Many people want to eat healthy, but they don’t fully understand what healthy is. There are so many different fad diets, health claims, and recommendations and they always seem to be changing. Most people are so confused, they remain eating the way they do. Here is a simple breakdown of what it means to eat healthy.
Characteristics of a Healthy DIet
1. Variety and Moderation
Is eating spinach, grilled chicken, and brown rice for dinner 5 days a week healthy? No. Variety and moderation are important characteristics of a healthy diet. Not one food contains all the nutrients needed for health. Therefore, we need to make it a goal to consume a variety of foods in moderate amounts.
How do I do this?
- Moderation is the avoidance of excess. Try not to have an excess of one food making up your diet.
- Make it a goal to never purchase the same item two weeks in a row. Switch it up! Buy apples one week, pears the next, peaches the next, and so on. Buy spinach one week, bok choy the next, kale the next, romaine the next, and so on. Note: You can sub any of these out for each other in recipes.
- Branch out and try new things. Buy something you have never eaten before, find a recipe online, and try it. This is a great way to find new favorite foods!
- Don’t only focus on super foods. There is not one cure all food. If a food claims this, they are just marketing. Eat those foods, but also focus on variety, moderation, and balance.
Just as it is important to balance your life, it is also important to balance your diet. A healthy diet needs to have a healthy balance between proteins, fruits, vegetables, fats, and grains. Below is a graphic on this balance, save it for future use.
How do I do this?
- When balancing your diet, focus as healthy as possible in each category. For example, quality carb-rich foods are plant foods that are whole and non-processed. Think wheat over white, and brown grains over white grains. Proteins can be more than meat. Think legumes, beans, grains, quinoa, and nuts. Fats should be healthy fats like nuts, avocados, vegetable oils and nut butters. Fruits and vegetables should be fresh instead of canned or frozen.
- When creating your grocery list, use clear categories like grains, fruits, vegetables, proteins, fats, etc. You will be able to visibly see what you are purchasing, and if you are over purchasing in one category. I strongly believe you can never over purchase fruits and vegetables.
A healthy diet should be sustainable. This means you should be able to eat this way for a long period of time without becoming bored or ill. This is the best way to maintain a healthy weight. Yo-yo dieting is horrible for health, and does not show long-term weight loss results. Fad diets are usually not sustainable.
There is a reason, besides pleasure and social gatherings, human beings consume food. It is because we need to fuel our body’s processes. Just like cars, our bodies need these nutrients to run, otherwise we will breakdown. It is important to provide your body with an adequate amount of food. Never under eat or drastically cut calories to lose weight. This is unsafe. It will make your body panic and hold onto calories for storage. On the other hand, never over eat. This will pack on more calories than your body can burn off.
How do I do this?
- If you want to track your calories, you can use a calorie tracker to see if you are getting an adequate amount for your needs. Here is a link to a reliable source to do this: https://www.supertracker.usda.gov/
- Pay attention to how you feel when you eat. If you feel hungry, eat healthy foods. When you feel satisfied, stop eating. If you were taught to clean your plate to avoid food waste, wrap up the food and save it for later.
- Eat 5-7 small meals and snacks, rather than 3 big meals.
- Don’t mistake hunger for thirst. If you just ate to satisfaction and you feel hungry again, maybe you are thirsty. Grab a glass of water instead, and see if you are still hungry in several moments.
- Watch out for triggers. Appetite is different than hunger. Sometime you will smell or see something yummy and your appetite will want it, but that does not mean you are hungry.
Eating healthy can be very rewarding and easy. I hope this was helpful!
For more information on consuming a healthy diet click here.
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