We all know that junk foods aren’t good for us. And yet, highly refined refined carbohydrates, processed meats, and loads of added sugar make up a huge part of the standard American diet. With these options readily available, convenient, and addictive, it can be really challenging to start eating a healthier diet!

Luckily, there are a few simple strategies that are oh-so-helpful when it comes to cutting out the crap and transitioning to healthier eating habits.

Focus on what you can eat, not what you can’t eat.

Have you ever said to yourself, “today I’m going to be good and not eat chocolate” (or maybe fast food, or soda, or ice cream), and then all day you find yourself just obsessing over that one thing that you are trying not to eat? What’s worse, you may find yourself starving because while you are not eating that “bad” food, you haven’t replaced it with anything else! And then the next day you are right back to stuffing your face with it! It was just too hard to give up.

I think we’ve all been there at one time or another. But the truth is, of course those treats are going to be hard to give up if we think about them all day and fail to replace them with more nutrient-dense calories! The key is to crowd out the junk foods with healthier, satisfying alternatives. Load up on fruits, veggies, lean protein, whole grains, and healthy fats; season your food so that it is delicious and inviting, not bland and boring; and eat when you are hungry until you are satisfied! Deprivation does not work!

Identify your triggers.

Sometimes there are certain situations or emotions that, for any number of reasons, have become triggers for us to eat foods we know are not good for us. Oftentimes it may just be a habit or ritual (for example, always reaching for a piece of chocolate after a meal, or always stopping at that fast food place on your way home from work). Other times we may feel anxious or sad and soothe ourselves with yummy tasting treats.

Regardless of the exact circumstance, my point is that it is important to identify your triggers and work to rebuild new habits in response to these triggers. For instance, if I am always reaching for a piece of chocolate after each meal, I may replace that habit with taking a quick walk, or sipping on herbal tea. If I always stop at a certain fast food joint on my way home, perhaps a different route home is in order.

Emotional triggers, too, can be worked through with mindfulness, asking yourself what you are feeling and what you really need to feel better. Masking emotions with food is a quick and temporary fix. Our emotions are not our enemies, and working through them by talking with a friend, journaling, or meditating can be highly effective and much better for our overall well-being!

Find an accountability partner. 

Establishing new habits is easier when you have someone holding you accountable. It has been proven time and again that people do better with social support! Whether it be a friend, family member, or hired coach, having someone to turn to when you are struggling can be a game-changer!

Are you working on changing your diet? What has been the hardest part for you so far? Let me know in the comments below, and if you found this article helpful, please share it!