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. Every change you make to improve your diet matters.
2. Moderation is key.
People often think of healthy eating as an all or nothing proposition, but a key foundation for any healthy diet is moderation. 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. Try not to think of certain foods as “off limits.” Think smaller portions.
3. It’s not what you eat, it’s how you eat it.
Eat with others whenever possible. Eating with other people has numerous social and emotional benefits—particularly for children—and 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. 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.
4. Fill up on colorful fruits and vegetables.
The brighter, deeper colored fruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants—and different colors provide different benefits. Fruits and vegetables should be part of every meal and your first choice for a snack—aim for a minimum of five portions each day. The antioxidants and other nutrients in fruits and vegetables help protect against certain types of cancer and other diseases.
5. Eat more healthy carbs and whole grains.
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.
Found in plant foods (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) is essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. Fiber helps support a healthy diet by helping you feel full faster and for a longer amount of time, and keeping your blood sugar stable. A healthy diet contains approximately 20-30 grams of fiber a day, but most of us only get about half that amount.
The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble.
6. Enjoy healthy fats and 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. Good sources of healthy fat are:
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).
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, and flaxseed oils, and walnuts.
7. Put protein in perspective.
Protein gives us the energy to get up and go—and keep going. Protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body’s basic building blocks for growth and energy, and essential for maintaining cells, tissues and organs. A lack of protein in our diet can slow growth, reduce muscle mass, lower immunity, and weaken the heart and respiratory system.
· Downsize your portions of protein. Most people in the U.S. eat too much protein. Try to move away from protein being the center of your meal. Focus on equal servings of protein, whole grains, and vegetables.
· Focus on quality sources of protein, like fresh fish, chicken or turkey, tofu, eggs, beans or nuts. When you are having meat, chicken, or turkey, buy meat that is free of hormones and antibiotics.
8. Add Calcium and Vitamin D for strong bones.
Calcium and vitamin D are essential for strong, healthy bones—vitamin D is essential for optimum calcium absorption in the small intestine. Recommended calcium levels are 1000 mg per day, 1200 mg if you are over 50 years old. Take a vitamin D and calcium supplement if you don’t get enough of these nutrients from your diet.
9. Limit sugar, salt and refined grains.
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 diet—sugar, salt and refined starches.
· Give recipes a makeover
· Avoid sugary drinks
· Eliminate processed foods.
· Limit sodium to 2,300 mg per day.
· Avoid packaged, restaurant and fast food.
10. Plan quick and easy meals ahead.
Healthy eating starts with great planning. You will have won half the healthy diet battle if you have a well-stocked kitchen, a stash of quick and easy recipes, and plenty of healthy snacks. If you have three or four meals planned per week and eat leftovers on the other nights, you will be much farther ahead than if you are eating out or having frozen dinners most nights. In general, healthy eating ingredients are found around the outer edges of most grocery stores—fresh fruits and vegetables, fish and poultry, whole grain breads and dairy products. So shop perimeter of the grocery store.
For healthy eating on a budget, read here.