Improving your nutrition can be a daunting task, and I find it to be one of the most difficult changes for any of my patients to make. We naturally like a routine, it’s easy to follow, and doesn’t require any extra effort. This usually means that most of us don’t really pay much attention to our eating patterns, or what we put in our bodies. However, proper nutrition is invaluable, it is the center of all of our bodily functions. Without giving your body the nutrients it needs, you can make it difficult to perform even the most basic tasks. Despite the importance of the nutrients we give our bodies, many of us don’t give nutrition a second thought. When a patient decides to improve their nutrition, it takes careful planning. Although making diet changes is difficult, I have found that there a few simple tips that can help make improvement much easier. 1. Set Short Term Goals I have always found that making short term goals will help promote longer term success. Improving nutrition should be considered a lifestyle change, but it doesn’t have to be a drastic shift in your routine immediately. In fact, trying to do too much at once can be difficult to maintain, which may be discouraging. Unless my patients have to make an immediate change for serious health concerns, I advocate that they try to start with short term goals for the nutrition plans. Your goals need to be specific, yet attainable. If you set a goal that you are going to give up all sweets immediately, it may not be attainable. Instead, try a goal with a shorter term that will be easier to achieve. Once that goal is achieved, you can then add other goals to help slowly make improvements. It is better to slowly improve than to not improve at all in my opinion. 2. Make A Small Change Short term goals leads directly into the next tip, make small changes. I have talked about this quite a bit before, and it’s something I really believe in. Like I said earlier, unless an immediate change it mandatory, I like to advocate making smaller improvements first. The cold turkey strategy can work for some, but I think many more people will find more success with a simpler approach. By starting small, you can realize success sooner, and then begin to introduce other changes as a way to create bigger success. For instance, I mentioned sweets earlier. If you find that you eat candy while you are in the office, or have dessert every night, you may want to try to cut back on these snacks. It may be as simple as designating a few days a week as fruit days. Instead of eating candy in the office, bring a piece of fruit to snack on. Or if you find that you eat desserts frequently, you might try to cut them out completely a few meals a week. This type of change is very small, but it can help get you set to make lager changes as you progress. The one warning I do give is that cutting back on some unnecessary foods one day, doesn’t mean that you can eat more the next day. The point is to create a positive, not a neutral change to your nutrition. 3. Use Tools (Image from www.LoseIt.com) It’s amazing how many useful tools have been developed to help take control of your nutrition. A quick web search will bring back countless companies that provide different services to help you improve your diet. There are so many useful tools that we can’t list all of the ones we like. However, we did put together a list of 4 tools we like previously. Take a look at that to find just handful of useful ways to help with your nutrition. In addition to the ones listed there, we really like FatSecret.com, MyFitnessPal.com, and Loseit.com. There are plenty of other apps and websites to use to help with your nutrition goals. Try some of them out to see which ones can help you. If you find any other ones that you like, be sure to let us know in the comments. 4. Make a Schedule Organization is key when it comes to making improvements to our diet. Organizing your goals and the changes you want to make are important. Along those lines, developing a schedule for your meals is a great way to implement nutrition changes. A weekly meal plan will go a long way in helping you eat healthier. I am not out of touch enough to think that a rigid schedule will be followed without fail. There are times when work, kids, or anything comes up where you may have to deviate. However, setting a weekly plan will help you manage the changes you want to make, without being totally inflexible. Planning out meals allows you to avoid those last second decisions on what to eat for dinner that usually result in a relatively unhealthy option. Having your meals set can also save money when shopping for groceries. Having a meals set out will let you shop for what you need ahead of time, avoiding last minute trips to the store that usually result in extra spending. Along the lines of the small changes, first try to plan out 3-4 dinners or lunches per week. Once you are able to follow these plans, you can start increasing the number of meals you plan. As I said, I have found that making small changes is very effective in creating longer term success. 5. Focus on Giving More That doesn’t seem to have much to do with nutrition, but I like tell my patients to first pay attention to what your body needs more of, and not what it needs less of. That is definitely not to say that you should not pay attention to what you are giving your body that it doesn’t need, like excess bad fats. But we tend to put more emphasis on what we take away from our bodies, and not what we give them. I mentioned replacing meals with healthier options earlier. This goes along with the idea that you should focus on what to give your body. For instance, make sure that you are drinking enough water, and are getting enough calcium in your diet. I have found that once patients start to look at what their body needs, they begin to eat healthier options naturally. Although there are substances and compounds that are bad for our bodies, when we cut them out, we tend to forget to make sure that we give our bodies enough of what they need. Focusing on what your body needs can be very helpful in improving your overall nutrition. Summary Improving your nutrition can be a seemingly impossible endeavor, but with a few simple tips it can be fairly manageable. Try to not bite off more than you can chew, stick with simple goals and small changes. Free tools and apps can help you in your efforts, and trying to set a simple schedule can help you stick to your plan. Improving your nutrition doesn’t have to be as hard as some make it out to be. Keep it simple, and you will find that an improved diet isn’t really that far out of reach.