Healthy eating begins with learning how to “eat smart”. It's not just what you eat, but how you eat. Paying attention to what you eat and choosing foods that are both nourishing and enjoyable helps support an overall healthy diet. Here are several great big picture strategies.
Eat enough calories but not too many.
Maintain a balance between your calorie intake and calorie expenditures that is, don't eat more food than your body uses. The average recommended daily allowance depends on your age, sex, height, weight, and physical activity.
Eat a wide variety of foods.
Healthy eating is an opportunity to expand your range of choices by trying foods, especially vegetables, whole grains, or fruits that you don't normally eat.
Keep portions moderate, especially high-calorie foods.
In recent years serving sizes have ballooned, particularly in restaurants. Choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don’t order supersized anything.
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes.
Eat foods high in complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals, low in fat, and free of cholesterol. Try to get fresh, local produce.
Drink lots more water.
Our bodies are about 75% water. It is a vital part of a healthy diet. Water helps flush our systems, especially the kidneys and bladder, of waste products and toxins. A majority of Americans go through life dehydrated.
Limit sugary foods, salt, and refined-grain products.
Sugar is added to a vast array of foods. In a year, just one daily 12-ounce can of soda (160 calories) can increase your weight by 16 pounds. See suggestions below for limiting salt and substituting whole grains for refined grains.
Don’t be the food police.
You can enjoy your favorite sweets and fried foods in moderation, as long as they are an occasional part of your overall healthy diet. Food is a great source of pleasure, and pleasure is good for the heart - even if those French fries aren’t!
Take time to chew your food.
Chew your food slowly, savoring every bite. We tend to rush though our meals, forgetting to actually taste.
Avoid stress while eating.
When we are stressed, our digestion can be compromised, causing problems like colitis and heartburn. Avoid eating while working, driving, arguing, or watching TV (especially disturbing programs or the news). Try taking some deep breaths prior to beginning your meal, or light candles and play soothing music to create a relaxing atmosphere.
Listen to your body.
Ask yourself if you are really hungry. You may really be thirsty, so try drinking a glass of water first. During a meal, stop eating before you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly. Eating just enough to satisfy your hunger will help you remain alert, relaxed and feeling your best, rather than stuffing yourself into a “food coma”!
Eat early, eat often.
Starting your day with a healthy breakfast can jumpstart your metabolism, and eating the majority of your daily caloric allotment early in the day gives your body time to work those calories off. Also, eating small, healthy meals throughout the day, rather than the standard three large meals, can help keep your metabolism going and ward off snack attacks.
Stay consistent with your workout.
A healthy diet improves your energy and feelings of well-being while reducing your risk of many diseases. Adding regular physical activity and exercise will make any healthy eating plan work even better.
One step at a time...
Establishing new food habits is much easier if you focus on and take action on one food group or food fact at a time.