By Kristen Hicks-Roof, Ph.D., RDN, LDN and Paige Chaffin

Have you ever thought to yourself, “If I could just stop eating ____, I could lose a few pounds?” This is a thought that is quite common when trying to change poor eating habits.

Even though some of us are aware of our not-so-healthy eating patterns, they can still be very difficult to change and we may not be ready for true change. Most individuals blame it on their lack of self-discipline, but this can be discouraging and steer us away from making healthier choices. Just as we form poor eating habits, we can transition these into great, healthy habits with five simple small steps:

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  1. Determine your readiness for change. Just because you feel you need or should change a habit, are you truly ready to make this nutrition change?
  2. Think SMART. Being SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Timely) in what habit you want to change. Focus on one habit and be realistic of what you think you can accomplish.
  3. Simple is key. Rather than trying to change a million behaviors at once, focus on just one. Make specific actions for change.
  4. Setup an environment for change. Work with family and friends to achieve similar goals. This support system is motivating to continue to change and build healthier habits. Remove tempting foods from your kitchen, fridge and drawers.
  5. Reward yourself. Once you have set a simple SMART goal, check back in a short period (few weeks to months) to check your progress. A reward can be small (personal time) or large (new kitchen gadget); find something that motivates you!

At first, it may not be easy; you are likely going to face challenges in accomplishing your goal. Write down why this behavior change is important to you and what outcomes you would like to see. Share your motivations and goals with your family and friends to help you stay on track if you are struggling. Lastly, record your progress. On days that may be difficult, you can look at how far you have come. At times, you may feel like you have “failed;” however, stay focused and keep trying to change this habit.


Kristen Hicks-Roof PhD, RD, LD is an Assistant Professor, Department of  Nutrition and Dietetics at the Brooks College of Health, University of North Florida.


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