We all want to be healthy. For good reason! Whether you’re a teen or a senior, nutrition is one of the foundations of long term wellness.
While a healthy lifestyle comes pretty easily for some people, most of us struggle from time to time. That’s why building good nutritional habits can pay off over time. When you’re thoughtful about healthy eating habits, you’ll be able to make informed decisions about what to eat (and what not to eat).
What Are the Fundamentals of Healthy Eating?
It’s important to eat foods that support your health. That can be complicated. We live in a world of unpronounceable ingredients (some of which might actually be good for you) and misleading percent-daily-value labels. So how are you supposed to know what constitutes “healthy eating”?
There are a couple of rules of thumb to keep in mind. Here are some of the most often discussed:
- Calories: It’s not a bad idea to have a sense of how many calories you’re eating every day. And it’s also a generally good idea to seek some kind of balance in terms of calories in vs energy expended. However, it’s important to point out that counting calories does not constitute a healthy lifestyle. For most people, It’s more important to be cognizant of the nutritional value you get from consumed calories than it is to hit a specific calorie count.
- Fruits and vegetables: Everyone should be eating at least two and a half cups of vegetables and two cups of fruit every day. In general, the more fruits and veggies you’re getting, the better.
- Carbs are complicated: Carbohydrates provide your body with essential fuel and energy. But you want to make sure you’re eating the right kind of carbs. Usually, that means consuming at least 50% of your carbohydrates from whole grain and whole wheat sources. Consider eating brown rice instead of white rice or whole grain bread instead of white bread.
- Limit red meat: Look, red meat just isn’t all that good for you. So limit red meat as much as you can.
Choosing the Healthy Option
Good nutritional habits might sometimes feel like they’re all about cutting certain foods out of your diet. But the truth is that healthy eating is probably also about making sure certain foods are included. The goal is to find healthy sources for the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your body needs.
You can consider the following:
- Eat lean protein and fish instead of red meat: As we mentioned, red meat is not exactly a healthy choice (too many saturated fats and too much cholesterol). But you need protein. So, try substituting your hamburger with a chicken patty or a salmon filet. Eating lean proteins and fish will be a much healthier way to get the nutrients you need from meat.
- Make sure you get plenty of fiber: There are all kinds of wonderful benefits to fiber, but one of the most important is that it helps you properly digest food. This can help improve your nutrition over the long term. You can find fiber in certain fruits and vegetables as well as some grains (and even in popcorn!).
- Choose healthy fats over saturated fats: Fat isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There are good fats and bad fats. You should try to avoid saturated fats (these are generally fats that come from animals). Consider cooking with olive oil instead of butter, for example.
What Can I Do At Home?
For most people, maintaining good nutritional habits won’t mean turning your life upside down. Instead, there are little changes you can make that, when you add them up day by day, can make a big difference in your life. Some of those little changes include:
- Controlling portion sizes: Eating smaller portions of fattier or heavier foods can help encourage you to eat larger portions of fruits and vegetables. Sometimes healthy eating habits mean inverting some of the portion sizes you’re used to.
- Eating more often (but eating less): In America, we love our big dinners. But it may be more advantageous to eat smaller meals more often. A modest dinner and a similarly sized lunch (with a generous snack in the middle) may be easier for your body to process. You’ll put those nutrients and calories to more efficient use if you spread them out a bit.
- Hydrating well: Hydration is essential to your wellness. Staying hydrated can help you digest food and keep all your body’s normal processes in good working order.
- Eating plant-based sources of protein: Most physicians now recommend including some plant-based proteins in your diet. Instead of a meat-based entree, try preparing dishes that feature plant based proteins such as beans, chickpeas, quinoa, or almonds.
The Benefits of a Nutritious Diet
There are many reasons you may want to maintain a healthy diet. In general, you’ll feel better more often. And there are substantial health benefits associated with healthy eating. You can keep your blood pressure down, lower your risk of heart disease, minimize your risk of developing diabetes, and avoid having to take too many dietary supplements!
But you may need help managing your nutrition. That’s okay. When you’re a patient at Progressive Health Primary Care, you can easily talk to your primary care physician about ways to make good nutritional habits easier to come by! There’s no reason why you can’t eat healthy foods and enjoy every meal at the same time–even if you pass on the hamburgers.
Contact us today to start developing more good nutritional habits!