Whether au naturel or painted in bold hues, your fingertips look best polished—and healthy. Are chipped, peeling, brittle, or discolored nails leaving you with your hands shoved in your pockets? Assessing your habits inside and out can help you get the stronger, healthier nails you desire, say natural beauty experts.

Eat a nail-building meal

Nails are made of keratin protein, so a diet containing less-than-optimum protein levels can lead to weak nails. Aim to get about 25 percent of daily calories from protein (94 grams of protein for a 1,500 calorie diet). Include a spectrum of sources (try fish, poultry, lean red meats, dairy, eggs, beans, peanut butter, and tofu) for a mix of essential amino acids that give nails structural support, recommends Lisa Drayer, MA, RD, author of The Beauty Diet (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

For longer and smoother nails, Drayer recommends at least 1,000 mg of dietary calcium from low-fat or nonfat milk, yogurt, and cheese (vegan sources include tempeh, kale, and fortified orange juice)—which comes out to about three to four servings a day. If your calcium intake is too low, calcium-carbonate or calcium-citrate supplements can help you reach a healthy level, says Drayer (calcium citrate is better for elderly people who may not be producing enough stomach acid, which can make it difficult to absorb the mineral). For lines or white spots, increase zinc to at least 8 mg daily. Zinc-rich foods include oysters, crab, beef, beans, cashews, walnuts, chickpeas, and dark-meat poultry. An 8 mg serving would be about 6 ounces of dark-meat chicken, 8 ounces of milk, 3 ounces of cooked beef, 1/2 cup beans, or 1 ounce of nuts.