Hey. Are you trying to live a healthy lifestyle, but you don’t even know where to get started?
There is so much info online that it makes you feel like you have to be taking 15 supplements and trying 10 diets by the end of the month.
Or if not, it is the same advice we all know by now: exercise, drink water, sleep, etc. That’s great, but how can YOU do it in your own life?
I know you have a busy schedule – So I created a complete guide with 5 steps to a healthy lifestyle – so you don’t have to go through all of your saved Tik Toks, Instagram Posts, and saved blog posts to find the info you need.
And the best part – it is full of useful tips, checklists, printables, and suggestions adapted to YOUR situation so you can get started ASAP.
5 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle
This guide has many tips and tricks on how to start and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here we aren’t talking about crazy restrictive diets, supplements, or weight loss.
This is a guide to help you with the basics and build a strong foundation. It is about slowly building new healthy habits. Need help with meal prepping? I got you. Have no idea how to start working out? No worries.
The 5 steps to a healthy lifestyle that we will cover are:
- Step 1 – Actually Eat More Fruits & Veggies
- Step 2 – Don’t Over-Complicate Your Nutrition – Nutrition 101
- Step 3 – Prepare Your Nutrition in Advance
- Step 4 – Get Started with Joyful Movement & Working Out
- Step 5 – Don’t Forget About Stress
Step 1 – Actually Eat More Fruits & Veggies
I feel like most of us fit into two groups (and sometimes in both):
- Either we barely eat any fruits and veggies
- Or we do buy fruits & veggies, but they end up rotting at the end of the fridge creating new life forms of their own
But hey, we gotta be real – We don’t all have access to the same food items, we don’t have the time, or simply, fruits & veggies are freaking expensive.
I live in Miami, and I honestly have to ask myself every week if I am willing to pay $7.99 for a bag of some ol’, regular tangerines. Or $6 for a box of spinach.
So these are my tips that I actually use every week.
Add Canned and Frozen Fruits & Veggies
If you can buy fresh produce without any constraints (money or time), by all means go for it. We all love some fresh berries and crunchy carrots.
But keep in mind that frozen and canned produce are great alternatives. It kills me to see other people discouraging eating frozen or canned produce because it is less healthy.
Let me tell you – that isn’t the case. Let’s briefly cover the science.
Processing and Nutrients
There is a lot of discussion whether the canning or freezing processes affect the produce’s nutrition content.
Jane Caldwell, Ph.D. indicated in the article Fresh, Canned, Or Frozen: Which Is Better? that food scientists at the University of California – Davis compared the nutrition content of canned, fresh, and frozen produce.
They found that all three versions were nutritionally similar. Not only that, some fruits and veggies are seasonal, so canned or frozen versions can allow you to eat a variety of produce (and nutrients) year round!
So, if you are struggling to include more produce in your diet, try adding frozen and canned foods here and there.
And as I always say:
It is better that you consume frozen or canned produce, than no fruits or veggies at all.
Tips and Tricks
My favorite thing to do is mix-and-match all three types (frozen, canned, and fresh). They all provide different textures, flavors, and colors to your diet.
I created this quick-guide below that you download to your phone and have easy-access to this list whenever you need. You can also save it as a pin at the bottom of this post!
How to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet:
- Frozen produce is best used when texture is not really important for the recipe:
- Berries & tropical fruits (great for smoothies or to top yogurts)
- Spinach (for cooking, i.e. add to pasta)
- Side veggies: green beans, asparagus, broccoli
- Canned produce is a great option to add plant protein and fiber to a meal. They also cut down cooking time (no more cooking beans for 5 hours):
- Legumes: garbanzos, beans (black, navy, white), lentils
- Toppings: whole kernel corn
- Side starchy carbs: canned potatoes
- Fresh produce is always best when flavor and texture are important for a recipe or meal.
- Sautéed onions & mushrooms caramelize and give amazing flavor
- Crunchy snacks like carrots, celery, or pineapple
- Fresh herbs
If by any chance you have sodium or sugar restrictions, these are some tips:
- Sodium restrictions: If sodium is a concern, you can look for low-sodium canned vegetables. Rinsing vegetables before eating can also reduce sodium content.
- Sugar restrictions: If sugar content is a concern, look for fruits that are packed in their own juices, that are “unsweetened” or have “no added sugar.” Fruits packed in juices contain less added sugar than fruits packed in syrup.
Step 2 – Prepare Your Nutrition in Advance
One of my favorite steps to a healthy lifestyle is meal prepping. I have been meal prepping personally and professionally for a few years now.
It truly is one of the best ways to make sure you are getting a lot of nutrients in your diet. You also save time cooking and washing a million dishes. It’s a win-win for everyone.
I want to share with you my step-by-step process I do every week to meal plan and meal prep to save money, save time, reduce food waste, and eat healthier.
But honestly, explaining it all in such a small section is not good enough. I created a FREE complete guide for meal planning AND meal prepping for beginners who are busy, want to save money, and are tired of doing a million dishes.
I know that cooking can add even more stress into your life – which is I created this guide where I did all of the guesswork for you:
- An entire section covering the basics of nutrition, macro by macro
- My step-by-step method to meal plan like a pro, with printables where you only have to fill-in-the-blank
- Meal prep guide that you can adapt to your OWN needs and situation
You can download your Complete Meal Plan & Meal Prep Guide by clicking here.
Step 3 – Don’t Over-Complicate Your Nutrition
Here is the thing – the media and social media have made this healthy living thing too hard. It is either the latest fad diet, or the latest detox drink, or the newest supplement. The issue is that they either:
- Are simply not true (and could be harmful!)
- Or they may have some truth behind it, but they are advanced methods
If you have an overall “unhealthy” lifestyle (you are terribly stressed, very sedentary…), maybe it is not the time to worry about adding that new supplement.
Balanced Diet – Carbs, Protein, Fats
In general, most people would benefit from a balanced diet that includes all three macronutrients (or macros): fats, carbs, and protein.
Restricting (or eliminating) either of them is not recommended – our bodies need all three to keep you healthy.
You can find a section with the nutrition basics of these macros in the free Complete Meal Plan & Meal Prep Guide I created for you. You will find lists of food items that fall into each category, so you only have to pick and choose!
The Plate Method
The big question is: how much should you eat of each (fat, protein, carbs)?
Well, there is not a single answer. We all have different nutrient needs and preferences, so there is no one-size-fits-all advice.
I personally use the plate method, and adapt it to different meals.
How it works: the idea behind the plate method is to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies, ¼ of your plate with a protein, and the other ¼ with starches and grains.
How to use it: this is just a guideline. Please don’t stress if every meal doesn’t look like this!
You may be wondering: what about foods that don’t take the whole plate?
No worries, the same principles apply:
- Starch: burger bun
- Protein: beef patty (or black bean patty), cheese slices
- Veggies: (tomato, onion)
- Starch: pasta
- Protein: it could be from protein-rich pasta such as chickpeas, or you could add ground turkey or lentils
- Veggies: add some zucchini, mushrooms, etc.
A Few Recipes to Get You Started
If you need some recipe ideas to get you started – no worries, I got you.
This Blueberry Cheesecake Overnight Oats recipe by Melissa Nieves, LND, RD, MPH, founder of Fad Free Nutrition Blog is a great option if you want to meal prep your breakfasts.
This recipe closely follows the of plate method mentioned earlier: the starchy carbs would be the oatmeal, the blueberries as fruit, and the protein from the milk and Greek yogurt.
If you are into savory breakfasts, then this Breakfast Burritos without Eggs recipe is for you. It was created by Johna Burdeos, RD & blogger. She is known for her easy recipes for the anti-cook, so if that’s you, definitely check her other recipes.
Here you are getting your starches, veggies, protein, and healthy fats in one single meal!
Lunch and Dinner Ideas
This recipe by Jill Merkel, MS, RD, CSSD, owner of Jill Merkel RD Nutrition, is a lifesaver when you are short on time. Her Quinoa Bowl with Grilled Chicken, Veggies, and Goat Cheese is a great option when you have some random veggies in the fridge and you don’t know what to do with them.
This Honey Mustard Chicken Broccoli Potato by Nicole Addison, RD,MHSc founder of Nourished by Nic, is *chef’s kiss*. This is a sheet-pan meal, so it is perfect for those who don’t want to wash a million dishes after cooking.
It is also a great way to meal prep – you put everything in one pan, then divide it into meal prep containers – and voilà!
Step 4 – Working Out 101 & How to Get Started
This was me a few years ago: I decided to start working out, I joined a gym, and then wasted like 3 weeks of my life figuring out how to use the machines or what exercises to do. I felt so insecure and judged by everyone, and the idea of working out gave me anxiety.
Just as with nutrition, social media has made working out so complicated. Should you do split workouts? Functional training? Crossfit? Should you go to a gym? Or workout from home? Should you do cardio before or after weightlifting?
Woah – let’s pause for a second. If you are stuck on how to even get started, I wouldn’t even worry about these questions. Let’s find what works for you first.
1) Joyful Movement
My tip is to start doing an activity that you are familiar with and makes you happy, just to get in the groove of, you know, moving.
- Start with what makes you happy already. Maybe you have taken walks before and you enjoyed it? Or maybe you went to a spinning class? Or you enjoyed that yoga video you found on Youtube?
- Do more of that thing. Start by doing that activity that makes you happy, even if it is just for a few minutes a few times a week. No pressure, no end-goal. Just moving. If there are no expectations, you will most likely enjoy it more.
- Maybe workout with someone else. If you want your workout time to be solo time, then ignore this point. But if doing that Youtube video with your bestie will motivate you, then go for it!
2) Structured Workout Routines
Once you have created the habit of simply moving and enjoying it, then you could add workout routines at a gym or at home (if that’s something you are interested in).
But how? What should you do?
This is another thing that is very personal – it is up to you. These are my tips to guide you in your decision:
- Decide how many times you WANT and CAN workout per week, and for how long, realistically. If you are barely getting used to working out, maybe a realistic goal could be 1-3 times a week for 30 minutes each time.
- Split your workouts. It will depend on YOUR goals and how many times per week you are working out. A beginner split for 3x/week could be lower body, upper body, and total body. But again, it is up to you!
- Look up for routines online. Look up on Youtube or Google, word-by-word, the routine you are looking for. I swear you will find it. Do this for each workout day you have planned so far. For example, “30-min leg gym workout” or “30-min upper body at home”.
- Try to stick to a routine for at least a few weeks. A beginner’s mistake is to try to do a different routine every single day, every week. But we want to do the same routine for at least a few weeks so you can master those exercises first – perfect your form, get more mobility, etc.
Tips if You Are Afraid of the Gym
Going to a gym for the first few times is scary. You feel like everyone and their mother is judging you, and every machine looks scary. But here are my tips to make your time at the gym a little better:
- If possible, go at a time when it is empty to literally play around with the machines. Put little to no weight and try them out. Do this for a day or two and get comfortable.
- Ask for help. Most people at the gym are willing to help you. Simply say “Hey, I am completely new with this gym stuff, could you help me using this machine?”, or “Hey, I have never done this exercise before. Could you please tell me if my form is right?”
- Go with a friend. If possible, go with a friend who is already comfortable at the gym and can help you with your routine.
Step 5 – Don’t Forget About Stress
The last step of our 5 steps to a healthy lifestyle guide is stress control.
I am telling you this from personal experience: you can workout out all you want and eat the “healthiest” diet, but let me tell you, if your stress is not under control, then you are not doing your body a favor.
Chronic stress can be detrimental for your body and mind. The symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of them include sleepiness, insomnia, unfocused thinking, or low energy.
But most importantly, it has been linked to many conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
But we have to be real: we cannot always just cut the source of our stress. Sometimes that stress is our current family situation, our jobs, or even what’s happening in your country or city.
But we can do little things that can make our lives a little better. Maybe do a little more of the things that make you happy, practice mindfulness techniques, or add some self-care to your week. Whatever works best for you.
If you want some ideas, here is a self-care guide to get you started.
Summary – 5 Steps to a Healthy Lifestyle
I think we have all read the usual ways to live a healthier lifestyle, such as eating healthy foods, adding whole grains, reducing processed foods in our diet, etc. While some of these ideas are valid – they don’t tell you HOW to actually do them.
So this beginners guide showed the 5 steps to a healthy lifestyle – but with detailed explanations and step-by-steps on how to do them, so you don’t have to do any of the guesswork.
The 5 steps to a healthy lifestyle in this guide included eating more fruits and veggies, planning your nutrition in advance, not overthinking your nutrition, getting started with working out, and focusing on reducing stress.
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As a passionate advocate for well-being, Irene Mejia seamlessly combines the nutrition expertise of a registered dietitian, the fitness knowledge and motivation of a personal trainer, and her experience in mindfulness to guide busy individuals on their journey to a healthier lifestyle.