‘Eat Healthy’ Explained with 10 Tips

We are constantly asked to “eat healthy,” but what does this really entail? With our unique lifestyles, needs, goals and desires, finding a starting point that will work for us can be intimidating. So, where do we start? 

As a Board Certified PA and nutrition coach, I’ve put together 10 tips to get you started. Choose what works for you.  

Start by choosing small, daily actions that are easy to implement in our personal lives, and then strive for consistency in practicing these actions. By repeatedly implementing these, we can build lifelong healthy habits to improve our quality of life.  

1. Use your hand to measure out portions.

Aim to have a fist-size portion of vegetables, a palm size portion of protein, a cupped handful of carbohydrates, and a thumb-sized portion of fats. This measurement device is with you all the time! I’ve provided examples of proteins, fats, and carbs below.

2. Focus on eating protein at every meal.

Protein is important to support our immunity, reproduction, and for building and maintaining our muscle mass. Protein (both animal and plant-based) keeps you fuller longer, which can aid in weight management, keeping food cravings at bay, and stabilizing blood sugar.

FUN FACT: Eating protein burns calories because it takes extra energy to break it down.

3. Keep unhealthier foods hidden and keep healthier foods in sight.

Food is not morally “good” or “bad.” Food is energy. There are foods with more vitamins and minerals than others, which is why choosing foods in their whole form that have not been altered in a factory is preferred. Eating “whole foods” keeps you fuller longer and keeps your mind sharp at the same time.

FUN FACT: The American diet sells hyperpalatable, super tasty food, but it often lacks nutrients which is why you crave it and it never seems to fill you up. 

4. Shop around the edges of the grocery store.

This is where you will find fresh produce, meats, and more of these “whole foods.”

5. The more, the merrier!

It is very difficult to overeat fruits like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. The same is true about vegetables – eat as much as you’d like!

6. Don’t stress about which vegetables to eat.

Just keep it simple. So what are the best vegetables for you? The ones you like to eat often.

7. Slow down…

Put your fork down or take a sip of water between bites.

FUN FACT: Chewing is the first step in breaking down your food to absorb nutrients. The state your body is in (relaxed or rushed) makes a difference in how your body releases enzymes to break down the food you eat.

8. Enjoy your food!

Reduce distractions and concentrate on the delicious food you get to eat.

9. Work on these habits before buying expensive supplements (unless recommended by your primary care provider). 

10. Take it one step at a time.

Remember, picking one of these tips to work on is a step in the right direction. Making drastic changes quickly may lead to difficulty in staying consistent. 

Here are a few protein, fat, and carbohydrate options: 

Protein (palm-sized) 

  • Lean meats (chicken, turkey, pork loin)
  • Fish (salmon, tuna, mahi-mahi, shrimp)
  • Cottage cheese or Greek yogurt (also contains healthy fats)
  • Whole eggs
  • Protein powder
  • On-the-go: jerky sticks, protein bars, hard-boiled eggs

Fat (thumb-sized) 

  • Avocado
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Nuts (almonds, Brazil nuts, cashews)
  • Nut butters (without added sugar and oils)

Carbs (fist-sized) 

  • Rice (wild, brown, red)
  • Sweet potato
  • Oats (steel cut or rolled)
  • Beans (black beans, red beans, kidney beans, etc.)
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits (berries, apples and oranges, etc.) 
  • Vegetables (unlimited)
Picture of Amanda Fisher, MCMSc, PA-C

Amanda Fisher, MCMSc, PA-C

Amanda Fisher, MCMSc, PA-C, is a nutrition coach and practicing Board Certified PA in Santa Cruz, Calif. She is a 2019 graduate of Barry University in Miami, Fla., and has practiced in primary care, urgent care, internal medicine and emergency medicine specialties. She currently practices at a community-based clinic offering medical services to low-income families. Her passion lies in preventive and integrative medicine through nutrition and fitness, which motivated her to launch Epicenter Health. She is a member of the American Academy of PAs (AAPA) and the Integrative Medicine PA Association (IMPAA). She is also a dedicated dog mom to a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Layla.