What is a healthy diet?
Keeping a balanced diet is not about rigid limits, looking unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the food you enjoy. Instead, it’s about feeling fantastic, getting more energy, improving your fitness, and improving your mood.
Good eating doesn’t have to be too difficult. If you feel confused by all the contradictory nutrition and dietary recommendations out there, you’re not alone. It seems like for every expert who tells you that every food is good for you, you’re going to find another claiming just the opposite. The fact is, while some particular foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial impact on mood, the most important thing is your overall dietary pattern.
The foundation of a balanced diet should be to substitute refined food with real food whenever possible. Eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature has made it will make a big difference to the way you think, look, and feel.
By following these easy tips, you can break through the mystery and learn how to create and stick to a delicious, varied, and healthy diet that is as good for your mind as it is for your body.
The fundamentals of healthy eating
While some drastic diets may say otherwise, we all need a combination of protein, fat, carbohydrate, fibre, vitamins, and minerals in our diets to maintain a healthy body. You don’t need to exclude any types of food from your diet, but choose the healthiest choices for each category.
Protein gives you the ability to get up and go, and keep going, while also encouraging mood and cognitive function. Too much protein may be harmful to people with kidney disease, but recent research indicates that many of us need more high-quality protein, particularly as we age. This doesn’t mean that you have to consume more animal products, a variety of plant-based protein sources every day will insure that your body gets all the important proteins it needs.
Not all fat is the same thing. Although bad fats can harm your diet and increase your risk of certain diseases, good fats protect your brain and heart. Indeed, good fats—such as omega-3s are vital to your physical and emotional well-being. Having more healthy fat in your diet will help you boost your mood, improve your well-being, and even trim your waistline.
Eating foods rich in dietary fibre (grains, fruit, vegetables, nuts, and beans) will help you stay on a regular basis and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It can also boost your skin and even help you lose weight.
As well as leading to osteoporosis, not getting enough calcium in your diet can also contribute to anxiety, depression, and sleep problems. Whatever your age or gender, it is vital to include calcium-rich foods in your diet, reduce calcium-depleting foods, and get enough magnesium and vitamins D and K to help calcium do its job.
Carbohydrates are one of the key sources of nutrition for your body. But most of them can come from complex, unrefined carbs (vegetables, whole grains, fruit) rather than sugars and refined carbs. Cutting back on white bread, pastries, starches, and sugar will prevent rapid spikes in blood sugar, mood and energy fluctuations, and fat build-up, particularly around your waistline.
Switching to a healthy diet
Switching to a balanced diet doesn’t have to be a proposal for something or nothing. You don’t have to be perfect, you don’t have to absolutely eradicate the food you’re loving, and you don’t have to change it all at once—which typically just leads to cheating or giving up on your new eating plan.
A smarter way is to make some minor improvements at a time. Keeping your goals modest will help you accomplish more in the long run without feeling deprived or frustrated by a big dietary overhaul. Think of a balanced diet as a series of tiny, manageable steps—like adding a salad to your diet once a day. When the minor improvements become a habit, you will continue to make more healthier decisions.
Setting yourself up to success
Try to keep it easy to set yourself up for success. Eating a healthier diet does not have to be difficult. Instead of being too concerned with calorie counting, for example, think about your diet in terms of colour, variety and freshness. Focus on eliminating packaged and processed foods and opting for more natural ingredients whenever possible.
- Prepare a couple more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home will help you take care of what you’re eating and better track what’s going on with your diet. You’ll consume less calories and avoid artificial ingredients, added sugar, and unsanitary fats from processed foods that can make you feel sluggish, bloated, and irritable, and intensify symptoms of depression, stress, and anxiety.
- Making the right improvements to it. When you eliminate unsafe foods in your diet, it is necessary to substitute them with healthier alternatives. Replacing harmful trans fats with healthier fats (such as roasting fried chicken or roasted salmon) would make a positive difference to your health. Switching animal fats to refined carbohydrates, though (such as switching your breakfast beef to a doughnut) will not lower your risk of heart disease or change your mood.
- Read the labels. It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food, as manufacturers frequently conceal large quantities of sugar or unsanitary fat in packaged foods, including foods that are considered to be healthy.
- Rely on how you feel when you’re feeding. This will help to promote good new habits and tastes. The healthier the food you eat, the better you feel after a meal. The more junk food you eat, the more likely you are to feel uncomfortable, nauseous, or energised.
- Drink a lot of water. Water helps flush our waste products and toxin systems, yet many of us are going through life-dehydrated—due to tiredness, low energy, and headaches. It’s normal to have a thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will also help you make better food choices.
Moderation is important to a healthy diet
What’s the moderation? Essentially, it means consuming only as much food as your body wants. At the end of the meal, you can feel satisfied, but not bloated. For many of us, moderation means eating less than we do at the moment. But that doesn’t mean that you’re eliminating the food you want. Eating beef for breakfast once a week, for example, may be considered mild if you accompany it with a balanced lunch and dinner—but not if you follow it with a box of donuts and pizza.
- Don’t categorise such foods as “off-limits.” Banning those foods is an example of banning items that people like, which makes them feel like losers. Start by consuming nutritious foods and not eating them as much. When you reduce unhealthy foods, you can find you crave them less or think of them as occasional indulgences.
- Think smaller bits. Portion sizes have ballooned. Eat smaller servings instead of more, share dishes with a friend, and don’t order extra anything. Visual signals may help control portion sizes. Meat should be the size of a deck of cards, the size of a light bulb is half a cup of rice, and pasta is the size of a deck of cards. Plates and bowls have the ability to trick the brain into believing it is a larger part. If you do not finish your meal, you may add more greens or round off with fruit.
- Take your time. It’s important to eat foods that contain proteins and other nutrients rather than just empty calories that you eat without even thinking about them. Your body needs some time to realise when it is finished. It can take up to a half hour to eat a meal.
- Eat with others. Watching TV or playing video games alone also leads to mindless overeating.
- Stop over-eating of sweets. Bear in mind the foods you have. It’s harder to eat in moderation if you’re prepared with unhealthy snacks and treats. Rather, surround yourself with healthy options and reward yourself with a special treat when you’re ready.
- Control emotional eating. We don’t always eat to feel whole. Many people turn to food to alleviate tension or cope with negative emotions. If you adjust your food habits and emotions, you will regain control of your feelings.
Increase your fruit and vegetable consumption
They are low in calories and nutrient rich, and contain many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fibre. Eating at least five servings of fruit and vegetables per day can help naturally fill you up and help you cut down on unhealthy foods. A serving is ½ cup of raw fruit or veg or a small apple or banana. Most of us should double our fruits and vegetables intake.
To increase your intake:
- Mix berries into your favourite breakfast cereal.
- Choose a medley of sweet fruit for dessert, or substitute your regular rice or pasta for a colourful salad.
- Snack on some fruits, such as carrots, snow peas, or cherry tomatoes along with a spicy hummus dip or peanut butter.
How to make vegetables tasty
Salads and steamed vegetables are boring but there are plenty of ways to add spice to them.
- Carrots and sweet potatoes have higher amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and make meals more visually appealing. Add coloured foods like bell peppers, onions, sweet peppers, tomatoes, red cabbage.
- Using salad greens. Expand beyond lettuce. Leafy green vegetables are filled with nutrients. For flavour, drizzle with olive oil, add a spicy sauce, or sprinkle with almond slices, chickpeas, a little bit meat, parmesan, or goat cheese.
- Satisfy that craving. Sweet foods, such as carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, yams, tomatoes, bell peppers, and squash, decreases the cravings for added sugar. Connect them to soups, stews, or pasta sauce.
- Cook green beans, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus. Try baking, grilling, roasting, or broiling them with chilli flakes, garlic, shallots, mushrooms, or onions. Marinate in lemon or lime before cooking.