Are you confused by all the conflicting nutrition tips out there? These simple tips can show you how to plan, enjoy, and stick to a healthy diet.
What is a healthy diet
Eating healthy foods is not about strict limits, staying lean and unhealthy, or depriving yourself of favorite foods. Instead, it is about feeling good, having more energy, improving your health, and improving your mood.
Healthy eating should not be too hard. If you feel frustrated by all the recommendations for nutrition and eating out, you are not alone. It seems that every time an expert tells you that a certain food is good for you, you will find that the other person says exactly the opposite. The fact is that although some special foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, it is your most important eating pattern. The basis of a healthy diet should be to replace processed foods with real foods whenever possible. Eating food that is closely related to nature can make a huge difference in how you think, look, and feel.
By applying these simple tips, you can break free from confusion and learn how to create — and stick to — delicious, varied, and nutritious foods that fit your mind as well as your body.
The fundamentals of healthy eating
While some extreme diets may suggest otherwise, we all need a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals in our diets to maintain a healthy body. You do not need to eliminate certain categories of food from your diet, but rather select the healthiest options from each category.
Protein gives you the energy to get up and on — and on — while supporting mood and cognitive function. Too much protein can be harmful for people with kidney disease, but the latest research suggests that many of us need more high-quality protein, especially as we age. That doesn’t mean you have to eat more animal products; A variety of plant-based protein sources every day can ensure that your body gets all the essential protein it needs. Learn more ”
Fat. Not all fats are the same. While bad fats can ruin your diet and increase your risk for certain diseases, good fats protect your brain and heart. In fact, healthy fats, like omega-3s, are vital to your physical and emotional health. Including more healthy fats in your diet can help you improve your mood, increase your well-being, and even trim your waistline. Learn more ”
Fiber. Eating foods high in dietary fiber (cereals, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and beans) can help you stay regular and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also improve your skin and even help you lose weight. Learn more ”
Calcium. In addition to causing osteoporosis, not getting enough calcium in your diet can also contribute to anxiety, depression, and trouble sleeping. Regardless of your age or gender, it is vital to include calcium-rich foods in your diet, limit those that deplete calcium, and get enough magnesium and vitamins D and K to help calcium do its job. Learn more ”
Carbohydrates are one of your body’s main sources of energy. But most should come from unrefined and complex carbohydrates (vegetables, whole grains, fruits) rather than refined sugars and carbohydrates. Cutting back on white bread, cakes, starches, and sugar can prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, fluctuations in mood and energy, and a build-up of fat, especially around the waistline.
Making the switch to a healthy diet
Switching to a healthy diet doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to completely eliminate the foods you enjoy, and you don’t have to change everything at once; that usually just leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan.
A better approach is to make a few small changes at a time. Keeping your goals modest can help you achieve more in the long run without feeling deprived or overwhelmed by a major diet overhaul. Think of planning a healthy diet as a series of small, manageable steps, like adding a salad to your diet once a day. As your little changes become a habit, you can continue to add healthier options.
Preparing for success
To set yourself up for success, try to keep things simple. Eating a healthier diet doesn’t have to be complicated. Instead of worrying too much about counting calories, for example, think about your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. Focus on avoiding packaged and processed foods and opt for more fresh ingredients whenever possible.
Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you are eating and better control exactly what goes into your food. You’ll eat fewer calories and avoid chemical additives, added sugar, and unhealthy fats in packaged and takeout foods that can make you feel tired, bloated, and irritable, and exacerbate symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.
Make the correct changes. When reducing unhealthy foods in your diet, it is important to replace them with healthy alternatives. Replacing dangerous trans fats with healthy fats (like swapping fried chicken for grilled salmon) will make a positive difference to your health. However, swapping animal fats for refined carbohydrates (like swapping bacon for breakfast for a bagel) won’t lower your risk of heart disease or improve your mood.
Read the labels. It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food, as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats in packaged foods, even foods that claim to be healthy.
Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help foster new healthy habits and tastes. The healthier the food you eat, the better you will feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or lacking energy.
Drink plenty of water. Water helps cleanse our system of waste products and toxins; however, many of us go through life dehydrated, which causes tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s common to confuse thirst with hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.
Moderation: important to any healthy diet
What is moderation? In essence, it means eating only the amount of food that your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not full. For many of us, moderation means eating less than we eat now. But it doesn’t mean eliminating the foods you like. Eating bacon for breakfast once a week, for example, might be considered moderation if you follow it up with a healthy lunch and dinner, but not if you follow it up with a box of donuts and sausage pizza.
Try not to think of certain foods as “forbidden”. When you forbid certain foods, it is natural to want those foods more and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. Start by reducing the portion sizes of unhealthy foods and not eating them as often. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find that you crave them less or consider them only occasional indulgences.
Think in smaller portions. Portion sizes have exploded recently. When dining out, choose a starter instead of a main course, split a plate with a friend, and don’t order anything oversized. At home, visual cues can help with portion sizes. Your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards, and a half cup of mashed potatoes, rice, or pasta should be the size of a traditional lightbulb. By serving your meals on smaller plates or in bowls, you can trick your brain into thinking it is a larger serving. If you don’t feel full at the end of a meal, add more leafy greens or complete the meal with fruit.
Take your time. It is important to slow down and think of food as food rather than just something to swallow between meetings or on the way to pick up children. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that you have had enough, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.
Eat with other people whenever possible. Eating alone, especially in front of the television or computer, often leads to mindless overeating.
Limit snacking at home. Be careful with the food you have on hand. It’s harder to eat in moderation if you have unhealthy snacks and treats ready. Instead, surround yourself with healthy options and when you’re ready to reward yourself with a special treat, go out and get it.
Control emotional eating. We don’t always eat just to satisfy hunger. Many of us also turn to food to relieve stress or deal with unpleasant emotions like sadness, loneliness, or boredom. But by learning healthier ways to manage stress and emotions, you can regain control over the food you eat and your feelings.
Add more fruit and vegetables to your diet
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Focus on eating the recommended daily allowance of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables and it will naturally fill you up and help you cut down on unhealthy foods. A serving is half a cup of raw fruit or vegetables or a small apple or banana, for example. Most of us need to double the amount we currently eat.
To increase your intake:
- Add antioxidant-rich berries to your favorite breakfast cereal
- Eat a sweet fruit mix (oranges, mangoes, pineapple, grapes) for dessert.
- Swap your usual rice or pasta side dish for a colorful salad
- Instead of eating processed snacks, eat vegetables like carrots, peas, or cherry tomatoes along with a spicy hummus or peanut butter sauce.
How to make vegetables tasty
While simple salads and steamed veggies can quickly go bland, there are plenty of ways to add flavor to your veggie dishes.
Add color. Brighter and deeper colored vegetables not only contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but they can also vary in flavor and make meals more visually appealing. Add color using fresh or sun-dried tomatoes, glazed carrots or beets, roasted red cabbage wedges, yellow squash, or sweet, colorful bell peppers.
Bring salad greens to life. Extend beyond the lettuce. Kale, arugula, spinach, mustard greens, broccoli, and bok choy are packed with nutrients. To add flavor to your salad greens, try drizzling with olive oil, adding a spicy dressing, or sprinkling with sliced almonds, chickpeas, a little bacon, Parmesan, or goat cheese.
Satisfy your sweet tooth. Naturally sweet vegetables, such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, bell peppers, and squash, add sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for added sugar. Add them to soups, stews or pasta sauces for a sweet and satisfying touch.
Cook green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus in new ways. Instead of boiling or steaming these healthy sides, try roasting, broiling, or frying them in a skillet with chili flakes, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, or onions. Or marinate in spicy lemon or lime before cooking.