Woman eating yogurt and berries

Recharge Your Healthy Eating

If you’ve swerved off the good nutrition track, it’s never too late to get back on. Here’s expert advice to do just that.

If lately you’ve been giving in to junk-food cravings or abandoning plans to eat a healthier diet and drop a few pounds, then it’s time to rethink your ideas about food. “Healthy eating is not about depriving yourself,” says Mark Scarbrough, coauthor of “The Ultimate Cookbook” series and “Grain Mains: 101 Surprising and Satisfying Whole Grain Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.” “It’s about rediscovering the joy of a tart apple or the creamy, sweet goodness of steel-cut oatmeal topped with a sprinkle of brown sugar.” To start eating better (and enjoying it!), try these ideas.

Savor the flavor. Now may be the time to remind your brain and belly about the joys of fresh and whole foods. “Eating is meant to be a pleasurable experience,” says Scarbrough. “As I watch people wolf down their food, I often wonder how much pleasure they’re really getting.”

Start with a ripe, juicy fruit—maybe a strawberry or mango, Scarbrough says. Take a bite and chew slowly, really tasting the fruit. Besides prolonging your enjoyment, mindful eating allows our brains and our bellies to “talk” to each other via the vagus nerve, relaying information about satiety and satisfaction.

By savoring flavor, “you’ll start down the road to eating less, eating better, and relishing every bite. It’s that simple,” Scarbrough says. “That pleasure will radiate out into the rest of your life. When you feel content, you pass that contentment on to others.”

Get real. Set nutrition goals you can keep and that give you paths to success. For example, if you resolve to eat fewer sweets, try replacing dessert with an enjoyable substitute such as fresh fruit and yogurt.

Think positively. As often as you can, frame your thoughts around positive actions, such as eating more good-for-you fresh veggies, instead of negative ones, like giving up potato chips. Think about what you stand to gain from your healthier lifestyle—more energy and fewer pounds—rather than what you’ll miss out on. And give yourself credit for even small successes.

Believe to achieve. Having faith in your ability to stick with healthier foods will go a long way toward changing diet behaviors. Start small by opting for a side salad with dinner instead of heavier appetizers. Then move on to bigger challenges, such as taking a nutrition or healthy-cooking class.

Team up. Find a friend, coworker, or close family member who shares your resolve to eat better. It’s a great way to stay motivated and swap ideas for healthier eating.