it’s true that some processed foods are low in calories, this still doesn’t make them particularly healthy. Added sugars, fat, and unhealthy manufacturing processes are almost always present in these foods. Instead, try to avoid fast food, snacks, and pre-cooked meals altogether (6).

3. Make Your Caloric Intake Worth It

Most people think eating high-calorie foods is terrible — however, how unhealthy a portion of food is doesn’t always have to do with calories. Instead, it’s more important to keep in mind how nutrient-dense it is.

Nutrient density is a concept that’s closely tied to caloric intake, although it usually doesn’t receive as much attention. As its name indicates, nutrient density describes the number of nutrients a food has compared to its calories (7). 

Foods like snacks, pre-cooked meals, and candy usually have a low nutrient density — meaning that you’ll be taking in lots of calories without significant nutrients. Instead, try to choose foods like vegetables, nuts, and fish, which have a high nutrient-to-calories ratio (7).

4. Limit Sugary Beverages

Sugary beverages have been growing a bad reputation over the last few years. Recent studies have shown that these drinks can increase cardiovascular disease risk while also being unnecessarily calorie-dense (8).

Our everyday life abounds with sugary beverages, from sodas to sweetened teas and coffees. By avoiding them, you’ll effectively decrease your risk for conditions such as diabetes while also increasing your life expectancy (8).

The best for your health is to replace sugary drinks with water. Yet, if you’re used to drinking many of these beverages, this might be easier said than done. In that case, you may want to try adding naturally sweet drinks such as juice or home-brewed iced tea (9).

5. Include More Starchy Carbohydrates

Starchy carbohydrates refer to a series of foods that are particularly good sources of fiber. These include bread, rice, potatoes, pasta, and cereals, which should play a crucial role in any healthy diet. Fruits and vegetables are also great complements for starchy foods (10).

Starchy carbohydrates are one of the healthiest energy sources and should be a cornerstone of your diet. The fiber they provide helps food move through your gut while also keeping you feeling full — preventing overeating (10). 

However, you may have seen specific diets (like Paleo) purposefully avoid such carbohydrates. While this may seem counterproductive, you can replace these sources of fiber with other carefully-selected foods. Yet, you should always do this under the supervision of a doctor, nutritionist, or dietitian.

6. Eggs Are Your Friends

Despite their bad reputation, eggs are one of the most helpful foods you can include in your diet. Eggs are an exceptionally nutrient-dense food, making them the ideal choice for adding to any meal as a side order.

Yet, the most exciting aspect of eggs doesn’t come only from nutrients — rather, they’re great for making you feel satiated. A recent study showed that eating two eggs can increase your satiety throughout the day, decreasing overall caloric intake (11).

Experts even go as far as to recommend including eggs in your breakfast. Research has shown that including eggs in the first meal of each day can decrease your risk for obesity (12). 

7. Consider Your Protein Intake

Most people know protein as the macronutrient that’s related to building muscle. Yet, not many are aware of its important place in most healthy diets. Protein is one of the best nutrients to promote weight loss while maintaining muscle mass (13).

Plus, protein can help you reduce your overall caloric intake thanks to its satiating nature. Recent studies have also shown that eating high amounts of protein can increase your resting metabolic rate — which may lead to extra calorie burning (13, 14).

Protein sources include nuts, lean meats, eggs, and dairy products. Furthermore, some high-caloric sweets, such as peanut butter, can also provide high amounts of protein — allowing you to get some extra protein while snacking (15).

8. Don’t Skip Exercise

Naturally, exercising is one of the first things that come to mind when thinking about a healthy lifestyle. No diet is complete without some degree of physical activity, which will help you avoid obesity, lethargy, and insomnia, among other things (16).

You may even want to try high-intensity interval training if you are trying to lose weight. This kind of routine has been shown to increase your metabolic rates, helping you shed a few extra calories after the exercise itself (17).

Even remembering to stand up and take a walk away from your desk is better than doing nothing. Setting a timer every couple of hours and doing some physical activity will help you fight the adverse effects of sedentarism (18, 19).

9. Buy Greek Yogurt

Greek yogurt is a fantastic inclusion for most diets, whether you want to maintain weight or just eat healthier overall. While regular yogurt is similar, Greek yogurt is usually regarded as healthier due to having less sugar (20).

However, both types of yogurt are made from the same ingredients, meaning that they have the same amount of probiotics. The main difference is that Greek yogurt has more protein, while regular yogurt is richer in calcium (20).

While calcium is essential for growing healthy bones and teeth, protein may be more beneficial if your goal is to eat healthier. As we’ve already mentioned, protein is one of the best macronutrients for maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding overeating (13, 21). 

10. Eat Less Salt

Over the last few years, salt has gained a reputation for being somewhat of a silent enemy. This is mainly due to it causing high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease, strokes, and other conditions (22).

While many people avoid adding salt to their foods for this reason, it’s still possible to consume too much. This is because the salt present in our food is mainly added during the manufacturing process, meaning that it doesn’t depend on adding table salt or not (23).

Try instead to rely on labels to check how much salt you’re consuming. Each product should clearly state how much salt it contains, so it’s easy to track and avoid highly-salted foods. A good rule of thumb for recalling healthy salt intake is that no product should have more than 1.5 grams of salt per 100 grams (23).

11. Avoid Frying and Grilling

The method you choose for cooking meals that involve beef, pork, and most other meats has a surprising impact on your health. Although not many people know about it, specific cooking methods are more harmful than others — going as far as being a cause of cancer.

Mainly, experts discourage cooking meats by pan frying or grilling, as these two methods can cause cancerous chemicals. These harmful components form when sugars and amino acids react to high temperatures and when smoke surrounds the meat (24).

The better option for cooking most meats is often boiling, poaching, steaming, or microwaving. These methods produce significantly fewer nocive chemicals, allowing you to stay healthy without restricting food consumption (25).

12. Avoid Eating Out

Whether or not one is trying to lose weight, eating at home stands as the best option if you’re trying to eat healthier. Although you may be deceived by restaurants that promise clean, homemade food, you’ll have higher chances of eating well if you cook at home.

A recent study associated participants who cooked at home with a healthier diet, as they reported a higher fiber intake and fewer carbohydrates. Similarly, experts also point out that eating at home decreases sugar intake (26).

If you’re interested in losing weight, cooking at home also produces fewer calories. On average, eating at home for a day decreases caloric intake by 100 calories compared to eating outside (26).

Eating Healthy With Little Time or Money

We can all get behind the idea of eating healthy — however, some people don’t seem to find the time to cook everything themselves. Others, instead, simply don’t like cooking, while others are on a tight budget, making it difficult to find quality healthy food.

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Vegetables, fruits, and overall nutrient-dense foods can get expensive quickly. But, by following a few general guidelines, you’ll be able to improve your diet without going overboard with your budget. For example, you could try (27, 28):

  • Buying frozen or canned produce
  • Growing your own vegetables and fruits
  • Making a detailed list before going to the grocery store
  • Buying products such as rice in bulk

How to Eat Healthy in College

College seems to be a common pitfall for unhealthy eating, as students have to deal with limited access to kitchens while having less time than ever. Furthermore, the stress that accompanies university students makes fast food more tempting than ever. Yet, if you’re a college student, you may want to try (29):

  • Opting for the healthier options when ordering fast food
  • Filling your fridge with healthy snacks such as leafy greens and yogurt
  • Using student discounts when going to grocery stores
  • Eating more nutritious breakfasts by including eggs, fruits, and juices

How to Eat Healthy Without Cooking

One of the most common situations we face every day is not having enough time to cook. It’s hard to imagine having the willpower to spend hours in the kitchen after a long day of work — even more so if you aren’t a fan of cooking. However, there are still ways to eat healthy without cooking much, like (30):

  • Eating soup as your first plate when eating out to fill yourself before ordering
  • Opting for ordering vegetarian options or fish-based plates
  • Paying attention to traffic light labels when at the grocery store
  • Getting used to smoothies as a quick and easy way to get some nutrients

Key Takeaways: Eating Healthy

Eating healthy every day doesn’t have to be a challenge — instead, it’s all about ingraining some beneficial food-related habits. From avoiding specific cooking methods like grilling to adding more eggs to your breakfast, there are dozens of ways to make your diet healthier.

People who don’t like cooking, are on a tight budget, or are in college aren’t excused from eating healthy either. But, while they’ll have to rely on different habits, it’s also possible for them to carry on a healthy diet that’s cheap and easy to follow.

If you’re having trouble sticking to a particular diet, you may want to consider checking with a doctor, dietitian, or nutritionist. A trained professional will be able to create a plan that’s perfect for you, considering your personal factors and common pitfalls. 


John Davis