Depending on the foods you eat, your health can be impacted in both negative and positive ways. The unhealthier the foods are that you eat, the unhealthier you will feel. Whereas the healthier foods you eat, the healthier you will feel.

Eating healthy doesn’t just mean making changes in the foods you buy at the grocery store. In some instances, it also means that you may need to make some changes to your environment. For example, many offices, schools and other public places have vending machines or cafeterias. While this might seem like an easier alternative to making and packing your own lunch, snacks or other meals, the foods that come from these places are often high in calories, carbohydrates, sugar, sodium, and are all around unhealthy. Making your own meals may mean that you have to allow yourself some extra time in the mornings before getting ready to head to work or class, but the benefits of doing so will pay off in the long-run.

If you’re used to eating certain foods, drastic changes can be difficult to stick to. If weight loss is one of your goals and one of the reasons why you want to change your eating habits, going from routine eating habits into a strict diet is often one of the reasons why such diets (also known as fad diets) are a failure. Instead, I recommend gradually changing your eating habits so that your body can get used to the changes. If you’re craving something sweet, rather than grabbing that chocolate bar, have a piece of fresh fruit instead. Some of the healthiest and tastiest fruits that will still give you that sweetness you’re craving include mango, strawberries, and watermelon. They’re also rich in essential vitamins and minerals that the body requires in order to function at its fullest potential. The things you drink are also part of your diet. It’s not uncommon to drink fruit juice or soda in effort to quench our thirst, but these beverages are often high in added sugars and other types of ingredients that are considered unhealthy and provide little to no nutritional value. If you are craving fruit juice, the best option would be to either buy juice that has no sugar added or make fruit juice on your own. However, the best thirst quencher that you can give your body is water. It not only keeps you hydrated, but also helps with digestion, transportation and absorption of nutrients, circulation, saliva creation, and also helps maintain body temperature. Water is also good for keeping the joints lubricated, which can essentially help reduce joint pain, and even keeps the skin looking healthy – therefore reducing your risk of premature wrinkling and other skin problems.

Portion control is also an important aspect of healthy eating. We often eat until we feel full or go back for seconds before actually realizing we’re full. Before filling your plate a second time, sit for at least 30 minutes before you decide whether or not you want more as it takes a bit of time for the stomach to digest food. Furthermore, your plate should also consist of a variety of foods recommended by Canada’s Food Guide, including fruits and vegetables (dark green vegetables, such as broccoli or spinach), grain products (whole grains such as barley, brown rice or quinoa), meat and alternatives (lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils or tofu), and milk and alternatives (skim milk, fortified soy, Greek yogurt, cheese.) Canada’s Food Guide also recommends including a small amount of unsaturated fat in your diet, while limiting things like butter.

Our eating habits also change with age. For example, children tend to have smaller appetites but need calories to promote growth and development. They should have small, nutritious snacks, and their meals should include a variety of foods from the aforementioned food groups. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, in addition to healthy eating, are also recommended to take a multivitamin that contains both folic acid and iron. Because you’re essentially eating for “2” when pregnant, you also need to consume more calories. You can do this by including a few extra servings from each food group each day. As you age – especially if over the age of 50 – so does your need for vitamins. Specifically, vitamin D. Vitamin D not only helps absorb calcium, but it also helps promote the growth and strengthening of bones. While you can get vitamin D from the foods you eat, it can also be helpful to take a supplement to ensure you’re getting the right amount of vitamin D each day.

Changing your eating habits can be tough at first, especially when it comes to figuring out what to cook. However, you can find plenty of healthy recipes online (especially Pinterest), or by picking up a healthy recipe book from your local library or bookstore. If you’re unsure about where to begin in terms of making dietary changes, you could also significantly benefit from seeing a registered dietitian or nutritionist to help get you started. They will not only be able to teach you about which foods are good and which should be avoided, but can also help you to come up with a meal plan that is specifically tailored to you and your dietary needs.