How to Make Sustainable Dietary Changes

By Alene Brennan

As a nutrition coach for individuals living with multiple sclerosis, I walk each client through the changes they need to use diet and lifestyle to manage their symptoms.

It’s a process that I took myself through long before I was a nutrition coach. First, I overcame debilitating migraines through diet and lifestyle changes. Then when I was diagnosed with MS years later, I took an integrative approach and turned to my kitchen to create a healing environment in my body.

I think everyone living with MS can agree, however, making changes to your diet on a good day can be challenging, but making changes during a flare or even symptomatic day, can feel near impossible.

We know what’s on the line – our health, our independence and ultimately our life.

Yet, even with the stakes so high, it can still feel overwhelming and at times discouraging.

That’s why when I coach clients through the changes, I highly encourage them to focus on one step at a time. It sounds a little clique, I know, but so many of us (myself included!) have a tendency to take on too much too fast.

Taking one step at a time, allows you to master one habit at a time. It’s less stressful and far more sustainable. When you change one habit at a time, it doesn’t feel like you’re ever truly on a diet.

The results may be a little slower to surface than a dramatic overnight change; but again, they tend to be far more sustainable.

So, at this time of year when we’re all looking for fresh starts to our healthy way of life, what’s one way that you can start improving your diet?


Water is one of the most basic, yet effective ways to improve your health. Proper hydration supports the body in proper digestion, increases energy and can create glowing skin. (There’s a nice side benefit!)

The ideal is to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. However, knowing that bladder issues are a major symptom of MS, that can seem like a laughable suggestion.

The key here is to sip water throughout the day versus chug a lot of water at a given time.

The simplest way to start is to drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up in the morning.

Need some more tips? Check out this video I created on proper hydration with MS.

Eat a Rainbow

Replacing inflammatory foods such as sugar, gluten, dairy, and alcohol with nutrient dense foods like veggies, fruit and high-quality protein, is another great area of focus to improve your health.

So how do you break this down to a single habit?

Most people like to start with breakfast because it’s the first meal of the day and if they eat well during that meal, it sets a good tone for the rest of the day. So perhaps you transition from a sugary cereal to oatmeal seasoned with apples and cinnamon.

Another goal option is to simply eat one more serving of vegetables each day. If you’re currently not eating any veggies on a regular basis now, decide what veggies you like best and try adding one serving in daily. Smoothies, salads and soups are easy and delicious ways to boost your veggie intake.

No matter what you choose, always remember that what you do consistently is what delivers the results in your life.

If you consistently put small but healthy habits into place, they will accumulate over time.

Start small.

Start today.

*Alene Brennan works with individuals living with MS and other autoimmune diseases to create a diet and lifestyle that will support their healing and disease management. She holds four certifications: nutrition coach, yoga instructor, personal trainer, and natural food chef. You can learn more about her work and follow her blog, recipes, and more at Check her out on Instagram and Facebook, too!

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About MSAA

The Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA) is a national nonprofit organization and leading resource for the entire MS community, improving lives today through vital services and support. MSAA provides free programs and services, such as: a Helpline with trained specialists; award-winning publications, including, The Motivator; MSAA’s nationally recognized website, featuring educational videos, webinars, and research updates; a mobile phone app, My MS Manager™; safety and mobility equipment products; cooling accessories for heat-sensitive individuals; MRI funding; My MSAA Community, a peer-to-peer online support forum; MS Conversations blog; a clinical trial search tool; podcasts; and more. For additional information, please visit or call (800) 532-7667.

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