We’re constantly reminded by health professionals, the media, and society in general that making smart dietary choices is important for living a healthy and fulfilled life.
However, in a world where we are bombarded with so many different food options, it can be confusing (and annoying!) to figure out exactly what we should be eating – and how often.
Sometimes making the right meal decisions comes down to our access to easy-to-prepare recipes. It’s essential to have a repertoire of easy to prepare and tasty meals at your disposal so you’re less inclined to grab convenience foods or get something delivered. (If you need some quick ideas, take a look at some of the healthy and delicious HelloFresh meals.)
Trying to make informed and responsible food choices when our lives are so busy with other, seemingly more important commitments can be tricky. Whether it’s decision making at work, at home or in some other aspect of life, making the correct food choices tends to take a backseat.
However, if you’re trying to lose weight or simply want to make a healthier lifestyle change, there’s no way around the fact you’ll need to start looking at what you’re eating and probably make some tweaks to your intake.
Here are the essential tips to set you on a healthier path when you’re in the kitchen.
#1 – What makes up a healthy diet?
You likely already have a rudimentary idea of the kinds of foods and drinks that constitute a healthy diet. While there isn’t uniform agreement in all medical circles about the perfect level of human nutrition, it’s generally accepted that eating lots of unprocessed fruits, vegetables and grains is a big part of maintaining your ongoing health.
The good news, is that eating healthily doesn’t need to be incredibly complex or overwhelming. While some particular foods are shown to have a beneficial effect on your mood (such as chocolate), it’s the overall benefit to your physical health that’s important.
The cornerstone of any healthy diet should be to actively replace processed foods with unprocessed foods wherever you get a chance. The closer the food is to the way nature intended it, the healthier it generally is for your body and mind.
#2 – Building a healthy diet
While some extreme diet plans may suggest otherwise, every human body needs a balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, vitamins, fibre and minerals in order to maintain a healthy body. Rather than eliminating entire categories of food from your diet (such as fat), it’s best to choose the healthiest option from each one:
Protein is responsible for giving us the energy we need to do things – and keep doing them – while also working to support our cognitive function and our moods. An excess of protein can be harmful, especially to someone with kidney disease, however the latest studies report that the majority of people need to be eating higher-quality protein.
Just because protein is important to your diet doesn’t mean you need to source it all from animal products as there is a huge variety of plant-based protein sources available. This means that those with vegetarian or vegan diets can still get all the essential protein their body needs to thrive.
Fat is a very misunderstood part of the nutrition makeup because many people wrongly believe that dietary fat results in them becoming fat as a person. The truth is that weight gain is all about calorie intake versus calorie burn and that the foods that cause your body to produce fat cells are normally high in sugar.
Not all fat is exactly the same. While the bad fats can ruin your diet and put you at higher risk of some diseases, good fats work to help protect your heart and your brain. In truth, good fats – like omega-3s- are essential to your emotional and physical well-being.
It’s important to understand how to start including healthier fats in your diet so that you can improve your mood and work towards a trimmer waistline.
Foods that are high in natural dietary fibre (fruit, vegetables, grains, beans and nuts) help you to have better bowl movements while also reducing your risk of stroke, heart disease and diabetes. Fibre also helps improve your skin and can assist in losing weight.
Experts on nutrition recommend that most people eat at least 21 to 38 grams of fibre every day to achieve optimal health. The unfortunate reality is that most people aren’t even managing to eat half the recommended amount of dietary fibre.
Calcium is used by our bodies to help build healthy teeth and bones, keep them strong as you grow older, transmit messages through the nervous system as well as keep the heart’s rhythm regulated. Not getting enough calcium in your diet can lead to osteoporosis as well as contribute to depression, anxiety and difficulties with sleeping.
No matter how old you are or what your gender is, it’s essential to have enough calcium-rich food choices in your diet. Make sure you limit the foods that deplete calcium as well as get enough vitamins D, K and magnesium to help the calcium carry out its job.
Carbohydrates are one of the body’s primary energy sources. However, most carbs should come from complex and unrefined sources such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains. You should avoid getting carbs that have been heavily processed and stripped of all their bran, nutrients and fibre.
Eating less white bread, starches, pastries and sugar can help reduce spikes in blood sugar, fat build-up around the waistline and any rapid changes in your mood.
#3 – Moderation is key
As with everything in life, finding the right balance in your diet is essential to making sure it’s sustainable for a long time into the future. When moderating your diet, you are essentially only eating as much as your body needs to function and not indulging it with extras.
Ideally, you should feel satisfied but not full at the end of each meal. For the majority of us, moderation means eating much less than we do currently. However, this doesn’t mean you need to get rid of all the food you love.
For example, eating pancakes for breakfast once each week could be considered in moderation if you follow it up with a healthy lunch and dinner. There is no magic ratio here; you simply need to eat healthy more than you eat unhealthy.
You don’t need to ban particular foods. When you place a ban on certain types of food you naturally end up craving those foods more, making you more likely to cheat your diet and binge. This also makes you feel like more of a failure as you gave into your temptations. The best thing to do is to cut down the amount of times you eat a cheat meal until you get to the point that you no longer crave it as often as you once did.
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