Last updated: November 16, 2023
Below I share the best ways to find motivation to eat healthy and practical strategies to help you find and maintain the inspiration you need to embrace a healthier way of eating. I’ve tried all of them in the last several years and share my experiences with as well, both good and bad.
A journey towards healthier eating habits can be life-changing. Not just by boosting energy levels, improving mood, and enhancing overall well-being. It can change the way you look at everything. Including you. Finding the motivation to eat healthier however, can sometimes feel like an uphill battle.
Or a roller coaster. Or, if you’re like me, an uphill walk on a sandy slope. Two steps forward, one step back. The idea is to keep going, to not give up, because eventually you WILL get to be where you want to be.
Experiment on yourself and see what works for you. Eventually you’ll have an arsenal of strategies you can rely on when you need it most.
Best Healthy Eating Tips
*Set clear goals
*Put up frequent reminders of the benefits
*Discover new recipes
*Seek support from others
Basics of Motivation to Eat Healthy
Motivation is the driving force that compels us to take action. It’s what’s between where you are and where you want to be. A mix of internal and external factors that influence our behaviors outside of habits.
People who are intrinsically motivated engage in activities because they find them inherently rewarding. Examples of intrinsic motivation include pursuing a hobby or creative endeavors, and participating in activities that provide a sense of accomplishment.
Signs that intrinsic motivation might work for you
You naturally feel drawn to foods that make you feel better about your choices in life.
- Follow up with these feelings and focus on them, instead of your unhealthy cravings.
Perhaps you enjoy the process and effort involved in a new diet.
- For planners especially, this is a great source of inspiration to get started. The trickier part might be in staying motivated to eat healthy. See below for more.
You are driven by your own values, interests, and curiosity about eating and feeling better.
- Try experimenting on yourself with small changes for the week, see where it leads and build on it.
- Add a fruit or vegetable to every meal of every day, drink a glass of water before eating or drinking anything else in the morning, have a salad for lunch every day, try switching up your desserts with fresh fruit only, or trade an unhealthy daily item for a healthy one.
You often lose track of time when planning your meals and finding new recipes.
- This is a fantastic resource to fall back on when you’re in need of good recipes. If this is your thing, you should have no trouble at least identifying what you should be eating!
Do any of these apply to you? If so, capitalize on it! I am intrinsically motivated to eat healthier because I want to be healthy and capable for as long as possible. It’s a good start, at the very least.
For many people however, myself included, intrinsic motivation is helpful but not enough on its own. If it were, you probably wouldn’t be reading this.
I’ve been eating mostly healthy for a number of years, so the motivation comes from past progress too. It feels good to eat healthy, to be at a healthy weight and to have the energy to do the things I want to do. But it has taken some serious external motivation to get there.
Extrinsic motivation is driven by outside factors, such as rewards, recognition, or avoidance of negative outcomes. There are a few different kinds that can be applied to establishing new eating habits.
This type of extrinsic motivation is driven by the desire for social interactions, connections, and approval from others. Social motivation can influence behaviors and actions as we seek to belong to a group or gain social acceptance.
I often think of my husband as the black hole of willpower, because he has an endless supply it seems. Even still, he inspires me to make healthier choices even when I don’t want to, by example, if nothing else.
Another type of extrinsic motivation, incentive motivation, is influenced by the anticipation of rewards or benefits. If you don’t eat until you’re absolutely stuffed, you’re going to feel a lot better physically and mentally about yourself.
Fear motivation is driven by the avoidance of negative outcomes, threats, or potential harm. It can lead us to take action to prevent or minimize undesirable consequences. Are you afraid of anything?
Afraid of dialysis, of not being around for your grandchildren, or of not having enough energy to summit that mountain?
Fear is a good thing in many respects. It keeps us in check, in moderation and in many cases, in better health. I am afraid of the extreme sugar lows that happen when I eat too much sugar without the proper balance of protein. This is a good fear, in my opinion.
Signs that extrinsic motivation might work for you
You’re motivated by external rewards, such as bonuses, grades, or praise.
- Rewards could be a healthy meal you don’t have to cook or a cheat day.
Often you need tangible incentives to stay focused and complete tasks.
- A nutrition and fitness app may be just the answer you’re looking for!
You are willing to put in effort to achieve specific outcomes or goals.
- Going on vacation soon? Perhaps fitting into that certain sundress will provide the inspiration you need.
- I keep my bathing suit on the bathroom counter, for year-long motivation to eat healthy and exercise as well.
You thrive in structured environments with clear rewards and consequences.
- Counting calories may be just the thing for you!
I am extrinsically motivated by the very real and healthy fear of developing the age and diet-associated diseases that come along with an unhealthy diet. These include heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis, just to name a few.
Why is it Important to Eat Healthy? 15 Reasons to Eat Healthy
What drives you? What are your reasons for wanting to eat healthier? There are many possible benefits for your overall well-being and quality of life.
1. Weight Management
Healthier eating habits can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, reducing the risk of obesity-related issues.
2. Heart Health
A nutritious diet can lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and the risk of heart disease.
3. Stronger Immune System
Nutrient-rich foods bolster your immune system, making you more resilient to infections and illnesses.
4. Increased Energy Levels
Good nutrition provides the fuel your body needs to stay energized and productive throughout the day. You can do so much more in life just by fueling up properly!
5. Better Digestion
Fiber-rich foods promote digestive health, preventing issues like constipation and promoting a healthy gut microbiome. This one becomes significantly more obvious the older you get, trust me!
6. Mental Well-being
Certain nutrients play a role in brain health, and may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and enhancing mood.
7. Improved Skin Health
A healthy diet can lead to clearer, more radiant skin by providing essential vitamins and minerals. It becomes particularly obvious if you eliminate processed foods from your diet.
8. Stronger Bones
Adequate calcium and vitamin D intake supports bone health and reduces the risk of osteoporosis. Food is always better than the supplement alternative.
9. Reduced Risk of Diabetes
A balanced diet can help regulate blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
10. Cancer Prevention
Some foods, such as vegetables, nuts, salmon and extra-virgin olive oil, contain compounds that may lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
11. Better Sleep Quality
Nutrient-rich foods can positively impact sleep patterns and help with insomnia.
Healthy eating is linked to a longer and healthier life, reducing the risk of premature mortality.
13. Improved Focus and Concentration
Certain nutrients in vegetables and some kinds of fish, in particular, contribute to cognitive function, helping you stay focused and alert.
14. Reduced Inflammation
A diet rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods can help mitigate chronic inflammation, a common factor in many diseases. Believe it or not, you really can reduce inflammation through diet.
15. Better Hormonal Balance
Nutrient intake can influence hormone regulation, leading to improved reproductive and hormonal health.
You can be motivated by a combination of these different reasons, and the factors influencing motivation can vary based on context, personal beliefs, and individual differences. Do any of them resonate with you? If so, make a plan to capitalize on it.
Remember too, it helps to have help, whatever motivators work for you.
How to Assess Your Motivation
Know yourself, in all things. Accept yourself, your strengths and weaknesses. Love it all.
Take time to reflect on your past endeavors that have brought you the most success and satisfaction. Consider whether the motivation behind these activities was primarily intrinsic or extrinsic.
Consider your core values and long-term goals. Examine whether your goals are more oriented towards personal growth and enjoyment or external rewards.
Pay attention to your feelings and emotions with different goals. Are you genuinely enjoying the process, or are you mainly focused on the outcomes? Are you feeling fulfilled and satisfied, or are you primarily seeking external validation?
Your motivational preferences can evolve over time. Be open to changes and adjustments in your approach based on new experiences and insights.
It’s possible to blend intrinsic and extrinsic motivations to create a balanced approach. For instance, you might engage in an activity you enjoy (intrinsic) while also setting specific goals to achieve (extrinsic).
Remember that motivation is complex and can vary depending on the task, context, and individual differences. Being attuned to your own motivations and adapting your approach accordingly can help maximize your productivity, satisfaction, and overall well-being.
How to Get Started Eating Healthier
Set Clear and Measurable Goals
The foundation of motivation lies in setting clear and achievable goals. Begin by defining your objectives for healthier eating.
Are you aiming to lose weight, improve your energy levels, or enhance your overall health? When your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART), you create a roadmap that keeps you focused and motivated.
- What is the goal?
- How will you measure it?
- What is the timeframe?
Identify your inspiration to eat healthy
Take time to deeply reflect on why you want to embrace healthier eating. This introspective process can uncover your underlying motivations and help you connect with a deeper purpose.
Choose any or many of the reasons above or a different one entirely. When your “why” is strong and meaningful, it becomes a powerful driving force.
Overhauling your diet overnight is not a great idea. It’s generally overwhelming and unsustainable. Instead, begin with small, manageable changes.
- Swap out one unhealthy snack for a nutritious option or incorporate an extra serving of vegetables into your meals.
- Drink water before any other thing when you wake up.
- Switch to fresh fruit for dessert.
- Have a salad for lunch every day.
- Have only one sugar-loaded Starbucks drink a day, or a week.
- Switch from cow’s milk to almond milk.
- Add a fruit or vegetable to every meal.
- Incorporate nuts, beans or seeds into your daily diet.
These incremental adjustments are more likely to stick and can gradually pave the way to a lifelong habit of eating healthier.
Visualize Your Success
Visualization is a potent technique used by athletes, entrepreneurs, and individuals seeking self-improvement.
Close your eyes and vividly imagine yourself enjoying the benefits of healthier eating – increased vitality, improved mood, and a stronger body. This mental imagery can strengthen your motivation by making your goals feel more attainable and desirable.
I try to visualize my future success before I get out of bed every morning. It sets the day in a positive and productive mode, a good way to begin the day. Sometimes I also do this at night, as it lets me fall asleep on a positive note.
Shopping intentionally for healthy eating involves thoughtful planning and smart choices.
- Start by creating a detailed grocery list based on your weekly meal plan, emphasizing whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats.
- Prioritize nutrient-dense options and limit processed foods, sugary snacks, and high-calorie items.
- Stick to your grocery list to reduce impulse purchases. Opt for fresh, local, and organic produce when possible. Choose lean cuts of meat and seafood, and consider plant-based protein sources like legumes and tofu. Select whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and whole wheat pasta.
- Shop the perimeter of the store where fresh produce, dairy, and lean proteins are often located, while minimizing time in the processed food aisles. Consider buying in bulk for staples like nuts, seeds, and whole grains to reduce packaging waste and save money.
Shopping intentionally for healthy eating involves being mindful of your choices, sticking to your plan, and selecting foods that align with your nutritional goals.
Create a Supportive Environment
Surround yourself with people who share your health goals and values. Social support plays a significant role in motivation.
Join a cooking class, engage in online health communities, or partner up with a friend for meal-planning and preparation. Sharing your journey with others can provide encouragement, accountability, and a sense of camaraderie.
It can also increase the number of healthy recipes in your arsenal!
Avoid unhealthy environments
Avoiding unhealthy situations while trying to eat healthy requires planning, mindfulness, and proactive decision-making.
- Prepare and pack your own nutritious meals and snacks to have on hand, so you’re less likely to succumb to unhealthy options when you’re hungry and in a rush.
- In social situations or at restaurants, review menus in advance and opt for dishes that emphasize lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Politely request modifications to suit your dietary preferences, such as choosing grilled instead of fried options or asking for dressings and sauces on the side.
- If you’re attending gatherings, eat a healthy meal beforehand to curb your appetite and make better food choices.
Ultimately, maintaining a positive mindset and staying focused on your health goals will empower you to navigate and avoid unhealthy situations more effectively.
Set reminders for your reasons
Setting reminders for healthy eating can help you stay on track with your nutritional goals.
- Use smartphone apps or digital calendar tools to schedule regular meal and snack times.
- Set alarms or notifications to prompt you to eat balanced meals rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains.
- Put sticky notes where you will see them such as your bathroom mirror, the fridge door or your computer monitor.
- Plan your weekly menu ahead of time, and use reminders to prep ingredients or cook nutritious meals.
- Consider enlisting a friend or family member as an accountability partner, sending each other healthy eating reminders.
Knowledge is empowering. The more you learn just how much of a difference food makes in the quality of your life, the more you will want to eat healthy.
- Learn about the nutritional value of different foods and how they impact your body. Understanding the benefits of a balanced diet can enhance your motivation to make healthier choices.
- Explore recipes, cooking techniques, and meal planning tips to make the process enjoyable and educational.
Acknowledge the costs of making poor choices
Eating unhealthy despite aiming for a healthier diet can lead to a range of physical, emotional, and financial costs.
- Poor nutrition increases the risk of chronic diseases like obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, which can result in medical expenses, decreased quality of life, and potential loss of productivity.
- Unhealthy eating patterns may lead to guilt, frustration, and negative self-perception, affecting mental well-being.
- Lacking essential nutrients can impact energy levels, focus, and mood, hindering daily activities and personal relationships.
- Choosing unhealthy convenience foods or frequent restaurant meals may lead to higher food costs and medical bills in the long run.
Celebrate Progress, Not Perfection
Acknowledge and celebrate your achievements, no matter how small. Avoid being overly critical of yourself for occasional slip-ups.
Remember that eating for health is a journey, and setbacks are part of the process. By focusing on your progress and resilience, you’ll maintain a positive outlook and prevent feelings of discouragement.
Keep a Food Journal
Recording your meals and snacks in a journal can offer valuable insights into your eating habits. Note how certain foods make you feel, both physically and emotionally.
Tracking your progress allows you to identify patterns, make informed adjustments, and stay motivated by recognizing the positive impact of your choices.
One Challenge at a Time
Here are some common challenges to our motivation and how to overcome them.
Think before you eat
Cravings for unhealthy foods can test your motivation. When a craving strikes, take a moment to pause and assess whether you’re truly hungry or if the craving is triggered by emotions or external cues.
Distract yourself with a healthy snack, engage in a physical activity, or practice mindfulness to navigate through cravings.
Dealing with Social Pressure
Social gatherings and events can present challenges to healthy eating. Communicate your goals to friends and family, so they understand and support your choices.
Plan ahead by eating a nutritious meal before attending an event or bringing a healthy dish to share. Remember, you have the power to make choices aligned with your well-being.
Consistency is key to lasting motivation. It’s not a diet; it’s a way of living. Develop a routine that integrates healthy eating seamlessly into your daily life.
Set a regular eating schedule, prep meals in advance, and keep your kitchen stocked with nutritious ingredients. As healthy choices become habitual, maintaining motivation becomes more effortless.
How to Train Yourself to Eat Healthy
Training yourself to eat healthy involves gradual changes and building sustainable habits. Start by setting clear, achievable goals and creating a realistic meal plan that emphasizes whole foods. Educate yourself about nutrition and the benefits of healthy eating.
Incorporate a variety of nutrient-dense foods, experiment with new recipes, and make vegetables a central part of your meals. Plan and prep your meals and snacks in advance to avoid impulsive, unhealthy choices.
Find healthier alternatives to your favorite indulgences and practice portion control. Experiment with food substitutions. I love taking a good but unhealthy recipe and playing with it until I’ve come up with a healthy version of the same thing.
Build a supportive environment by keeping your kitchen stocked with nutritious options and minimizing temptations. Seek social support from friends or family members with similar goals. Celebrate your successes and be patient with yourself through setbacks.
How to Motivate Yourself to Eat Less
Motivating yourself to eat less involves a combination of mindful awareness, behavioral strategies, and positive mindset shifts.
Begin by recognizing and acknowledging your hunger and fullness cues. Eat slowly, savoring each bite, and pause between bites to assess your satisfaction level.
Portion control is essential. Use smaller plates and bowls, and pre-portion snacks to prevent overeating. Focus on nutrient-dense foods that provide satiety, such as lean proteins, fiber-rich vegetables, and whole grains.
Create a structured eating routine with scheduled meal and snack times. Stay hydrated by drinking water throughout the day, as thirst can sometimes be mistaken for hunger.
Practice stress management techniques like deep breathing, meditation, or engaging in hobbies to prevent emotional eating.
How to Stay Motivated to Eat Healthy
To maintain motivation for healthy eating, focus on positive strategies that align with your goals and values.
- Start by setting clear, realistic objectives and regularly reminding yourself of the benefits of a nutritious diet – improved energy, well-being, and long-term health.
- Create a visual representation of your goals, like a vision board or digital reminders, to reinforce your commitment. Educate yourself about nutrition and explore new recipes and foods to keep meals exciting and enjoyable.
- Build a support network by sharing your goals with friends, family, or an online community. Track your progress, celebrate small achievements, and be compassionate with yourself during setbacks.
Finally, remember that motivation may fluctuate. Cultivate discipline by focusing on consistency and creating habits that make healthy choices easier over time.
The Healthiest Foods
The best foods for you to include as much as possible in your life, in no particular order.
- Vegetables – cucumbers, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, mushrooms, asparagus, bell peppers, garlic, cauliflower, onions, pumpkin, Brussels sprouts
- Fruits – avocados, tomatoes, blueberries, strawberries, apples, bananas, mangoes, kiwi, oranges
- Seeds and nuts – pepitas, sesame seeds, chia seeds, almonds, walnuts, peanuts or peanut butter
- Dairy – eggs, yogurt
- Beans and grains – black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, quinoa, old-fashioned oats
- Drinks – Water, green tea
- Other – dark chocolate
Healthier breakfast ideas
- Greek yogurt with berries
- Apple with peanut butter
- Overnight oats w/blueberries and almonds
- Avocado toast (whole grain bread) with eggs and salsa
- Chocolate pudding
Healthy Lunch Ideas
- Sauteed mushrooms and spinach toast
- Black bean chili salad
- Mushroom soup
- Beet salad with goat cheese
- Avocado corn salad
Smart dinner ideas
- Greek salad
- Salmon quinoa salad
- Roasted cauliflower, onion, peppers, asparagus, garlic
- Sweet potato salad w/walnuts & kale
- Peanut butter curry
Healthy snacks and desserts
- Dried mangoes, without added sugar
- Sweet potato cookies
- Homemade trail mix
- Dark chocolate
- Vegan peanut butter ice cream
FAQs, Eat Healthy Motivation
Set clear goals, remind yourself of the benefits, discover new recipes, seek support from others, practice mindfulness while eating, and focus on long-term well-being to stay motivated for healthy eating.
Lack of motivation to eat healthy can stem from various factors, including emotional habits, conflicting priorities, lack of knowledge, or temporary setbacks. Identifying barriers and seeking support can help reignite your motivation and establish a positive approach to healthy eating.
Start with small, achievable goals, such as adding one extra serving of vegetables daily. Focus on gradual changes, educate yourself on nutrition, and experiment with tasty, healthier recipes. Seek support from friends, family, or professionals to build momentum and develop a positive relationship with healthy eating.
When lacking motivation, prioritize simple, balanced meals. Prep easy-to-make, nutritious options. Set reminders for meal times, practice portion control, and choose whole foods. Focus on nourishing your body, even when motivation is low, to maintain a consistent eating routine.
Visualize health goals, remind yourself of benefits, plan enjoyable meals, involve friends or a support network, track progress, and start with small, manageable changes. Cultivate a positive mindset and remember that consistent, positive actions lead to increased motivation for healthy eating.
Set clear health objectives, connect with your goals daily, explore nutritious foods you enjoy, engage in meal planning, seek encouragement from peers, and acknowledge your progress. Consistently choosing nourishing options reinforces motivation for a healthier diet.
Final Thoughts on Motivation to Eat Healthy
Finding motivation to eat healthy is a journey that goes beyond a mere change in diet – it’s a shift in mindset and lifestyle.
By understanding the psychology of motivation, connecting with your intrinsic desires, and implementing practical strategies, you can build a lifestyle of healthy eating.
Remember that motivation is not a constant state but a dynamic force that requires nurturing and cultivation. Embrace each step of your journey, celebrate your successes, and approach challenges with resilience.
Always remember that you’re not just nourishing your body, but also cultivating a vibrant and fulfilling life.