By Madeleine Kates

Having made the transition to a new way of eating for health reasons, I’ve experienced firsthand how difficult it can be to start. Creating meals that align with nutritional goals, allergies, and family favorites is challenging in a busy household where no one is an expert in cooking or nutrition. However, it can be easy to make the change without a learning curve if you make the right preparations. Here are some helpful tips:

Start. There is always a good reason to put off healthy eating until tomorrow, after the holidays, or until you finally use up everything that is already in your pantry, fridge, or freezer. Incorporating the foods you need to eat with what you currently have stocked is a great way to start. Think about where the changes need to be, such as adding more fruits or veggies, eliminating allergens, or adjusting favorites to meet new goals for a focused plan.

Have a prep day. Breaking down whole foods to be used throughout the coming week in one prep session minimizes the time it will take to put meals together, and it helps you organize the menu for the next few days. This is also helpful for preparing individual ingredients you plan to use in a variety of dishes, such as roasting garlic, or cutting up carrots, celery, or onions. If the produce is ready to be used, and is stored neatly, you might be more likely to use it. In addition, preparing everything in one day will help reduce multiple clean-ups.

Stock the staples. Many ingredients can be the basis for a variety of dishes, such as beans for salads, soups, chili night, or tacos. Having an extra bag of frozen fruit, a can of beans, or a box of pasta can provide you with a quick base to start building a meal.

Include your family. It may be easier to reach healthy eating goals when the whole family participates, and it can be fun when everyone works together and takes turns choosing new recipes.

Eating healthy does not need to mean sacrificing time, energy, or creativity. With some preparation, the transition to a new way of eating is easy.

Madeleine Kates is studying for her MPH through the University of Manchester, UK. She recently graduated from Niagara University with degrees in Environmental Science, Life Science, and Psychology, and also holds a certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from Cornell University.