Hudson Valley Mediterranean: The Gigi Good Food Cookbook, by Laura Pensiero
Photo: Con Poulos
We've all tried—and failed at—our share of diets. To really shake up your eating habits once and for all, you need a plan that's easy to follow and enjoyable, so you're genuinely motivated to keep at it. You also need a diet you can't "break"—one that's flexible enough to adapt to any changes, from your activity level to the company at your table. Here are six steps to get you on your way:

1. Start small. Changing everything all at once never works. Instead, go through your refrigerator and pantry and weed out a few empty-calorie traps: foods you reach for when you're rushed or bored, that don't nourish your body. Then substitute fresh, seasonal foods. Keep whole grain bread and cheese handy to grab instead of chips. Add a salad every day, at lunch or dinner. Try fruit at snack time.

2. Go local. Visit LocalHarvest.org or EatWellGuide.org . Type in your zip code for a list of products grown and made in your community, from honey, cheese, grass-fed meat, and pasture-raised eggs to lettuces and herbs.

3. Play the (green) market. Visit your local farmers' market. While there, talk to farmers and sample food that's likely within 48 hours of picking. Most farmers eat what they grow, so they're a great source of tips for preparing, serving, and storing the foods they sell.

4. Branch out. Try a fruit or vegetable that you didn't think you liked when it's at its peak. I've seen people converted to foods from asparagus to zucchini just by tasting them freshly picked and simply prepared.

5. Learn the story behind your food. When you connect with the men and women who grow what you eat, it tastes all the better. Kids especially become more courageous when they know what went into the food they have for dinner.

6. Plant a garden—however small. Seeing the miracle of a seed turn into a delectable ingredient instills an appreciation for all it takes to grow great-quality food. If you don't have a green thumb, try a simple container garden: Cultivate a few herbs or cherry tomatoes in pots on your windowsill or patio.

Hudson Valley Club Sandwich Get started with nutritionist and chef Laura Pensiero's Real-Food Diet Meal Plan

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