Finding accurate information on how to have a healthy eating lifestyle can be very confusing. How many times have we heard ‘don’t eat carbs’ – or ‘do eat carbs’.
Some people recommend eliminating certain foods from your diet completely, such as wheat, potato, corn, dairy - to mention some popular exclusions. There might be some use for this information with particular medical conditions, but on the whole – unless you have a genuine allergy, intolerance or other condition, these foods are fine as part of a healthy diet.
The first thing to do is to learn what the body needs and then build it into your diet.
You need to eat the right amount of food for how active you are. A person who watches television all day and spends most of the day sitting down can’t eat the same diet as an Olympic runner who burns hundreds of calories in just the morning alone.
Its also important to eat a wide range of food- especially fruits and vegetables. Eating chicken and chips every evening and having the odd apple every now and again will not give you a balanced diet and the food that your body really needs.
A healthy balanced diet contains vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrate, fats, and also, plant compounds which we are learning more about all the time called phytochemicals. These include antioxidants and anti-inflammatories. Eating a variety of food types from different food groups is important too. Starches like breads, pastas and rice, fruits and vegetables, a calcium source like dairy and even a little sugar, can be part of a healthy diet but they all need to be kept at the right amount for the diet to be healthy.
There are a few general things that can be followed in order to keep a healthy diet maintained and structured; the first is to base your meals around carbohydrates. Where ever possible choose good quality whole grains for your starchy foods – these give you best bang for your buck in regard to vitamins – especially B vitamins, minerals – like calcium and iron, phyotochemicals and antioxidants. Whole grains from bread, rice and pastas are really important to a diet because they release energy slowly throughout the day so you will not need to stock up on something from the shop if you’re feeling a little peckish. Just as a side note, white rice is likely to leave you feeling very hungry, it has a high glycemic index which means it raises blood sugar high quickly and you don’t get the fullness value that you would from brown rice – and, as with all white breads, rices, pastas, the nutrition has been stripped away. Carbohydrates should make up around a third of our entire diet. And, whole grain starchy food is also not as fattening as people make it out to be. Gram for gram, starchy food contains less than half the amount of calories in fat and lots of fiber, which actually helps with weight control.
Eating lots of fruit and vegetables is also important in a healthy diet.
Most people out there know that they should be eating more fruits and vegetables – at least five a day but how many of us actually get that many servings every day. Fruit and vegetables provide so many nutrients is really isn’t possible to have a heathy diet without them. Your fruit and vegetables can come in more forms than an apple or a carrot – a glass of juice in the morning counts as one of the 5-9 a day.
Finding ways to fit fruits and vegetables into you day isn’t so difficult once you get in habit of it. You can order a side salad with a your pizza when you are out to lunch, for example. What about fitting a piece of fruit for a snack or putting some peas, sweet corn, etc., with your evening meal. With a little bit of thought it is easy to get fruit and veggies into your diet. Fruit can be blended with yogurt for smoothies or pack dry fruit and nuts for a snack. What about green vegetable smoothies. They are not as horrible as they sound and they are packed FULL of nutrients. I like to use lettuce, celery, parsley, kale, and add some fruit like apple, apple juice, mango, kiwi to sweeten it. Its an awesome way to get your vegetable servings in. You can also do orange smoothies or red ones, using carrot or beets.
If you find it hard to keep fresh fruits and vegetables on hand frozen fruit and vegetables are just as good. Canned are OK too – some studies say they contain as much nutrient content as fresh vegetables that are a few days old.
Salt needs to be limited (and this is where fresh and fozen foods really help).
No more than 1 teaspoon or 2300mg of salt is recommended per day, and it’s really difficult to keep to that level when you eat most of your foods from boxes, cans and takeaways. If you do eat a lot of canned and packaged foods get into the habit to reading nutrition labels to see how much sodium there is per serve. Try to stick to about 300mg per serving.
Fat is essential for a healthy diet – the right kind that is!
Trans fats are man made fats and can increase cholesterol levels and the chances of developing heart disease in later life. Avoid these as much as you can. They are also called partially hydrogenated fats.
Saturated fats are natural fats and although not as dangerous as trans fats, they can raise cholesterol level. Try to keep these to fairly low levels in your diet by choosing lean meats and skim milk.
Unsaturated fats do not raise cholesterol and can be used in salad dressings, and for cooking. You need to use the appropriate one for cooking though, since some unsaturated oils are not very stable and get damaged by high heat. Good oils for cooking include peanut oil, rice bran oil, grape seed oil, olive oil.
Essential fatty acids are those that the body can’t make for itself and MUST be obtained from the diet. You can get these from nuts, seeds, and fish.
Sugar in a healthy diet?
Limiting foods that are high in added sugar is always good. Fizzy drinks, cakes, and sweets, are not only high in calories and very easily add to weight gain but they slowly rot away our teeth – especially bad for children.
Skipping meals is never a good ideayou will just wind up hungier and overating later. And more than that you’ll be much more likely to grab anything if you are ravenous – high fat and high sugar and lots of it.
When it does come to having a healthy diet it’s also good to get active and try to live at a healthy weight. Just eating a healthy diet at first will start to shed the fat, but it won’t all disappear without some exercise too.
Exercise doesn’t have to be going down to the gym all the time and working out, you can put some music on while doing the house work and moving around home. Walking to work, or the shop, riding a bicycle – all of these things contribute to staying active. So if you maintain a simple, but healthy diet, and get more active – you will maintain a healthy body weight.