Healthy food is no longer a problem.
“Eat healthily” – this is probably the most common nutrition advice you will hear. If you want to know more about healthy eating, it is not difficult as you may think. We all want to eat healthily when it comes down to it, but we don’t always know how. You don’t need strict food programs anymore. They can be costly, and honestly, they aren’t always easy to follow or even delicious. It would be best if you made some changes to your everyday dietary habits. The dietary guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 have recently been published on this and are scientifically proven to keep us healthy and fit when followed.
The principals of healthy eating
Recent dietary guidelines identified three basic principles for healthy eating.
- The whole foods and beverages we consume represent our eating patterns. It’s like a puzzle. Our eating pattern is measured according to the total calorie amount we need for a day, not by every single food we eat. While saturated fats, salt, sugar, etc. are unhealthy, the best thing is to stick to the recommended calorie intake. Choosing healthier options can come later once you are used to eating the proper amount of calories.
- Foods should be our primary source of nutritional needs. Every individual should fulfill their nutritional goals primarily by choosing nutrient-dense foods. Foods rich in vitamins, minerals, dietary fiber, and other natural ingredients positively affect our body. The excess amount of nutrition we can’t get from our foods can be enhanced by fortified foods or supplements.
- Healthy eating patterns are not strict; they are adaptable. We should have multiple options for establishing healthy eating patterns. These patterns are different from person to person and can vary based on cultural background, socio-economic status, access to healthy food, and personal food preferences.
How healthy food affects your life
Research-based evidence suggests that most noncommunicable diseases are associated with our eating habits. There is strong evidence that cardiovascular diseases, including the risk of heart attack and stroke, can be effectively controlled by healthy eating habits. Type 2 diabetes mellitus, certain cancers (colorectal, breast), neurological disorders, and congenital abnormalities also have an evidence-based association with our eating habits.
The recommended healthy eating plan is discussed below. When you decide to eat healthily, you can adjust the food choices within this plan based on likes and dislikes. Intake of mainly fruits and vegetables is identified as the best source of vitamins and minerals, while whole grain in slightly fewer amounts should provide plenty of fiber. Low-fat or fat-free dairy products, legumes, and lean meats are essential choices as well. However, even refined grains, sugar, and sugary foods or beverages also have a place. However, the amount and frequency are minimal. Sticking to this plan won’t be too tricky, and you can still enjoy some of the foods you love most.
Vegetables can be separated into five subgroups – dark green, red and orange, legumes (beans and peas), starchy, etc. You can eat healthy vegetables any way you prefer, either cooked or raw. All fresh, frozen, dried, and canned forms of vegetables are good choices. Vegetables are rich in vitamins (vitamin A, K, C, B6, thiamine, niacin, folate) and minerals (potassium, copper, magnesium, manganese, iron). Some vegetables are also rich in fiber. Each subgroup is specific for certain nutrients. As an example, red and orange vegetables have high amounts of vitamin A, and dark green vegetables are rich in vitamin K. Legumes will be increased in fiber. You can alter your choices of vegetables as you like. Having a wide variety of vegetables is good for balanced health. The recommended amount of vegetables for a 2000-calorie diet is 2½ cups per day.
Fruits are a good source of dietary fiber, potassium, and vitamin C. When you eat fruit, it is better to eat the whole fruit or 100% fruit juice without added sugar. Fruit juice has a lesser amount of fiber. Because of processing, fiber tends to break down, so eating the whole fruit is preferred. For a 2000-calorie diet, you need about 2 cups of fruit. That includes fresh, canned, and dried fruits. If you use canned fruit, it is best to choose low-sugar products. A ½ cup of dried fruits is equivalent to 1 cup of whole fresh fruit. Calculate your daily intake based on your preferences.
Grains contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, similar to vegetables. Grain choices should be mainly whole grains, although you will also likely choose some refined grains found in cookies, cakes, and snacks. These have little to no nutritional value and can lead to diabetes and obesity. Whole grains are preferred because it includes the entire kernel, including endosperm, bran, and germ. Refined grain has removed the bran and germ, comprised of all the necessary dietary fiber and iron. Also, refined grains will include saturated fats, added sugar, and sodium, which has to be limited as much as possible. For a 2000-calorie diet, six ounces of whole grain is recommended. Pregnant women and women who are trying to get pregnant are advised to eat plenty of whole-grain because it contains a high amount of folic acid, which helps with the neurological maturation of the baby and prevents neural tube defects.
Dairy products with low-fat content and soy milk (fortified with calcium, vitamins A, and D) are preferred more than whole milk or cheese, containing more than 2% saturated fat and high sodium. Products made from plants like coconut and almond are not considered dairy products because they have no similar nutrients as animal milk. Having 2 cups per day for children and 3 cups for adults is recommended. Dairy products are rich in calcium, which is excellent for preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal women and during pregnancy.
Foods that contain protein have two significant types of iron – haem, and non-haem. Haem containing protein foods are mainly animal-based products like lean meat, poultry, and eggs. And non-haem based products include legumes and germinating seed, which are plant-based products. Other than protein, these foods also have many different vitamins and minerals. Protein foods rich in iron are preferred during pregnancy and for women who wish to become pregnant shortly because they have more bioavailability than low-iron foods. About 5½ ounces of protein-rich foods is the recommended amount per day.
Follow these dietary habits
It cannot be easy to count calories every time you sit to eat. But if you do, it would be much better for you because you will know what calories you are consuming and what you have remaining for the day. Even without counting calories, a few steps can help you stick to your low-calorie targets. Consider these:
- Eat-in a place where you have control – There are places where you can control what you eat. Those places differ from person to person. In some areas, you may lose power. Identify those places and avoid them when possible.
- Make your grocery list – It’s better if you do the grocery shopping by yourself. You can read the labels and plan the foods you need to eat without influence from others.
- Plan your snacks – Snacks have adverse health effects. The best thing is to avoid snacks as much as possible. You can substitute snacks with fruits, vegetables, or nuts.
- Avoid sugary drinks as much as possible – Sugary beverages provide many unhealthy calories in a minimal period. That is good if you are an athlete who needs a lot of energy quickly. But if you are not, these extra calories are deposited as fat in our body.
- Increase your water intake – Research has shown that drinking 500 milliliters of water 30 minutes before each meal can increase weight loss by up to 44% within three months.
- Eat slowly – Take time when you eat. It gives time for your hormones to start working and improves satiety. The total amount you eat will be less.
Make your plate healthy.
You don’t need to make significant immediate changes to your plate. It’s troublesome for you, and you will have less success in your diet goals. There is a high chance you will become discouraged and give up the process. So, make a few changes to your dinner plate at a time.
- Rainbow plate – This is a concept that helps you add various colors of food to your plate. Dark green vegetables, red meat, yellow fruits, etc. will be pleasant to your eyes and tasty.
- Change high-calorie foods into low-calorie versions – If you usually eat fattening macaroni and cheese, try substituting it with a low-fat version. Try new methods of food preparation such as baking and broiling instead of frying. It will be a fun activity for you and improves your cooking knowledge as well.
- Eat high-calorie foods less frequently – If you enjoy certain foods with lots of calories, you don’t need to stop eating those altogether. You do have to eat them less often and probably in smaller portions. Maybe once or twice a month, you can have your favorite treat as a reward for making healthy choices and sticking with your plan.