Making healthier food selections is easier than you might think. It’s your determination at the end of the day that will make the difference.
A healthy body is achieved by eating and drinking the right amount and the right type. Some places give us more control over the choices you can make than others. We eat at home, at work, in restaurants, and even in our car sometimes. Choosing healthy options and planning ahead is becoming increasingly important as we rush through our days and unhealthy options become more available.
Once you understand why eating well is important and how to make healthy food choices, eating healthy is not difficult.
Food Choices and Your Health
Your daily food choices can have a significant impact on your health and appearance. Many deaths in the United States are related to nutrition-related diseases such as obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. There is a growing emphasis on the impact of metabolic disorders (including obesity) on mortality rates and recovery from COVID-19.
A Healthy Diet
A healthy diet reduces blood pressure, lowers cholesterol, lowers the risk of heart disease, some forms of cancer, anemia, and bone loss, and also manages diabetes. Maintaining your energy level and digestion is also affected by the food you eat.
A healthy diet includes the nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, oils, and water which are all required to stay healthy and energetic. It is also crucial for those who suffer from health conditions. These nutrients can be found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meat, fish, oils and dairy products. Plant- and animal-based foods contribute to a healthy diet, but vegans need a non-plant source of vitamin B12.
Path to Healthy Food Choices
A balanced diet should include a variety of healthy foods. Considering the tips below, choose foods that are nutrient-dense from each group. USDA’s “My Plate Plan” can help you identify how much from each food group to consume while staying within your recommended calorie allowance. With websites like Foods Guy and USDA’s MyPlate App on your smartphone, you can make informed food choices.
A nutritious diet must include whole grains. Iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, selenium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber are commonly found in them. Quinoa, oats, and buckwheat are all good carbohydrates that are rich in fiber. Other healthy grain choices include whole grain pasta and bread, and whole-grain rye. Switch some refined carbohydrates from your diet for 100% whole grains.
Fruits and Vegetables
Veggies and fruits are extremely important too. You can eat them raw or cooked; fresh, frozen, canned, or dehydrated; whole, cut up, or mashed; or as a juice. A healthy diet should include five different kinds of vegetables and two different kinds of fruit every day. Vitamins and minerals, such as folate, vitamin C, and potassium, will be provided. They are naturally low in fat and can provide variety and color to your diet. They also provide a good amount of dietary fiber.
Some of the healthiest foods from this group include dark leafy greens, red peppers, sweet potatoes, broccoli, tomatoes, avocados, berries, bananas, mangos, cherries, citrus fruits, and nuts. Avoid eating fried or cheese-topped vegetables. You can steam, bake, broil, or toss them with a little olive oil. Additionally, fresh or frozen fruit is preferable to dried fruits. Avoid sugary syrup when using canned fruit.
Meats and Other Proteins
It is very important to consume the right amount and type of protein. Healthy meat options include fish, white meat, low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, beans/legumes, lean beef, and soy (as tofu or soybeans).
Try to eat seafood twice a week. You should poach, bake, steam, broil, or grill fish. Instead of only eating red meat and processed meat, consume a variety of meats. When it comes to meat, choose lean cuts and trim any outside fat before cooking it. Remove the skin and visible fat before cooking. Season meat with herbs, spices, and low-sodium marinades. Baking, broiling, grilling, and roasting are among the healthiest methods of preparing meat.
Beans, peas, and lentils are protein alternatives without the cholesterol and fat of meat. They are staple foods for vegetarians or vegans. You can substitute beans for meat in recipes like lasagna or chili.
Dairy products are high in vitamin D and calcium. Dairy products also contain protein which helps build muscle. Grass-fed and pasture-raised cows produce the healthiest dairy products. Skim or low-fat milk is an excellent choice for a nutritious beverage.
Dairy milk alternatives include soy, rice, and almond milk. You can include Greek yogurt or fat-free yogurt in meals or as a snack. Frozen yogurt can be used to replace ice cream or to mix with fruits for dessert. Low-fat cheese makes a satisfying snack as well as adding flavor to dishes. Skim ricotta can be substituted for cream cheese on a bagel or in a vegetable dip.
Fats and Oils
Fats and oils promote cell growth, protect your organs, and assist in nutrient absorption. Satiety, or feeling full, is another benefit. Make sure you choose the right oil. A general rule is to avoid partially hydrogenated and trans fats as well as oils with more than 4 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.
In addition, keep the following in mind when choosing healthy foods.
- Fill the majority of your plate with vegetables, fruit, and whole grains. You may need to substitute legumes, steamed broccoli, asparagus, or greens for your meat, cheese, white pasta, and rice.
- Whenever possible, replace processed food with real food. This means eating food that is as close to how nature intended it to be.
- Change one habit at a time and not all at once. You can begin today by switching to 1% milk or a similar baby step.
- Opt for water over sugary drinks.
- Consider how many meals you will need in the coming week, and then make a list of ingredients. Stick to your grocery list at the store and avoid giving into snacky cravings.
- When shopping for packaged foods, read the nutrition facts label to find out what’s inside. A food labeled “natural” or “healthy” can conceal sugar by using another name (e.g. corn syrup).
- Learn which sugary, fatty, or salty foods are sources of temptation for you. Find healthy alternatives to satisfy cravings.
At the end of the day…
No matter where you’re starting, it’s easy to consider the above suggestions and make little changes to make your food choices healthy. The hardest part is having the determination and discipline to stick to them!