How to Eat Healthy Without Giving Up Anything

Consider this your fundamental nutrition guide to kickstart — and stick with — a healthy eating routine that feels sustainable and satisfying for life.

Between the misleading marketing claims, seemingly perpetual stream of new fad diets, and assigning of morality to foods (think: "good" vs. "bad"), developing an accurate understanding of nutrition and healthy eating can feel damn near impossible. Plus, there's an overall lack of accessible education on the topic, with U.S. students receiving less than eight hours of nutrition education each year when 40 to 50 hours are needed to affect behavior change, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And that's if you even learned about nutrition in school at all — the CDC notes that the percentage of schools requiring lessons on nutrition dropped from around 85 percent in 2000 to 74 percent in 2014. Given all of these factors, it's not surprising that many people don't know the first thing about taking care of their body's basic nutrition needs, let alone how to fuel it for optimal performance.

But learning the fundamentals of nutrition and how to optimize what you eat for your wellbeing should be available to everyone. Nutrition is not one-size-fits-all, and learning how to eat healthfully doesn't have to take the joy out of food. That's where this nutrition guide comes in.

Whether you're in need of an overall healthy eating education or just looking for a refresher course on macronutrients, this guide has you covered. It will first help you lay the groundwork for a comprehensive understanding of healthy eating and then walk you through putting these principles into practice in your daily life — solo or with the help of an expert. Once you feel equipped with the necessary tools to start eating well, you can also expand your knowledge about the mental, emotional, and cultural significance of the foods you choose to consume.

Bottom line: This nutrition guide will endow you with the education, tools, and confidence to figure out how to eat healthy in a way that's best for you. Hopefully, this handy guide will help you navigate what healthy eating and good nutrition look and taste like for you today, tomorrow, and for life. Keep scrolling to get started on your healthy eating journey.

The Basics of Nutrition

Consider this your freshman seminar on nutrition. Here, you'll learn about the concepts and principles that will help you establish a strong foundational understanding of nutrition on top of which you'll be able to build sustainable healthy eating habits. Learn about the undisputed basic guidelines of healthy eating supported by experts and scientists, the most crucial healthy eating habits you should adopt before trying anything else, and the biggest nutrition mistakes to avoid, according to pros.

A Closer Look at Nutrition Facts

You've laid the groundwork and built a general understanding of the foods you eat. Now it's time to take a deeper dive into the specific parts of food that are worth knowing about (calories, fat, protein, and carbohydrates. for example). You might be tempted to skip over this section thinking you've already got these facts down pat — but, sorry, knowing that bread is a type of carbohydrate isn't enough.

How to Read a Nutrition Label, According to Dietitians


Interpreting all the facts on the back of a food package can be pretty darn confusing. Here, experts spell out how to make sense of the percentages, calories, and servings listed.

See, when it comes to figuring out how to eat healthy foods, you need a bit more understanding of what it means to have a balanced diet. This section will strengthen not only your overall nutrition know-how but also support your ability to sustain healthy eating habits going forward. Here, you'll become proficient in the perks of the six essential nutrients, figure out how to read a nutrition label accurately, and learn the answers to questions, such as "what are micronutrients, really?" and so much more.

How to Eat Healthy IRL

Ready to apply your expanded nutritional knowledge? This next section is all about helping you realistically implement healthier eating habits in your day-to-day life.

That means understanding proper hydration and figuring out how to score the right amount of important nutrients each day. Don't worry, there's no need to track every bite or stress about getting the perfect balance during every single meal. The important thing is that you're familiar with the general recommended daily amounts of essential nutrients — and what that might look like in the foods on your plate — so you can aim to achieve these regularly without too much effort.

How Much Water Do You Actually Need to Drink Per Day

How Much Water Do You Actually Need Every Day?
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A registered dietitian answers this question once and for all and explains how to get enough H2O without being bored stiff.

Reminder: You're human and life happens. So, while you might meet those protein goals on Monday, by Wednesday you're too swamped at work to squeeze in a balanced lunch. And, hey, that's okay. After all, your diet and overall nutritional wellness are an average of what you eat in general — one day's eating habits won't "ruin" anything.

Partnering with a Healthy Eating Pro

Whether you'd like some assistance establishing your healthy eating routine or simply want to learn more about the support options out there, this section will act as a roadmap to finding a nutritionist or dietitian and what each can provide in the first place.

How to Find the Best Nutritionist for Your Needs

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Follow these easy steps to score a legit practitioner, according to registered dietitians themselves.

Once you have a better idea of the ways an expert can assist you on your healthy eating journey, you can determine whether working with one might be worth it for you. Nutrition experts can offer support in a myriad of ways, from teaching you to tailor your diet to meet certain goals to counseling you on your relationship with food.And even if you feel like you're already crushing the healthy eating game, you could still reap the benefits of consulting with a pro. Maybe you're trying to get pregnant, or you're considering adding a new supplement to your routine. As you'll learn here, these scenarios and so many others are legit reasons to see a nutritionist — no matter how many greens you're eating on the regular.

Looking Past the Nutrition Label

By now, you hopefully feel confident in your understanding of nutrition and ability to make healthier eating decisions in your everyday life. But when figuring out how to eat healthy forever, it's just as important that you're able to recognize and value food beyond its nutritional value.

How to Have a Lasting Healthy Relationship with Food

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Healing your relationship with food isn't necessarily easy, but it can be done. Here, registered dietitians share how to do just that — and when you might benefit from speaking with someone who can help.

To round out this nutrition guide, this section will empower you to consider the emotional, mental, and cultural factors of healthy eating and their importance. Plus, you'll find tangible ways to keep these things in mind as you move forward with your healthy eating routine.

Produced by Elizabeth Bacharach

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