Starting and maintaining a healthy diet is a journey that anyone can benefit from. Whether you are simply trying to slim your waist and have more energy throughout the day, or if you are venturing into serious bodybuilding, intentional nutrition will be the key to help reach your goals. However, in a culture that glorifies junk food, promotes gimmicky diets, and functions at a rapid pace, there is no shortage of ways your diet could be tripped up. Here are a few tips to keep you from screwing up your diet.

1. Make sure you are actually eating enough:

An elementary understanding of dieting may lead someone to believe fewer calories is always better. And while it’s true that excess calories will cause weight gain and lower energy, too few calories will result in muscle loss and slowing of metabolism. In a healthy diet, you should generally only eat when you are hungry and stick to controlled portions. However if you are letting yourself go hungry without eating, odds are you're not consuming what you need while setting your progress back.

2. Track your calorie consumption:

This step may seem somewhat tedious to some people, but it is a game-changer when it comes to making sure you’re not over, or under eating. Your calorie intake goals will change based on your age and your workout schedule, but once you have a clear number be sure to write it down. Whenever you are cooking your meals or prepping your shake, pay close attention to the nutrition facts and the actual portion sizes. You can go so far as to create a full-blown meal schedule based on your caloric needs, or you can simply keep track of what you consume in a journal and carefully add up the calories each day.

3. Meal Prep:

If your schedule is jam-packed like most people these days, you know very well the struggle it can be to fit cooking a full meal each day. However, when you do find time to cook, you can use the opportunity to prepare your meals for the next three days. Cook a lean protein, such as chicken, and store three servings worth in containers in your refrigerator. You can do the same with some green veggies and brown rice.

4. Be sure to get your sleep:

If you are stuck in your overachieving, do-it-all ways, odds are the thing you are not achieving is enough sleep. You can be doing everything right in your diet and end up getting tripped up by being sleep deprived very quickly. Sleep deprivation signals your brain to produce more ghrelin, a chemical in the brain that cues your body to want to eat. On the flip side, sleep deprivation lowers leptin, a chemical that cues your body to feel full. Along with slowing metabolism and leaving your body with less energy to complete your workout routines, it’s no mystery why sleep deprivation can have such detrimental effects on a diet.

5. Pay attention when choosing "low fat" or "diet" foods:

Yes, fat will make you fat, to a degree. Foods high in saturated fats will slow you down while packing on unwanted pounds, while monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are helpful in overall energy, alertness, and maintaining a healthy metabolism. Many foods found in the grocery store, however, play off of the notion that simply reducing the fat content in a food will make it healthy and thus sell to people trying to lose weight. The problem is that a lot of these foods load up on sugar to keep the taste, resulting in ruined energy and excess weight. The double whammy here is that the lack of actual fat won’t keep you feeling full as long, making you likely to seek out even more excess calories after the fact.

6. Don’t let your drinking pull back your progress:

This is not to say you can’t have fun nights out anymore, or enjoy a glass of wine with a meal. In fact, studies have shown a small glass of wine each night can have positive effects on blood pressure. Drinking in excess on a regular basis, however, can directly take you a step back on your progress on your diet. Alcohol slows metabolism and is processed as sugar in the body. This results in more fat, and less of an ability to burn fat. To put things in perspective, one shot of vodka typically contains 100 calories. If you are having multiple crazy nights per week, these calories add up quick. You don’t have to put down the bottle for good, but be sure to keep things in moderation, and make your crazy nights a rare occasion.

7. Make sure you’re “healthy” foods aren’t covered in pesticides:

You can avoid this easily by shopping in the organic section of your grocery store. Organic foods are clean from harmful pesticides commonly found in produce. Pesticides tend to store in fat cells and slow down metabolism when they are in the body’s system. A slower metabolism can directly lead to lower energy, and unwanted weight gain. Clean out pesticides from your foods and you will likely see some added progress in your diet.

8. Replace a meal with a shake:

Having a shaker cup and supplement mix on hand will prove to be a helpful tool in keeping you from making several diet mistakes. Since it is quick and easy, you can make a meal replacement shake if you are hard pressed for time and feel like caving to the convenience of a drive-thru. Since you can physically see how much liquid is in your cup, along with using measuring cups to know how much of each supplement you’re adding to your mix, you will also easily be able to keep track of the number of calories and nutrients you are consuming.