If you’re working on eating healthier, you need practical advice and encouragement. In her book, The Small Change Diet: Ten Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You (Gallery Books, $15), WVFC contributor and registered dietician Keri Gans provides both. Each chapter focuses on manageable changes organized around a theme: making a healthy eating schedule, for instance, or brightening your plate with fruits and vegetables, choosing healthier beverages, and so on. Along the way, she turns each healthy change into a set of manageable steps and offers specific suggestions: Make sure you plan snacks that have protein or healthy fat and fiber to keep you satisfied. Make time for breakfast, even if it’s on the go. Start dinner with a salad.

Each chapter includes a breakdown of the obstacles or excuses that might crop up. Gans compiles a list of protests culled from years of listening to her patients, and rebuts each one with sympathy and humor. The call-and-response of this section is so thorough, and her tone so upbeat and confiding, that it feels as though she’s having a conversation with you as you read. If you protest against the taste of whole wheat cereal or pasta, she says, try gradually mixing white and whole wheat. If you’re lactose intolerant, use lactose-free dairy products to reap their nutritional benefits.

Throughout the book, Gans keeps her solutions manageable by grounding them in real life and presenting options to accommodate both personal taste and healthier choices. It’s not about giving up what you love entirely, she points out, but about finding ways to enjoy smaller portions, less frequently, and modifying your choices to be as healthy as possible. She’s thought of just about everything, from business trips, busy days, and holidays to sympathy for cravings and moments of overindulgence.

This is very much a plan for omnivores, as it hinges on incorporating servings of lean meat and dairy. Tofu and soy get their due, as does the idea of going meatless once a week.

You might struggle with some of the changes more than others, or may already be doing one or two of the changes she suggests. You may be more inclined to work on the change chapters out of order, because you already eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, for instance, but struggle to incorporate whole grains or lean meat into your eating plan. After laying out each small change, Gans concludes the chapter with a check-in, with specific, practical questions: Do you eat fish at least twice a week? Do you eat enough during the day, and keep busy enough into the evenings, to vanquish late night cravings? These focused questions keep your progress on target as you work on making new healthy habits a regular part of your life.

If you do decide to do the chapters out of their presented sequence, make sure to work through Chapter 1 completely before doing any of the others. That first chapter lays the groundwork of basic habits that will help make the rest of the plan work: keeping an honest food diary to track what you’re eating and drinking, for instance, planning a schedule of meals and snacks to keep you well-fueled, and getting enough sleep.

Although the book is packed with healthy substitutions and some food preparation ideas, it would be great to see more of the recipes that can help Gans’s small changes stick. Her Healthy Hummus, for example, is terrifically easy to whip up, and a great way to get more of the fresh vegetables that are a cornerstone of the eating plan. I am curious to try the Best Breaded Chicken, which makes clever use of ground flax seed to give the breading an extra nutritional punch.

Maybe Gans’s next project should be a cookbook of healthy and nutritious recipes. In between her contributions to Women’s Voices For Change, of course.


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  • Quora March 12, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    How do I stick to a diet?…

    It’s different for everyone, but one of the best ways for me has been to make small manageable changes to your diet – it seems less overwhelming and gradually working things into your routine seems to be the best way for them to stay there. The Small …