Health & Fitness

Healthy Eating

Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet and Sticking to It


Improving Emotional Health


Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, its about feeling great, having more energy, and stabilizing your mood. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, youre not alone. It seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you, youll find another saying exactly the opposite. But by using these simple tips, you can cut through the confusion and learn how to create a tasty, varied, and healthy diet.

Healthy eating tip 1: Set yourself up for success

To set yourself up for success, think about planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps rather than one big drastic change. If you approach the changes gradually and with commitment, you will have a healthy diet sooner than you think.

  • Simplify. Instead of being overly concerned with counting calories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. This way it should be easier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easy recipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet will become healthier and more delicious.
  • Start slow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying to make your diet healthy overnight isnt realistic or smart. Changing everything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different color vegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil when cooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices to your diet.
  • Every change you make to improve your diet matters. You dont have to be perfect and you dont have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The long term goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Dont let your missteps derail youevery healthy food choice you make counts.

Think of water and exercise as food groups in your diet.

Water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many people go through life dehydratedcausing tiredness, low energy, and headaches. Its common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make healthier food choices.

Exercise. Find something active that you like to do and add it to your day, just like you would add healthy greens, blueberries, or salmon. The benefits of lifelong exercise are abundant and regular exercise may even motivate you to make healthy food choices a habit.

Healthy eating tip 2: Moderation is key

Harvard Healthy Eating PlatePeople often think of healthy eating as an all or nothing proposition, but a key foundation for any healthy diet is moderation. But what is moderation? In essence, it means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed. Moderation is also about balance. Despite what certain fad diets would have you believe, we all need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body.

The goal of healthy eating is to develop a diet that you can maintain for life, not just a few weeks or months, or until you’ve hit your ideal weight. For most of us, that means eating less than we do now. More specifically, it means eating far less of the unhealthy stuff (refined sugar, saturated fat, for example) and replacing it with the healthy (such as fresh fruit and vegetables). But it doesn’t mean eliminating the foods you love. Eating bacon for breakfast once a week, for example, could be considered moderation if you follow it with a healthy lunch and dinnerbut not if you follow it with a box of donuts and a sausage pizza. If you eat 100 calories of chocolate one afternoon, balance it out by deducting 100 calories from your evening meal. If you’re still hungry, fill up with an extra serving of fresh vegetables.

  • Try not to think of certain foods as off-limits. When you ban certain foods or food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like a failure if you give in to temptation. If you are drawn towards sweet, salty, or unhealthy foods, start by reducing portion sizes and not eating them as often. If the rest of your diet is healthy, eating a burger and fries once a week probably wont have too much of a detrimental effect on your health. Eating junk food just once a month will have even less of an impact. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.
  • Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently, particularly in restaurants. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything. At home, use smaller plates, think about serving sizes in realistic terms, and start small. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, try adding more leafy green vegetables or rounding off the meal with fresh fruit. Visual cues can help with portion sizesyour serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size of a traditional light bulb.

Healthy eating tip 3: It’s not just what you eat, it’s how you eat

Healthy EatingHealthy eating is about more than the food on your plateit is also about how you think about food. Healthy eating habits can be learned and it is important to slow down and think about food as nourishment rather than just something to gulp down in between meetings or on the way to pick up the kids.

  • Eat with others whenever possible. Eating with other people has numerous social and emotional benefitsparticularly for childrenand allows you to model healthy eating habits. Eating in front of the TV or computer often leads to mindless overeating.
  • Take time to chew your food and enjoy mealtimes. Chew your food slowly, savoring every bite. We tend to rush though our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavors and feel the textures of our food. Reconnect with the joy of eating.
  • Listen to your body. Ask yourself if you are really hungry, or have a glass of water to see if you are thirsty instead of hungry. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.
  • Eat breakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, and eating small, healthy meals throughout the day (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up and your metabolism going.
  • Avoid eating at night. Try to eat dinner earlier in the day and then fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Early studies suggest that this simple dietary adjustmenteating only when youre most active and giving your digestive system a long break each daymay help to regulate weight. After-dinner snacks tend to be high in fat and calories so are best avoided, anyway.

Healthy eating tip 4: Fill up on colorful fruits and vegetables

Shop the perimeter of the grocery storeFruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet. They are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.

Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables every day and with every mealthe brighter the better. Colorful, deeply colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidantsand different colors provide different benefits, so eat a variety. Aim for a minimum of five portions each day.

Some great choices include:

  • Greens. Branch out beyond bright and dark green lettuce. Kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are just a few of the optionsall packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.
  • Sweet vegetables. Naturally sweet vegetablessuch as corn, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, onions, and squashadd healthy sweetness to your meals and reduce your cravings for other sweets.
  • Fruit. Fruit is a tasty, satisfying way to fill up on fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Berries are cancer-fighting, apples provide fiber, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, and so on.

The importance of getting vitamins from foodnot pills

The antioxidants and other nutrients in fruits and vegetables help protect against certain types of cancer and other diseases. And while advertisements abound for supplements promising to deliver the nutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables in pill or powder form, research suggests that its just not the same.

A daily regimen of nutritional supplements is not going to have the same impact of eating right. Thats because the benefits of fruits and vegetables dont come from a single vitamin or an isolated antioxidant.

The health benefits of fruits and vegetables come from numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals working together synergistically. They cant be broken down into the sum of their parts or replicated in pill form.

Healthy eating tip 5: Eat more healthy carbs and whole grains

Choose healthy carbohydrates and fiber sources, especially whole grains, for long lasting energy. In addition to being delicious and satisfying, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronary heart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart.

A quick definition of healthy carbs and unhealthy carbs

Healthy carbs (sometimes known as good carbs) include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly, helping you feel full longer and keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable.

Unhealthy carbs (or bad carbs) are foods such as white flour, refined sugar, and white rice that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. Unhealthy carbs digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy.

Tips for eating more healthy carbs

Whole Grain Stamp

  • Include a variety of whole grains in your healthy diet, including whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley. Experiment with different grains to find your favorites.
  • Make sure you’re really getting whole grains. Be aware that the words stone-ground, multi-grain, 100% wheat, or bran can be deceptive. Look for the words whole grain or 100% whole wheat at the beginning of the ingredient list. In the U.S., Canada, and some other countries, check for the Whole Grain Stamps that distinguish between partial whole grain and 100% whole grain.
  • Try mixing grains as a first step to switching to whole grains. If whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta dont sound good at first, start by mixing what you normally use with the whole grains. You can gradually increase the whole grain to 100%.

Avoid: Refined foods such as breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.

Healthy eating tip 6: Enjoy healthy fats & avoid unhealthy fats

Good sources of healthy fat are needed to nourish your brain, heart, and cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Foods rich in certain omega-3 fats called EPA and DHA are particularly important and can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, and help prevent dementia.

Add to your healthy diet:

  • Monounsaturated fats, from plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil, as well as avocados, nuts (like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), and seeds (such as pumpkin, sesame).
  • Polyunsaturated fats, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold water fish oil supplements. Other sources of polyunsaturated fats are unheated sunflower, corn, soybean, flaxseed oils, and walnuts.

Reduce or eliminate from your diet:

  • Saturated fats, found primarily in animal sources including red meat and whole milk dairy products.
  • Trans fats, found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies, cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

What is a healthy daily limit for saturated fat and trans fat?

Experts recommend you limit the amount of saturated fats you eat to less than 7 percent of total daily calories.That means, for example, if you need about 2,000 calories a day, no more than 140 of them should come from saturated fats.Thats about 16 grams of saturated fat a day.

No more than 20 of those caloriesshould come fromtransfat.Thats less than 2 grams oftransfat a day. Given the amount of naturally occurringtransfat you probably eat every day, this leaves virtually no room at all for industrially manufacturedtransfat.

Source: American Heart Association

Healthy eating tip 7: Put protein in perspective

Protein gives us the energy to get up and goand keep going. Protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the bodys basic building blocks for growth and energy, and essential for maintaining cells, tissues, and organs. While too much protein can be harmful to people with kidney disease, the latest research suggests that most of us need more high-quality protein than the current dietary recommendations. It also suggests that we need more protein as we age to maintain physical function.

How much protein do you need?

Protein needs are based on weight rather than calorie intake. Adults should eat at least 0.8g of protein per kilogram (2.2lb) of body weight per day. A higher intake may help to lower your risk for obesity, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, and stroke.

  • Older adults should aim for 1 to 1.5 grams of protein for each kilogram of weight. This translates to 68 to 102g of protein per day for a person weighing 150 lbs.
  • Divide your protein intake among meals but aim for 25 to 40g of high-quality protein per meal; less than 15g wont benefit bone or muscle.
  • Get plenty of calcium (1,000 to 1,200 mg per day).

Source: Environmental Nutrition

The key to ensuring you eat high-quality protein is to try different types, rather than relying on red meat and whole milk dairy products which are high in saturated fat. Trying different healthy protein sources such as fish, beans, nuts, seeds, peas, tofu, chicken, and soy products will open up new options for healthy mealtimes.

Good Sources of Protein *

The following is a sampling of high-protein foodssome may not be healthy to eat in anything but moderation. Most red meat is very high in fat, as are whole-milk cheeses and the skin on chicken or turkey. In the U.S., non-organic meat and poultry may also contain antibiotics and hormones.Aim for sufficient protein intake at each mealincluding breakfastin the leanest and healthiest form.
FoodServing sizeProtein
grams

Sat. fat (g)

Calories
FISH
Canned tuna3.5 oz (100g)19

0.2

86
Salmon3.5 oz (100g)21

0.8

130
Halibut3.5 oz (100g)23

0.4

111
Fresh tuna3.5 oz (100g)30

1.6

184
POULTRY (skinless)
Turkey breast3.5 oz (100g)31

0.6

147
Chicken breast3.5 oz (100g)31

1

165
Chicken thigh3.5 oz (100g)25

2.3

179
Chicken leg3.5 oz (100g)24

2.1

174
MEAT
Pork chops1 chop (145g)39

5

286
Skirt steak3.5 oz (100g)27

4

205
Ground beef (70% lean)3.5 oz (100g)14

11

332
Leg of lamb3.5 oz (100g)26

6.9

258
Cured ham3.5 oz (100g)23

9

178
LEGUMES
Soy beans1/3 cup (100g)17

1.3

173
Kidney beans1/3 cup (100g)10

0

123
Black beans1/3 cup (100g)9

0.1

132
Baked beans (canned)1/3 cup (100g)5

0

94
Peas1/3 cup (100g)8

0

118
MILK & EGGS
Skim milk1/2 cup (100g)3.4

0

34
Soy milk1/2 cup (100g)3.3

0.2

54
Eggs2 boiled (100g)13

3.3

155
Egg white3 eggs (100g)11

0

52
CHEESE
Non-fat mozzarella3.5 oz (100g)32

0

141
Non-fat cottage cheese3.5 oz (100g)10

0

72
Low-fat cheddar3.5 oz (100g)24

4.3

173
Low-fat Swiss cheese3.5 oz (100g)28

3.3

179
NUTS & SEEDS
Peanuts1/4 cup (28g)7

2

164
Almonds1/4 cup (28g)6

1

167
Pistachios1/4 cup (28g)6

1

159
Sunflower seeds1/4 cup (28g)6

2

166
Flaxseed1/4 cup (28g)5

1

150
OTHER PROTEIN OPTIONS
Veggie burger1 patty (100g)23

2

219
Tofu3.5 oz (100g)7

0.3

55
High-protein cereal1 cup (50g)13

1

160
Greek yogurt (non-fat)1/2 cup (100g)10

0

59
Whey protein powder1/3 cup (32g)19

0.2

120
* Nutrition values are approximate only; significant variations occur according to brand, cut of meat, cooking method, etc.

Healthy eating tip 8: Add calcium for strong bones

Add Calcium for Strong BonesCalcium is one of the key nutrients that your body needs in order to stay strong and healthy. It is an essential building block for lifelong bone health in both men and women, as well as many other important functions.

You and your bones will benefit from eating plenty of calcium-rich foods, limiting foods that deplete your bodys calcium stores, and getting your daily dose of magnesium and vitamins D and Knutrients that help calcium do its job.

Recommended calcium levels are 1000 mg per day, 1200 mg if you are over 50 years old. Try to get as much of your daily calcium needs from food as possible and use only low-dose calcium supplements to make up any shortfall.

Good sources of calcium include:

  • Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form that is easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, yogurt, and cheese.
  • Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables, especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try turnip greens, mustard greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli, fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and crimini mushrooms.
  • Beans: For another rich source of calcium, try black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans, black-eyed peas, or baked beans.

Healthy eating tip 9: Limit sugar and salt

If you succeed in planning your diet around fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and good fats, you may find yourself naturally cutting back on foods that can get in the way of your healthy dietsugar and salt.

Sugar

Sugar causes energy ups and downs and can add to health and weight problems. Unfortunately, reducing the amount of candy, cakes, and desserts we eat is only part of the solution. Often you may not even be aware of the amount of sugar youre consuming each day. Large amounts of added sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashed potatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, soy sauce, and ketchup. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid sugary drinks. One 12-oz soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in it, more than the daily recommended limit! Try sparkling water with lemon or a splash of fruit juice.
  • Sweeten foods yourself. Buy unsweetened iced tea, plain yogurt, or unflavored oatmeal, for example, and add sweetener (or fruit) yourself. Youre likely to add far less sweetener than the manufacturer would have.
  • Eat naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or natural peanut butter to satisfy your sweet tooth. Keep these foods handy instead of candy or cookies.

How sugar is hidden on food labels

Check food labels carefully. Sugar is often disguised using terms such as:

  • cane sugar or maple syrup
  • corn sweetener or corn syrup
  • honey or molasses
  • brown rice syrup
  • crystallized or evaporated cane juice
  • fruit juice concentrates, such as apple or pear
  • maltodextrin (or dextrin)
  • Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, or Sucrose

Salt

Most of us consume too much salt in our diets. Eating too much salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems. Try to limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day, the equivalent of one teaspoon of salt.

  • Avoid processed or pre-packaged foods. Processed foods like canned soups or frozen dinners contain hidden sodium that quickly surpasses the recommended limit.
  • Be careful when eating out. Most restaurant and fast food meals are loaded with sodium. Some offer lower-sodium choices or you can ask for your meal to be made without salt. Most gravy and sauces are loaded with salt, so ask for it to be served on the side.
  • Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables instead of canned vegetables.
  • Cut back on salty snacks such as potato chips, nuts, and pretzels.
  • Check labels and choose low-salt or reduced-sodium products, including breakfast cereals.
  • Slowly reduce the salt in your diet to give your taste buds time to adjust.

Healthy eating tip 10: Bulk up on fiber

Eating foods high in dietary fiber can help you stay regular, lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes, and help you lose weight. Depending on your age and gender, nutrition experts recommend you eat at least 21 to 38 grams of fiber per day for optimal health. Many of us aren’t eating half that amount.

  • In general, the more natural and unprocessed the food, the higher it is in fiber.
  • Good sources of fiber include whole grains, wheat cereals, barley, oatmeal, beans, nuts, vegetables such as carrots, celery, and tomatoes, and fruits such as apples, berries, citrus fruits, and pearsmore good reasons to add more fruit and vegetables to your diet.
  • There is no fiber in meat, dairy, or sugar. Refined or white foods, such as white bread, white rice, and pastries, have had all or most of their fiber removed.
  • An easy way to add more fiber to your diet is to start your day with a whole grain cereal, such as Fiber-One or All-Bran, or by adding unprocessed wheat bran to your favorite cereal.

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