Eating healthy is crucial to maintaining good health. Fortunately, it’s easier than it sounds. If you think of eating healthy not as a sacrifice, but more as an opportunity for self-improvement, you’re almost at the finish line. You don’t need someone to tell you the numerous health benefits that putting away the donuts and hamburgers will get you. You want someone to show you how it’s done. Read on to learn how to eat healthy and properly.
Choose a Healthy Diet
Eat a balanced diet. Include a healthy balance of nutrient-rich carbohydrates, protein, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. This will help make sure your body gets the right balance of the vital vitamins and minerals it needs in order to keep you strong and healthy. Try to eat a diet of 30% vegetables, 20% fruit, 20% carbohydrates, 20% protein, and 10% dairy products.
Know the difference between good fat and bad fat. You need to consume fat for your body, to function correctly. However, it’s important to choose the right kind of fats.
- Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats are form of unsaturated fat commonly found in processed foods, and consuming them raises your risk of heart disease. Read the labels of what you eat, and look for “hydrogenated” anything on the ingredient list.
- Monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are good fats, which you should try to consume regularly. They help lower the “bad cholesterol” in your body by raising “good cholesterol”. Foods that are high in fatty acids are olive oil, nuts, fish oil, and various seed oils. Adding these “good” fats to your weekly diet can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Eat lean, mean protein. Protein helps you to build muscle and gives you the lasting energy throughout the day. Aim to get between 10% and 35% of your daily calories from protein. Some examples of healthy proteins include:
- Lean fish such as flounder, sole, cod, bass, perch, and halibut.
- Legumes like beans and soy products.
- Lean poultry such as chicken or duck breast.
- Nuts like cashews.
Choose the right carbohydrates. Simple carbs, like sugar and flour, are quickly absorbed by the body’s digestive system. This causes a kind of carb overload, and your body releases huge amounts of insulin, to combat the overload. Eat these in moderation.
On the other hand, complex carbs are slowly digested by the body. They include whole-grain flour, hearty vegetables, oats, and unprocessed grains, like brown rice. These foods are usually higher in vitamins and other nutrients that are beneficial for the body, and they are higher in fiber (which keeps your digestive system running smoothly).
- Choose wheat (brown) bread instead of white bread and whole wheat pasta instead of “normal” pasta. Processed carbohydrates, such as those found in white bread are harder to draw nutrients from, and therefore constitute empty calories. Plain oat meal is also very healthy for you.
- Eat leafy greens like kale, mustard greens, collard greens, and Swiss chard. They are packed with nutrients and will fill you up very quickly. Have a simple sauté with olive oil, garlic, a little salt and pepper, which will be surprisingly tasty meal as well as nutritious.
Watch your salt intake. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and excessive stomach acid. Use salt sparingly, and always check labels on food for the “reduced sodium” option, if it’s available.
Stock up on superfoods. So-called superfoods may have a misleading title, but some truly are cut above. Superfoods may have the ability to fight heart disease, stave off cancer, lower cholesterol, and even boost your mood.
- It may not sound appetizing, but then again when you read the list of health benefits you may think again. It is rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, as well as beneficial in managing natural flora in the gut.
- Blueberries may facilitate brain health. If you don’t have access to blueberries, then try fresh berries, cranberries, or raspberries.
- Another creature of the sea makes the list, and for good reason. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for blood pressure, brain function, and heart health.
Practice moderation. Don’t over-consume any one food or type of food. Instead, try to vary your diet so that you eat a little bit of everything in a moderate amount.
- Some people might be great at giving up meat, sugar, alcohol, or other foods. However, most of us are likely to give it up for awhile, then break down and binge. Avoid this deprivation-binge cycle by allowing yourself to have small “cheats”. For instance, if you want to eat less sugar, allow yourself to eat one dessert each Friday night and abstain for the rest of the week.
Change Your Mindset
Adopt a healthy attitude towards food. Take a look at your eating habits. Do you eat more when you feel stressed? Do you withhold food from yourself in order to feel like you’re in control? Try to evaluate whether you have an unhealthy emotional attachment to food. If you do, here are few steps to consider:
- See food as sustenance. A lot of Western culture is rife with messages that food is for entertainment or for relieving boredom. Break yourself of this cognitive habit by consciously evaluating food in terms of what it can do to keep your body healthy. Ask yourself if what you’re about to put in your mouth is good for you, and if it will help your body function as it was designed to.
- Find a healthier replacement. If you find that you tend to gorge on unhealthy foods when you’re stressed, find a substitute activity.
- Consult a medical professional. Eating disorders are classified as mental illnesses, and you can’t always just talk yourself into stopping destructive behaviors.
Eat five times per day. You may consider eating three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), with two snacks in between. Doing this allows you to eat slightly less at your meals, giving your body a more manageable amount of food to digest, and keeps your blood sugar steadier throughout the day because you’re not going for six hours at a stretch without eating.
Watch your caloric intake. Calories are our body’s fuel. If you eat too many, your body will save up some of the extra (for a rainy day) and this is what makes us gain too much weight. Try counting your daily calories to make sure you aren’t exceeding the limit necessary to maintain your weight. If you’re eating way too many, or you want to lose weight, try cutting down your daily caloric intake to a reasonable amount and pair this with exercise.
Eat slowly. Have you ever gorged on a huge meal and felt fine immediately after, but felt like exploding 15 minutes later? This happens because it takes some time for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. Circumvent the problem by consuming your food slower. That way, by the time you get the message and start feeling satisfied, you haven’t consumed too much extra food.
- Drink a full glass of water throughout your meal. Stopping for sips will slow your eating, as well as helping you feel fuller.
- Slow yourself down by waiting 5 or 10 minutes between each course. Chew each bite of food 20 to 30 times before swallowing.
Don’t skip breakfast. Many people do this because they think they can drop pound, or they just don’t feel hungry in the morning. Although the scientific evidence is still inconclusive, there are several reasons why you might not want to skip what many people believe is the “most important meal of the day”.
- Eating breakfast gets your metabolism going and keeps it active throughout the morning. Skipping breakfast may kick off the “starvation response” in some people. Your brain says “There is no food! It has been hours! It must be a famine!” The next time you eat, the body stores as much fat as it possibly can.
Don’t eat a huge meal when you go out. It’s very reasonable to want to eat a delicious meal at a restaurant, especially if you aren’t a very good cook. But understand that restaurant meals are often way too big. You shouldn’t eat that much food in one sitting! Instead, eat only half the meal and save the rest for lunch the next day. You can also order an appetizer, rather than a full meal if you know those portions may be better.
Make Healthy Decisions
Stay away from fast food. As we all know fast food is bad for our health, yet it continues to remain a weekly staple for too many people. For one, fast food is often fried, processed, and excessively salty. Add soft drinks and fries and your meal could easily burn through half of your suggested caloric intake for the day. To add insult to injury, much of the fat contained in fast food is trans fat, the worst kind of fat.
Participate in Meatless Mondays. Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to give up eating meat one day per week. Eating less meat can have several health benefits, as most people already have enough protein in their diets. In fact, vegetarians and vegans weight less than meat-eaters, and live longer on average.
Avoid soft drinks, juices, sports and energy drinks, as well as other products containing artificial sweeteners. Giving up sugary drinks is one of the easiest ways, you can instantly improve your diet and become healthier. A can of coke adds 139 extra calories to your diet. A glass of grape juice will set you back even more. Try drinking water only to improve and aid digestion. A white chocolate creme frappuccino has whopping 500 calories. While it’s okay to treat yourself with these and other drinks every once in a while, it’s not a good idea to make them a regular part of your diet.
Drink lots of water every day. This is very important. You may think you are hungry when, in fact, you are really just thirsty. It also makes your liver and kidney a lot happier. Try adding a slice of lemon, lime, or orange to your water for a great taste; cucumber slices for an even crispier taste!
- Eight 8oz glasses of water are recommended for most adults, though some people need more and some people need less.
Drink one glass of wine or beer occasionally, but be wary of more. Adults who drink a glass of wine or beer with their meal report numerous health benefits, including improved memory function, reduced bacterial infection, and even boosted estrogen levels. Unfortunately, what may be good in small doses can be destructive in larger doses. Any more than two drinks of alcohol per day is probably detrimental for your health.
- Red wine, in particular, contains polyphenol, called resveratrol that scientists believe is particularly heart-healthy. Resveratrol improves the function of blood vessels in the heart and curbs the amount of “bad” cholesterol in your body.