The word diet makes many people think of a regimented plan to restrict a certain food, eat more of another, or has a name like Keto. But a diet shouldn’t be a program you try for a month and then return to your old habits. Having a healthier diet is a lifestyle change.

The oldest definition (from the 13th century) for diet is “habitually taken food and drink” which is the same meaning it has today. But it had another definition in middle and early modern English; “way of living.” A healthy diet isn’t about following a particular “diet” from a magazine. It’s about making healthy choices more than unhealthy ones.

Fad “diets” don’t provide lasting results because they are too restrictive, force you to eat things you dislike, and don’t create healthy habits to last a lifetime. It doesn’t matter if I eat nothing but kale for a month if I return to junk food after.

A better approach is to set reasonable, smart goals. Change a few things at a time from this list. Too much, too fast could cause you to fall back on your old habits.

Eat Healthy foods you like

You can set yourself up for healthy-eating success by changing your mindset. Researchers found that those who focused on avoiding certain foods had a harder time maintaining a healthy diet than those who had “approach” foods.

You want to frame what you’re eating as something you’re excited to eat. You want to “approach healthy foods that you enjoy. Maybe its a particular fruit or roasted vegetable dish or even a healthy meat option. If it’s healthy and you like it, go for it!

Cook More

People who eat home-cooked meals five or more times per week are generally healthier than those who eat out a lot. Home diners tend to eat more fruits & vegetables and are less likely to be overweight.

Making food at home can save money, but it takes a little practice. Start with some easier dishes. No one becomes a master chef overnight, but there are easy recipes out there.  Try sites like myfridgefood.com and supercook.com to get you started.

Eat your vegetables! (First)

Many times vegetables have some stiff competition on our plates. When that happens we tend to eat less of the healthy vegetables and maybe to much meat or bread. Try serving veggies solo before the rest of the meal. It works on preschoolers and college students, so it should on adults as well.

Go meatless once a week

High amounts of animal protein has been found to increase the risk for heart disease while equivalent plant protein seems to protect the heart. That doesn’t mean you should go full vegetarian overnight, but it could be beneficial to replace a burger with a black bean patty every once in awhile. Beans can help make a dish so hearty you don’t miss the meat.

Replace a sugary drink with water

Soda, fruit juices, cappuccinos, and many other beverages have loads of sugar. Replacing just one with water can cut back on your calories and reduce the risk of obesity and developing type 2 diabetes.

Working towards eating healthier

Remember these healthy changes are for a better “way of living,” so make them with the intentions of keeping them. But it’s okay to mess up. Some foods are just too good to stay away from forever. But when they’re not a daily habit, they’re not a part of your diet!