Nutrition: Healthy Eating (cont.)

Look at What You Eat Now

Write down what you eat for a few days to get a good picture of what you're taking in, suggests Cindy Moore, director of nutrition therapy at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation. "By looking at what you eat and how much you're eating, you can figure out what adjustments you need to make," she says.

Sometimes she asks patients to write down what they are feeling. Were you nervous, happy, or sad when you ate five slices of pizza in one sitting? "The very nature of writing things down in a food diary can help patients make changes," Moore says. "Someone will tell me, 'I didn't want to have to write that I ate nine cookies, so I ate two instead.'"

Start With Small Changes

You don't have to go cold turkey. In the end, you want to achieve a long-term healthy lifestyle. Small changes over time are the most likely to stick. "If you want to eat more vegetables, then try to add one more serving by sneaking it in," Moore says. "Add bits of broccoli to something you already eat like pizza or soup. If you need more whole grains, add barley, whole wheat pasta, or brown rice to your soup."

When you think about what you need to get more of, the other things tend to fall into place, Moore says. "If you have some baby carrots with lunch or add a banana to your cereal in the morning, you're going to feel full longer." You won't need a food that's high in sugar or fat an hour later, she adds.

Also, look for healthier versions of what you like to eat. If you like luncheon meat sandwiches, try a reduced-fat version. If you like the convenience of frozen dinners, look for ones with lower sodium. If you love fast-food meals, try a salad as your side dish instead of french fries.

"Pick one or two changes to start with," Moore says. "Once the changes have become habits, which usually happens in about two to four weeks, then try adding one or two more. In six to 12 months, you'll find that you've made substantial changes."