Healthy eating facts may be hard to come by.
Although most people would like to feel well and live a long life, the excessive amount of contradictory information that is bombarding you each day, may make it difficult to understand the basics of eating well.
The quality of your diet is affected by many factors including, availability of foods, budget concerns, family traditions, perception about nutrition, social obligations, time constraints, personal taste and ethnicity. However, it is important for you to realize that none of these factors will necessarily keep you from pursuing a healthy eating lifestyle.
Here is a list of important things you should know to plan a wellness lifestyle for yourself and your family.
-A healthy diet consists of a balance of foods from all the food groups, including the Protein group, Grains group, Fruit group, Vegetable group, and the Dairy group. Not everyone divides foods up the same way, but you get the idea. As far as possible, eat a variety of foods from each group, since this will make it more likely that you will get all the nutrients you need.
-You should include at least 5 servings from the fruit and vegetable groups each day. A serving is generally 1/2 to 1 cup or a medium fruit. Use light cooking methods, whenever possible, such as steaming or stir-frying to preserve vitamins in the foods.
-Colorful foods provide protection from disease and should form a large part of the foods on your plate. If you find yourself eating mostly beige or white foods, you are missing out on the health advantages that are found in red, yellow, green, orange and purple foods.
-Whole grains provide fiber and nutrients not found in their processed versions.
-Fast food is addictive and loaded with fat, sugar and chemicals that would best be avoided.
-It is better to drink water as your beverage of choice. Soft drinks are addictive, loaded with sugar or sugar-substitutes, upset the potassium balance in your body, and when artificially sweetened, may cause you to eat more and gain weight.
-Your body needs fiber to function well, since it helps balance blood sugar and keeps your digestive tract clean and running smoothly.
-Your diet should consist of more real, whole foods, and fewer overly processed foods, which contain preservatives, flavorings, dyes and other chemicals that aren’t good for you.
-Snacks should include some protein to help keep your blood sugar stable.
-Fats are part of a healthy diet, but just don’t eat too many and make them mostly monounsaturated ones like avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds and even dark chocolate. Avoid trans fats that are found in spreads and baked products that have “hydrogenated oils.”
-You can limit food-borne illness by keeping cold foods cold, and hot foods hot, avoiding cross contamination by washing utensils and cutting boards between uses, and tossing most leftovers after 4-7 days.
-It is a good idea to buy organic foods when you can, especially meats and dairy products to limit your exposure to pesticides, hormones and other toxic chemicals. If you don't buy organic, lean meats and low-fat or fat-free dairy are a better choice, since they have fewer toxins. (Animals store most toxins in their fat and liver.)
-Reading food labels will help you find the best foods for you and your family. A rule of thumb is that if the food has a long list of ingredients, many of which you don’t recognize, it is probably not a good choice for your family.
-A limited budget does not mean you cannot eat healthy, it just means that you need to focus on nutrient-dense foods and leave the empty calorie foods on the shelf.
-Carbohydrates have gotten a bad reputation, but they are essential to a healthy diet, as long as you choose good carbs, like whole grains, vegetables and fruits and stay away from bad carbs like doughnuts, white bread, cookies, cakes, chips and other overly-processed foods.
-Vitamins and minerals are best if you get them from real foods, but many health experts recommend that you take a daily multi-vitamin to fill in the gaps.
-If you taste your food before you add salt, you may find that it doesn’t need any after all. Too much sodium in the diet is associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure, especially in salt-sensitive people.
-Conscious eating, where you focus on the food rather than other activities helps you eat less and enjoy your food more.
-Eating your meals in a leisurely fashion with family and friends, is conducive to healthy digestion and may contribute to maintaining a healthy weight.
-You are what you eat. If you eat healthy, you will feel better and be more likely to avoid disease.
For more specific information on any of the healthy eating facts mentioned above, please click on the buttons at the top of this page to learn more about a particular topic.