Eating healthy isn’t always easy, but committing to a healthy diet can be one of the smartest decisions you ever make. Why? Not only can eating well make you look and feel better, it can also save you money on future health costs.

But even if you intend to “eat healthy,” knowing exactly what that means can be challenging. Following a healthy diet includes choosing plenty of lean meats, eggs, vegetables, fruit, whole grain and dairy products.

Enhances your mood.

What you eat has an impact on your brain, including the parts that regulate mood. Although there’s no single food that acts as a proven antidepressant, maintaining stable blood sugar through regular, proper nutrition will help you feel better overall on most days. Foods rich in vitamins and minerals, such as fruits, whole grains and vegetables, have been associated with an overall lower risk of depression, as have foods rich in omega-3 fats, such as nuts, salmon and other fatty fish.

Eating healthy can reduce stress too. When your body is in a chronic state of stress, it breaks down protein to prepare for battle, but certain foods have the ability to moderate the body’s level of cortisol, the stress hormone. Some studies have found that consuming foods with omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium may help reduce cortisol levels. Eating a protein-rich diet, including fish and dairy, can help replenish protein stores and keep cortisol levels low.

Be healthier

Not everybody who is thin is healthy, and not everyone who is overweight is unhealthy, but eating right can improve health for even thin people who are junk food junkies. You can think of junk food as anything that’s high in calories and low in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. This includes potato chips, greasy foods like french fries, and soda.

Tips for eating healthy

If switching to a healthy diet were easy, everyone would do it. So what should you do if you’re having a hard time choosing the right foods and sticking to a healthful eating pattern?

Small changes over time result in big payoffs. That means setting small, attainable goals each day that will translate into long-term results. Here are some of her tips:

•Stay hydrated. This will help you reduce cravings and feel fuller.

•Don’t skip meals. Eat at about the same time each day, if you can.

•Get active. Just increasing activity a little bit may create a mindset to eat better too.

•Preplan around cravings. If you always get hungry for salt at 3 p.m. or sugar after dinner, have a healthier alternative ready to go.

•Forgive yourself when you slip up. Beating yourself up after a slip-up tends to unravel all of your goals; picking back up as though you didn’t make a misstep is a better option.