Healthy eating provides your body the nutrition it needs every day. It also balances your caloric intake, helping to manage your weight. If your body does not get the required nutrients, your become more susceptible to fatigue and vulnerable to infections and chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, type II diabetes and certain cancers.
Eating nutrient-rich foods can help reduce inflammation and boost your immunity. In addition, healthy eating has been consistently associated with good mental health and overall well-being.
Eating a healthy diet is not as complicated as you might think. Basically, it’s about eating lots of plant foods – vegetables, fruit, whole grains, legumes (e.g. beans, peas, lentils), nuts – and restricting highly processed foods. A balanced diet must be built up on a daily basis in order to avoid any deficiencies or excesses. To avoid falling into either one, we’re sharing our top 10 healthy eating tips.
10 Simple Tips To Make Healthy Eating Easy
1. Start a food log or take some pictures
To gain a better understanding of your current diet, you can use the log book to track all things you eat (treats, snacks, and beverages) for at most a week. You may be surprised at how well you are doing. You might also find some areas that need to be cleaned up or improved.
It is also helpful to make notes in your food log about unwanted symptoms you may be having. Food can affect you for upwards of 72 hours after you eat it, so this can help you correlate what you are eating and how you feel – even days later. It can also be helpful to take a quick picture of your meals and snacks before eating. This acts as a great scale for you. When you flip through the last day or so of meals and snacks, are they rich, bright, and colorful? Or, are they bland, dull, and processed? Chances are, your body and mind will be feeling similar to how your food looks.
2. Identify processed foods
After bringing awareness to your day-today diet, what are processed foods are you eating that may have dangerous additives? If you can’t pronounce the word, beware – it is likely a nasty chemical. Ingredients that have been linked to many forms of disease and poor health should be minimized or eliminated:
- White sugar and high fructose corn syrup
- Artificial sweeteners
- Trans fat (hydrogenated oils)
- Preservatives (BHA, BHT, sodium benzoate, sodium nitrate, etc.)
- Food colorings
- MSG (commonly masked as autolyzed yeast, textured protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, brown rice syrup, and more)
3. Identify whole foods
Whole foods are those that have been minimally processed and that provide the vital nutrients necessary to create a strong, dis-ease free body that can rock this world every day! Figure out which whole foods you are enjoying already and add more of them into your daily diet.
- Veggies and fruit
- Quality meat, fish, eggs, and poultry
- Nuts and seeds
- Unrefined fats and oils
- Minimally processed whole grains and legumes
4. Set SMART goals
Now that you have evaluated your diet and identified both the processed foods and the whole foods, it’s time to set some goals for change. Goals can help you eliminate processed, food filled with additives, or help you add in whole food.
Some people find that adding in a whole food first, makes eliminating processed foods later on much easier. They tend to feel less deprived and actually very satisfied both nutritionally and mentally when it comes time to cut back on junk.
Others feel amazingly better after eliminating a certain processed, chemical-filled food or drink. Often times, this increase in health is encouraging enough to motivate them to continue making positive changes which often includes increasing certain whole foods. Regardless of the desired outcome, S.M.A.R.T. goals are the best. So, be Specific about what you want. Make sure the change is Measurable, Attainable,
and Realistic. Also, make it Time Bound. Here are a few examples of S.M.A.R.T. goals:
S.M.A.R.T. goal example #1:
If you currently drink 3 diet soft drinks each day – I will drink 1 diet soft drink each day for the next two weeks.
S.M.A.R.T. goal example #2:
If you currently eat 1 serving of vegetables on 2 days per week – I will eat one serving of vegetables on 5 days this week.
NOTE: These goals do not suggest you never drink soft drinks again or to eat vegetables with every meal, every day of the week. These small changes are still going to be greatly beneficial over the long-run. As you accomplish your first goals, make new ones that will move you another step closer to whole food living.
5. Practice meal planning
Before heading to the store, spend some time planning out the next week or two of meals. If that seems unreasonable, sit down for 5-10 minutes each day and add a recipe or two that you are inspired by to your upcoming meal plan. Then, add the necessary ingredients to your shopping list. This extra effort will:
- Help you save money
- Eliminate the risk of getting home with only half the necessary ingredients for a recipe
- Minimize trips to the store
Don’t overwhelm yourself with all new recipes each week. Experiment with a few, but be sure to find some quick, easy, whole food recipes that you can rely on.
6. Learn to read the labels
This is critical for understanding what you’re buying. If you dread this part or find yourself too overwhelmed by it, start by reducing the processed foods (usually found in the inner aisles) that have more labels to read than the fresh food found on the perimeter of the store. When choosing foods with a packaging, look for:
- Quality nutrients – more important than calories
- Short ingredient lists
- Words you know – the ones you can’t read are likely nasty chemicals and additives
- Non-GMO project items
- Packages without strong marketing (ex. low-fat, sugar-free)
7. Put in some prep time
The more work you do at the start of the week, the more convenient whole food eating will be during the week.
- Clean, dry, and chop produce for snacks and upcoming meals
- Make smoothies and store in air-tight jars for quick meal replacements or snacks
- Package quick snacks like nuts, veggies and hummus, whole fruit, or sweet potato chips and store shelf-stable snacks in your brief case, purse, car, or desk drawer for when hunger strikes
- Make a large meal that will allow for leftovers to eat during the week
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8. Put thought into restaurant food choices
You don’t have to stop eating out or deprive yourself when you do. Just work on choosing fresh, simple items from the menu. Thankfully, many restaurants are catching on to the demand for less-processed food. Take advantage of fresh produce, grilled meats, and minimally
processed sides that aren’t fried.
9. Consider taking a vitamin and mineral supplement
The best strategy for staying healthy is to eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods. However, supplements cannot replace healthy foods, which provide countless disease-fighting compounds. Nevertheless, some people may benefit, for whatever reason, from strengthening their diet by taking a daily vitamin and mineral supplement.
In some cases, it may be difficult to meet daily nutrient needs through diet alone. Stress, work demands and lack of time and energy can be barriers to healthy eating. Taking a daily supplement ensures that the recommended intake of most vitamins and minerals is met.
This is especially true for menstruating women with higher iron requirements and for people on a calorie-restricted diet. Women of childbearing age – especially those trying to become pregnant – should ensure that their folic acid needs are met to prevent birth defects such as spina bifida. In addition, it is recommended that adults over the age of 50 take a vitamin B12 supplement or consume vitamin B12 fortified foods, as the ability to digest this vitamin from food decreases with age.
If you think you could benefit from taking a vitamin and mineral supplement, talk to your dietitian or doctor so that they can advise you on the best product for you. If you are taking medication, ask about possible interactions between it and supplements.
Read also: Vitamin D and Kids – What You Need to Know
10. Build your support team
You will be amazed by how many people want to make better food choices and just need the support to get started. Build excitement around whole food eating. It’s so much easier to maintain these changes when you spend time with people who have the same beliefs.
- Recruit your family to help prep and cook
- Let kids help pick new, whole foods to try
- Start a friendly competition and reward good choices
- Make big smoothies and share
- Host a whole food pot luck
- Stock the community fridge and break room with whole food
It cannot be said often enough that eating a healthy and balanced diet is the best way to stay healthy and maintain your weight. A diet can make you lose weight, sometimes a lot of it in a very short time, but often the pounds are put back on just as quickly. Above all, when a diet is started without the supervision of a qualified professional, it can lead to real deficiencies. So forget about highly restrictive diets and miracle products that promise to lose weight in record time. Powders, milk shakes and other so-called healthy snacks are in fact the opposite of a healthy diet. It is better to eat a reasonable amount of everything, choose good seasonal products and above all take the time to cook them yourself.