Why focusing on smaller changes to your diet could be a better approach for your health!

How many of us have tried (maybe even several times) to eat healthy at the start of a new week or month, only to get a few days in and find its not sustainable! Making smaller changes in our diet, allowing a nudge towards a modification in our behaviour, is often easier to do consistently and can in the longer-term give better results. However, here are many reasons why even making smaller changes can be difficult. From the constant marketing of foods that are nutrient poor, to the challenge of restricting certain foods to then craving them even more and in some cases overeating. To the fact that we are all individuals, and our needs are not the same as others, due to our gender, genetics, metabolism and lifestyle to name a few. So here are a few areas to consider, so that you can start to make smaller changes in your diet towards a healthier lifespan.

“Small hinges swing big doors” – W. Clement Stone

Slow and steady wins the race!

Rather than making drastic changes to how you eat, consider these smaller changes in how you approach what you eat. Trying building one change in for a number of weeks, before taking on another one. Over time with consistency, the cumulative effect of smaller changes can bring beneficial changes.

• Try to avoid cutting out a whole food group, as this can have a significant impact on health in the longer-term (1). Many people reduce or stop eating carbohydrates, even though this food group is needed to provide energy to allow us to do what we need to do every day. So rather than removing it change the type of carbohydrate that you have and try for a complex variety i.e., one that is higher in fibre like wholegrain or wholemeal versions of pasta, rice or bread thus providing fuel and keeping you fuller for longer.

• Think of what you can add to your plate at each meal, like “What fruit or vegetables can I add to this plate that will bring colour, variety and added nutrients to this meal?” At breakfast, “could I add a handful of berries or chopped banana to my porridge, cereal or smoothie? Could I add some salad, chopped tomatoes, onions, peppers or cucumber to my lunch or dinner plate?” All of which, increase the variety and nutritional content of what we are eating.

Eat regularly! Having a regular eating pattern like 2-3 meals/day makes sure we have an adequate energy intake through the day, which means less energy dips and craving of foods that are less beneficial. This also includes having a breakfast! Research shows that this may provide physiological benefits like reduced inflammation, improved stress resistance and modulation of the gut microbiota (2).

Positive changes in your eating pattern.

Here we invite you to consider three positive changes to your eating pattern. While these are all small changes, they have the capacity to influence your eating pattern for the better as well as potentially having a ripple effect onto other health benefits.

1. Embrace what is on your plate rather than admonishing yourself that it should be healthier. Trying not to label our foods are “good” or “bad”, as this sets us up for a destructive cycle of the behaviour of restricting and overeating/binging. When we have food on a pedestal, we fear it and counterproductively think about it more than, if we just label it as food. The result might be that you want the food even more, you struggle to be present when eating and you notice feelings of guilt and shame when we eat it. Over time as you drop the labels, you become more in tune with how much of a particular food you really want to satisfy your needs.

2. Allow time to eat. Food is a source of fuel for your body providing the energy and nourishment required for it to function. It can take your brain up to 20mins to register that you are full. Hence, it’s important to take time when we eat, to chew properly rather than gulping down where we can swallow air which can cause problems in the gut. Taking time to chew can also influence our satiety and how much we eat, and it provides time to listen to your body for the cues on how it tastes, is it filling and is it providing what my body needs (3).

3. Where possible eat without distraction. When we eat watching TV or a screen or brain finds it difficult to prioritise eating. Therefore, we tend to focus on what we are watching rather than what we are eating! Often leading us to consume more food than we really need or want (4)!

Making a positive change happen

We all have busy lives and there are often times when it will get in the way. Making any change takes time, so we need to hang in there as there are several best practice guidelines in maintaining a sustainable change or habit. Some of these include (5):

• Identify what’s stopping you from making the change and remove it. Maybe its because you don’t have time during the week to prepare a dinner, then use the weekends an opportunity to batch cook and freeze off portions for during the week, when you need them and maybe too tired to cook.

Make your change easy to follow. Like having healthy snack options at work for when you need them. Stock up in desk or locker on fruit, oatcakes, crackers, dried fruit etc to name a few.

Find your “why” for making the change. What’s your motivation for making a change? It might be to have more energy to do things with my kids, I want to feel better in myself, improve my mood etc.

There will be days when things will not go as planned and that’s life. So rather than indulge in the guilt of eating something that is not as healthy as we would like, focus on the bigger picture of what you eat over the day, rather than that one meal. Each meal is an opportunity to provide the nutrients that our bodies need, to enabling us to achieve was we need to each day.

It is about taking a mindset that motivates us to continue. A mindset that realises that we are on a journey for better health and its more important to stay on the right track rather than finish the race faster!


1. Oh R, Gilani B, Uppaluri KR. Low Carbohydrate Diet. In: StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing, Treasure Island (FL); 2021.

2. Paoli A, Tinsley G, Bianco A, Moro T. The Influence of Meal Frequency and Timing on Health in Humans: The Role of Fasting. Nutrients. 2019 Mar 28;11(4):719.

3. Hollis, J., 2018. The effect of mastication on food intake, satiety and body weight. Physiology & Behavior, 193, pp.242-245.

4. Braude, L. and Stevenson, R.J. (2014) “Watching television while eating increases energy intake. examining the mechanisms in female participants,” Appetite, 76, pp. 9–16.

5. Burke J, Dunne P, Meehan T, O’Boyle C, van Nieuwerburg C, Positive Health 100+ Research-based Positive Psychology and Lifestyle Medicine Tools to Enhance your Wellbeing, Routledge., 2023.