Please note: This information was current at the time of publication but now may be out of date. This handout provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. 

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Am Fam Physician. 2004;69(2):323-324

How do I pick a healthy eating plan I can stick with?

Start easy, with a food diary. Use a chart or a journal to write down everything you eat or drink every day. Write down the date, the time of day, and about how much of every food or beverage you ate and drank. Be complete and honest. Stick with the food diary. This is the most important thing you can do to make your eating habits better.

Weigh yourself every week on the same scale. Use a tape measure to measure your waist. Keep track of your weight and your waistline, because improvements in weight or waist measurement can reduce your risk of getting diabetes.

Set goals that you can keep track of. For example, “Lose 15 pounds” or “Lose 3 inches off my waist” in the next six months. There is no diet program that works for everyone. One approach is to start with what you like and make small changes to see the effect on your goals.

You might look over your food records for the past week or two. Write down the fat and calorie counts of all foods and drinks. Use this list to plan a few diet changes. You can set goals for what you plan to change in the next week. For example, “Keep my daily calories below 1,500” or “Find healthier substitutes for five foods with the highest fat or calorie counts.”

What can I do to help me stick with this healthier eating program?

Go slowly. If you are moving toward your goals by making just a few changes, that is great. Keep it up. If you are not moving toward your goals, make a couple more changes and see what happens.

Review your progress with your doctor. Bring your food diary to each office visit. Ask for tips and answers to your questions. Let the doctor know what problems you are having.

Don't stop eating all of the foods you like. That isn't a good plan for a long-term change. Eat smaller servings of the high-fat, high-calorie foods you love, or eat them less often, or try healthier substitutes.

Avoid too-large servings by measuring your food portions. If you do this every day at home, you will get a good idea what a half cup of mashed potatoes looks like. This will help you when you eat at restaurants.

Plan carefully for eating out. Plan ahead, be the first person to order, and be assertive about getting just what you want. You might let the other people you are with know that you are trying to eat healthy foods and would appreciate their support.

Try to notice and change food and eating cues at home and work. Eat only in one room in your home. Pay attention to your food—don't eat while you are watching TV or reading.

How do I keep from getting bored?

Try different foods. Check some cookbooks out of the library for new recipe ideas. Once in awhile, let yourself have a week when your only goal is to maintain your weight. Some people change their calorie or fat limits over the week. For example, they might eat only 1,500 calories Monday through Saturday and let themselves have 2,000 calories on Sunday. Take an exotic cooking class with a friend to pick up interesting food ideas.

What happens if I slip?

Everyone slips off their plan from time to time. Figure out what triggered your slip, and plan how to avoid that trigger the next time. Don't just make excuses though. Get back to your plan at the next meal.

Where can I get more information?

Your doctor.

American Diabetes Association

American Dietetic Association (to locate a dietitian and obtain diet information)

American Association of Diabetes Educators (to locate a diabetes educator)

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (pamphlets)

  • Telephone: 1-800-860-8747

  • Diabetes Web site address:

  • Nutrition Web site address:

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