Developing healthy eating habits might be confusing or feel restrictive at first but it’s actually deceptively easy. Essentially, eat mostly foods derived from plants/vegetables, fruits, whole grains and legumes (beans, peas, lentils). Additionally, just limit highly processed foods and you’re on your way to a well-balanced diet. To be more specific, here are 8 Keys to a Well-Balanced Diet.
Eating a wide assortment of foods helps ensure that you get all of the benefits possible. Not all the nutrients and other substances in foods that contribute to good health have been identified, so mixing it up is an important factor. Doing this will likely limit your exposure to pesticides or toxic substances that may be present in a some food.
Sure, you can eat all the broccoli, celery, and spinach you want but for higher-calorie foods, portion control is the key. Serving sizes have ballooned in recent years. If you’re eating out at a restaurant, choose an appetizer instead of an entree or split a meal with a friend. Don’t order anything “supersized”. Check the serving sizes on the food labels. Some products make the serving size rather small to “cheat” on the rest of the nutritional specifics. Sometimes you’ll have to double or triple the calories, grams of fat and milligrams of sodium if you’re planning to eat the whole thing. You could also limit portions by acquiring some of your nutrients from supplements like our Vitamin B Complex.
If you’re on a 2,000-calorie a day diet, try to eat 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit a day. If your diet includes more or fewer calories, adjust accordingly. Keep it colorful by consuming produce that is green, orange, red, blue/purple and yellow. Mixing up the colors helps to mix up the provided nutrients. The nutrients, fiber and other compounds in these foods may help protect against certain types of cancer and other diseases. Legumes are rich in fiber and count as vegetables, though are moderately high in calories. Choose whole fruits over juice whenever possible. Interestingly enough, most Frozen Food isn’t a good idea but Frozen Fruits or Vegetables are actually very good options.
The refined carbohydrates in white bread, regular pasta, and most snack foods have little or no dietary fiber and have been stripped of many nutrients. Instead of white bread switch to Whole Grain bread and try to avoid foods labeled “enriched”. On food labels, watch out for “wheat flour” (also called “white,” “refined” or “enriched” flour) on the ingredients list. It’s also a good idea to limit foods with added sugar, such as soda and candy. Food that is contains added sugar are sources of empty calories that contribute to weight gain. Many sugary foods are also high in fat, so they’re even more calorie-dense.
These nutrients are important for bone health but it’s also important where you get these nutrients. In our last blog post, we discussed that Milk being fortified with Vitamin D means that it’s an artificial inclusion. You should avoid fortified or “added” products that advertise nutrients as they are natural aspects of the food. There are many natural options for Calcium such as Sesame Seeds, Oranges, Beans, Broccoli and more. There are also many natural options for Vitamin D such as egg yolks, mushrooms, and even our Sun.
It’s hard to consume enough vitamin D from foods, and getting it from sunlight is risky. Many people especially those who are over 60, live at northern latitudes, or have darker skin should consider tkaing a Vitamin D supplement.
Saturated fats, especially from red meat and processed meat, boost the indesirable LDL cholesterol. Limit your intake by selecting lean meats, skinless poultry and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. If possible, it’s best to eliminate these types of products from your diet as much as you can because animal fat creates more negatives than the benefits they provide. It’s also a good idea to replace saturated fats with “good” fats, found in nuts, fish and vegetable oils, not with refined carbohydrates such as white bread and snack foods.
Trans fats are supplied by partially hydrogenated vegetable oils used in many processed foods and “fast foods”. Trans fats raise the indesirable LDL cholesterol and also reduces the good HDL cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease. Since 2006, when a trans fat labeling law went into effect, many food makers have eliminated or greatly reduced these fats in their products.
Beverages supply more than 20 percent of the calories in the average American’s diet. Some liquid calories come from healthy beverages, such as 100% fruit juice but most come from soda and other sweetened beverages and alcoholic drinks. Soft drinks are a major source of sugar and calories for many Americans, especially children. While juice is more nutritious than soft drinks but it’s also high in calories, so most people should drink no more than one cup a day.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. If you drink alcohol once or a few times a day, you should cut back immediately. Alcoholic beverages contain lots of calories yet few, if any, nutrients. A “drink” is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof spirits. Alcohol in moderation actually has some potential benefits, higher intakes can lead to a wide range of health problems. Even moderate drinking impairs your ability to drive and may increase the risk of certain cancers. Some people, including pregnant women and those who have certain medical conditions, should avoid alcohol altogether.
Be mindful of what you eat and don’t be in such a rush to eat, enjoy your food. It typically takes around 20 minutes for your body to produce the satiated signals for being “full”. If you slow down and enjoy your food you will likely eat less simply by letting your body have time to properly inform you that you’ve had enough. Many cultures around the world emphasize the enjoyment of food, which often includes cooking and eating with others, as an integral ingredient to good health. According to some research, shared mealtimes, especially during childhood, may act as a “protective factor” for many nutrition health-related problems as well as increase prosocial behavior in adulthood. So eat well and enjoy.
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