You've made the decision to eat a more healthful, nourishing diet - good for you! But now what? Don't worry - getting started with healthy eating isn't hard.

Know your needs. First off, consider your own health risks. Do you have a chronic condition that requires special nutritional considerations? If you do, speak to your physician or primary health care provider to get you off to a good start.

Be open to trying a variety of healthful foods. When you eat a variety of foods from the major food groups - fruits and vegetables, grains, lean protein, nuts and seeds, and low-fat dairy products - you are more likely to meet your daily nutritional needs. Plus, you will feel full and satisfied and be less likely to nibble on bad-for-you snacks.

Stock your kitchen with the right foods. Find the healthy foods that you love to cook and eat and keep them stocked up. You will be more likely to stick to your healthy eating plan if you figure out the foods that are easy to cook, affordable, and versatile - and if those ingredients are always close at hand.

Be consistent. Try to take your meals at the same times each day, beginning with a nourishing breakfast. Whether you eat 3 square meals or 5 smaller ones each day, stick to your routines and you can avoid the meal-skipping that can lead to overeating.

Pinpoint potential problems and plan ahead for them. We all have food weaknesses. Think about what obstacles might get in your way of eating healthier and create a backup plan. Here are a few possible scenarios and ways to avoid food mistakes:

  • Do you eat when you're feeling down or bored? Track your moods in relation to food and find substitute activities to satisfy the emotional need you fill with food.
     
  • Do you splurge when you eat out? Choose healthier items on the menu, set aside a portion of a large meal to take home as leftovers, or share dessert with a dinner mate.
     
  • Do you overeat? Put snacks in a small bowl or on a small plate and stash the rest of the food away in the fridge or cupboard. At meals, divide your plate into healthy portions - one-half of the plate should be vegetables, and the other half should be divided between lean protein and whole grains.

Educate yourself about nutrition. Get to know at least the basics about the nutrients you need each day. Learn the basics of reading food nutritional labels. When you feel comfortable speaking the "language of nutrition," you may be more likely to become a lifelong healthy eater.

Be kind to yourself. Eating healthier does not mean denying yourself! Take pleasure in the foods you eat and have fun exploring new recipes or the healthy options on restaurant menus. Allow yourself the occasional indulgence.