How To Stay Motivated To Eat Healthy (Tips From 7 Experts)

Martin Caparrotta
By Martin Caparrotta
Updated on October 14, 2020
Expert Content

Eating healthy is good for your mind, body and soul.

But sometimes it can feel like a struggle to keep yourself motivated to continue following your healthy nutrition plan.

We asked a group of selected experts for their top tips when it comes to staying motivated to eat healthy.

Here’s what they said.

Editor's note: The content on this website is meant to be informative in nature, but it should not be taken as medical advice. The content of our articles is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention, and/or treatment of health problems. It’s always best to speak with your doctor or a certified medical professional before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet or exercise routine, or trying a new supplement.

Find Yourself An Accountability Partner

Emily Danckers, Registered Dietitian and Nutrition Coach

Whenever someone starts a new program, motivation is typically pretty high. It is exciting to make a change and start a new program.

The problem with eating healthy is that you don’t see immediate results, and you have to stick with it for months in order to see changes that are notable and will last.

As time goes on and the new program isn’t fun, exciting, and new anymore, motivation to continue on wanes.

Also, the lack of immediate results can also be disheartening for someone who has made big changes and isn’t seeing big results right away.

My number one tip would be to find an accountability partner. Whether this is a coach, a friend, or a family member, having an accountability partner is a great way to make sure you stick with a plan even when it gets hard.

Tell your accountability partner your goals for the week, and ask them to check in on you weekly to make sure you reach your goals.

It’s also helpful to speak with someone about what got in the way of your goals and how to overcome this the next week.

Another tip is to focus on small goals instead of large goals. If your goal is to lose 50 pounds, celebrate the small weekly goal of eating more vegetables instead of focusing on the huge 50 pound weight loss goal.

By celebrating the small wins, these add up to big results in the long run and can help continue motivation when things get hard.

Fruits and Vegetables

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Think About Your ‘Why’

Jasmine Talei, Naturopathic Doctor at Beverly Hills Natural Medicine

In my private practice, I will often find that patients might be resistant to eating healthy when practitioners do not take the time to explain the ‘why’.

In order to be motivated to eat healthy, it is so important to understand why. For example, most recently, I have been seeing numerous teenage patients who have been struggling with feelings of anxiety, trouble focusing, and their overall mood. Given our current situation and the changes that have been made in our school system, this is all understandable.

As a doctor, it is important to acknowledge this and meet each individual where they are at. Among other health recommendations, I always discuss diet as an important piece to optimizing mood and productivity, while reducing anxiety.

I focus on the role of doctor as teacher and like to educate patients about why eating healthy will benefit them tremendously.

The conversation often goes like this: Supporting gut health is especially important when it comes to regulating mood and productivity.

Many of the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating mood, such as serotonin, are made in the gut. This neurotransmitter contributes to our happiness and modulates our mental wellbeing. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for multiple physiological processes. It helps to modulate mood, improves learning, and converts to melatonin, which regulates the sleep wake cycle.

Eating foods that provide a variety of nutrients will help to diversify the gut microbiome and support the production of neurotransmitters.

Further, when we eat highly processed foods or a food high in sugar, our blood sugar tends to spike but then decreases. When this intense drop in blood sugar occurs, our body’s cortisol spikes, resulting in anxiety and all sorts of other mood irregularities.

Therefore, it is important to modulate blood sugar levels by eating whole foods throughout the day. I’ve noticed that when taking the time to explain the reasoning behind eating healthy, then people are more motivated to follow through.

Record A Motivational Video To Play To Your Less-Motivated Self

Hasan Adkins, Nationally Certified Personal Trainer

It is more difficult than ever to be motivated to eat healthy. We are in a digital age where speed wins, and cooking healthy is slow.

Personally, I take a three-minute cold shower to help me focus on improving my willpower. This physically trains me to not give in to my cravings and wait out the urges to binge.

Since motivation is emotional, and it comes and goes, my clients and I use one powerful method to keep us going.

We record a video of ourselves when we’re feeling motivated and optimistic. It’s a 60-second pep talk to our less-motivated selves which reminds us of why we are doing this.

Since we know all of our excuses, it works perfectly.

Bonus tip: Plan a diet or exercise break every 90 days. It allows you to recharge, live your life, and will improve motivation.

How To Stop Thinking About Food

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Think About The Bigger Picture And Focus On Variety

Marie Elena Bitar, Founder and Owner of Beyond Food Rules

We live in a society that is rooted in diet culture. Diets often reinforce the idea that healthy eating has to involve rigid rules and restrictive eating.

This is why diets fail 95 to 97 percent of time, leaving dieters feeling unmotivated and to blame for their ‘lack of willpower’.

For that reason, it becomes very difficult and discouraging to find the motivation to engage in sustainable eating behaviors.

First off, it’s important to point out that health is very nuanced, personalized and complicated, and it goes beyond nutrition and fitness.

Nutrition is an important part of the puzzle, but it’s not the whole picture.

That being said, there are a few different tips to simplify nutrition and eating in a way that honors your health.

1) Think big picture: no one single meal or snack has the power to completely destroy your health and burn it to the ground.

So, don’t stress the minor details, instead, focus on your eating patterns in general and what you eat consistently over time.

2) Focus on adding, not removing: restriction and deprivation often lead to over-eating and feelings of loss-of control around food. So instead of removing from your diet, think about adding more nutrient-packed foods.

For instance, you can add veggies to your omelets and pasta dishes, add fruits to your salads and smoothies, and add whole grains to your bread or cracker snacks.

3) Don’t eat the same thing every single day: variety is key when it comes to sticking to health behaviors. We as humans get bored with repetition pretty quickly, so it’s important to eat a wide variety of foods.

This also ensures that you’re getting the adequate nutrition you need. When you eat different foods (various fruits, veggies, carbs, proteins, fats, nuts, seeds, etc.) you get a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, nutrients, and phytochemicals which help prevent a nutrient deficiency from occurring.

4) Notice how food makes you feel: establishing healthy eating patterns means that you have to communicate with your body to know what feels good and what doesn’t.

No diet will ever know what eating pattern feels best for you. You might notice that some foods may make you feel sluggish or give your short bouts of energy, while others might make you feel energized for longer periods of time. Picking foods that feel good for your body will help guide you in making food decisions that honor your health. Asking yourself “how do I feel” during a meal, and “do I want to feel this way again” after a meal, will help you pinpoint which foods make you feel the best.

5) Set SMART goals: setting specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based goals will set you up for success.

Often times, people try to completely change everything about their health all at once and end up failing. Instead, pick one small goal and tackle one task at a time so you stay motivated and not feel overwhelmed. After all, if your goals are realistic, you’re more likely to achieve them. For instance, instead of changing everything about the way you eat now, maybe focus on drinking more water, or adding 1 vegetable at lunch every day.

6) Nourish your body consistently: your engine needs fuel every three to four hours or else it can’t run. Eating healthy means taking care of your body by fuelling it consistently and adequately.

This keeps your metabolism up and running and it prevents you from going into starvation mode which could lead to mindless eating and at times, bingeing.

7) Plan ahead: preparation is the key to eating in a healthful manner. Make sure your fridge and pantry are stocked with foods that you like.

Having vegetables and fruits, different sources of protein, fats, carbs and snacks is helpful for eating in a way that aligns with your vision of health.

Remember, you can always pre-cook a big batch of brown rice, pre-cut fruits and pre-roast veggies at the beginning of the week so you have a wide variety of foods that are ready to go when hunger strikes.

8) Spice things up: buy different foods at the grocery store, look for new recipes to cook, order an interesting dish at a restaurant or use a special plate when you eat. Whatever it is that you do, remember that breaking your routine keeps you excited, motivated and interested in eating. It’s always easier to stick to goals if you’re not bored with them.

9) Don’t let weight loss be your measure of success: we know that weight and health are not synonymous. You can engage in health behaviors and feel the difference regardless of your size.

Instead of using that number on the scale to know if you’re going in the right direction, ask yourself: how do I feel? Are my eating patterns sustainable? What have I gained in life so far by eating in a way that fits my definition of health?

10) Progress over perfection: there is no such thing as perfect eating. That kind of all-or-nothing thinking will only set you back and prevent you from achieving your goals.

It’s important that you approach healthy eating with curiosity rather than judgment because eating is not all black or white. Strive for that gray area where eating feels fun, comfortable and simple.

Sticking to a diet with fresh fruits and vegetables is important to your overall health

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Eating Healthy Should Feel Easy

Maren Epstein, Nutritionist and Certified Chef

Eating healthy should feel easy! If you’re eating a diet that you know you won’t be able to maintain in the long term, it’s probably too clean!

Ask yourself, what do I need to keep in my diet to make my daily experience pleasurable? Write those foods down!

In fact, write down all of the foods you don’t want to give up on paper. Aim to include those foods in your diet while cleaning up your eating habits in all other areas.

As you get healthier, your body will no longer crave those bad foods anymore and your diet will naturally get healthier and healthier. I see it work with my clients all the time!

Remember How You Feel After Eating Unhealthy Food

Prianca Naik, Internal Medicine Physician and Life Coach

Healthful eating makes you feel good. A sound body helps create a sound mind.

Remembering how bad I have felt after eating a large slice of cake or one to two donuts keeps me from overindulging.

When there is a high calorie food that I love available, I have a few bites and then remind myself that this is likely not the last time I will be eating it.

Foods heavy in carbohydrates and sugar have a tendency to give us a quick boost followed by a crash.

Keeping consistent with eating lean meats, fruits, and vegetables will lead to a healthy body and mind.

Protein is an important macronutrient

(Photo: Adobe Stock)

Try Remixing Some Of Your Favorite Dishes

LA Dunn, Founder of Black Girls Eat

Eating healthy often feels like a rollercoaster ride with its ups and down, but one great way to hang in there is to celebrate your healthy choices.

Plan a ‘TGIF’ dinner that includes new table linens and get dressed up and ready to dine in on your healthy plate.

Visit the Farmer’s Market and choose one new fruit or vegetable. Bring it home, Google it and try a recipe that you never imagined that you would.

Finally, another great way to eat healthy is to make foods that look and taste good. Think of your favorite dishes and figure out how to remix them.

Love lasagne? Great! How about using lasagna noodles made from veggies? Love ice cream? How about one made from cashews or oat milk?

Leaning into making healthier choices actually expands your food vocabulary – but you do have to be willing to step out of your comfort zone.