The Secret to Eating Healthy

Written by: Emily Russo, MS, RD, CDN

What are the best easy ways to eat a healthier diet? What are the healthiest foods? A dietitian's answers may surprise you. 

When people find out I’m a dietitian, they inevitably ask, “How can I eat healthier?” My response is not the secret ingredient they were looking for, and it may surprise you as well.




In my opinion, there is no healthiest food and no healthiest eating style.

But, I didn’t always feel this way.


Perhaps like some of you, I assessed healthy eating based on the actual makeup of a food-its vitamin and mineral content, calories, or how it could lead to this disease or cure that condition.  

In my preliminary nutrition courses in the early 2000’s, I was certainly taught to evaluate food this way and in turn taught that to my patients. What I like to call a “kale rules” type of philosophy.

And then I saw the statistic that 95% of all weight loss diets fail. It shocked and rocked my world. 

I have since recognized that this statistic is a bit misleading, but it’s not totally off course. To be more specific, a diet may lead to weight loss in the short term, but one-third to two-thirds of the weight lost is regained within 1 year and almost all is regained within 5 years.¹⁻²

That’s still pretty alarming.

I’m certainly not alone in this awareness. More and more experts in my field are embracing practices that take the focus away from weight loss and dieting.

Ultimately, I hope to help readers feel good about themselves and their food choices. I don’t want to use my credentials to shame anyone or make them worry about all the things they ate wrong yesterday. This stress can actually worsen health outcomes.

So if trying to diet-or change your body, or eliminate your favorite foods-has not made you happy in the past, consider a different way to think about healthy eating.



I’ve learned to recognize that healthy food doesn’t have to be low-calorie, sugar-free, all organic, or low fat. In fact, eating foods that you enjoy can decrease the likelihood of overeating.

Feeling satisfied is so important because the hungrier you become, the less in tune you are with your body’s needs. You may feel ravenous or out of control, ultimately leading to even more unhealthy eating practices. 

Before you know it, you have unraveled all the positive changes you were trying to implement.



Think about other connections in your life such as a healthy relationship with a loved one or a healthy state of mind.

These relationships are about being in tune with your senses, opening up to how others see things while valuing and understanding your own needs.

Similarly, healthy eating isn’t a competition for food eliminations, avoidance, or restrictions.

It’s all encompassing. It’s forgiving. It’s as comforting and joyful as sharing this One Pot Stovetop Chicken & Rice for a weeknight dinner with family.


With that in mind, here are my own personal guidelines for healthy eating (in no particular order):
  1. Enjoy, savor, and get pleasure out of food
  2. Eat a variety of foods, change it up, and trying new things
  3. Have an awareness of where foods come from-local, exotic, seasonal, frozen-to better understand how to serve and prepare them
  4. Try meals which come from different places-cooking, ordering in, eating on the run, and dining out are all included
  5. Adjust eating based on the schedule of the day and how I’m feeling at the time
  6. Eat frequently enough so that I don’t find myself getting ravenous. Plan snacks ahead of time so, as things arise unexpectedly, I’m prepared
  7. Model a healthy relationship with food in front of others. For me, that’s my husband, children, and friends. Most of all, I live the philosophy that all foods can fit in a healthy diet
  8. Make no judgments on other’s food choices (including my kids!)
  9. Celebrate holidays, accomplishments, and seasonality with foods that are important to me
  10. Avoid deprivation. Nothing is off limits.



For me, the healthiest part of Fountain Avenue Kitchen is that it provides readers with recipes that work with our lifestyles, which have options, that don’t create boundaries about when and how you make them.

Ann uses a variety of ingredients and cuisines to match your food cravings and feelings of the day, holidays, or the vibes of the household for the week. Moreover, she sometimes even highlights specific nutrients we might need to adjust for medical reasons, like this surprisingly tasty Salt-Free Smoked Paprika Chicken with Lime.

You may see some of these gentle nutrition tips throughout our posts. We love to provide options or suggest tips and adjustments, and will continue to do so. We want you to know that these are considerations for you to make when you need them; but they are not hard rules for healthy eating.



Research shows that weight loss diets do not produce long-term results and can be more harmful than helpful. Because of this, the nutrition information I share will not continue to propagate diet culture.

Everyone has their own individual litmus test for what works best for them. Food is no different. Tune into those internal cues, listen to your body, and honor what truly makes you feel good.

Have confidence that your body can be an equal accomplice to your brain in choosing your foods for the day.

You may be surprised by your choices!




We’re very excited about our new “Ask Emily” column and invite you, the reader, to engage more deeply into the nutritional aspects of the blog. All food and nutrition-related questions are welcome. Some will be answered through my column, but I will reply to everyone individually. Click to email me directly.


  1. Bacon L & Aphramor L (2011) Weight science: evaluating the evidence for a paradigm shift. Nutr J 10, 9.
  2. 2. A G Dulloo. (2012). How dieting makes some fatter: from a perspective of human body composition autoregulation. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 71, 379-389.

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  1. Susan

    Shortly after reading this post, I heard on the news that a very highly acclaimed restaurant, Eleven Madison Ave, is planning to adapt an entirely vegan menu. I have never been to that restaurant, I am sure it is out of my price range, but, what struck me was the complete transformation to a plant based menu. I am curious, do you think this is the way of the future? Is this how we really should be eating for our health and the good of our planet?

    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Susan, such a great question and comment. I wish I had more definitive answers, but this issue is incredibly complex and has been around for quite some time. There are so many valid sides to the story, it’s challenging to really stand on solid ground (in my opinion). I would like to address this in a more polished article that I plan to post soon. In fact, over the weekend Ann and I were swapping articles, podcasts, and ideas about this very topic (by the way, we both enjoyed the podcast in case you are interested).

      In the meantime, I’m pleased to see the NYC restaurant scene is coming alive again. Eleven Madison Park is a beautiful restaurant which has been the epicenter of special occasions for years. Only time will tell how customers will respond to the new menu. But with Daniel Humm at the helm, it will probably be pretty darn delicious no matter what!

      1. Susan

        Hi Emily,
        I look forward to more discussion of this topic and I will check out the podcast. I was just thinking this morning that we are lucky here in Lancaster County to have easy access to an abundance of roadside stands and farmer’s markets for fresh produce. It should be easy to come up with at least a few plant based meals a week! I think this is a good place to start. My family is open to the idea, but I doubt if they would ever take an all or nothing approach to this style of eating.

        1. Emily Post author

          I agree that the farm stands or even readily accessible CSAs are quite tempting this time of year. Enjoy!