Healthy Eating Guide

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Healthy eating is not about strict dietary limitations, staying unrealistically thin, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and stabilizing your mood. If you feel overwhelmed by all the conflicting nutrition and diet advice out there, you’re not alone. It seems that for every expert who tells you a certain food is good for you, you’ll find another saying exactly the opposite. But by using these simple tips, you can cut through the confusion.

Healthy eating and your mood

We all know that eating right can help you maintain a healthy weight and avoid certain health problems. Your diet can also have a profound effect on your mood and sense of well being. Studies have linked eating a typical Western diet—filled with processed meats, packaged meals, takeout food, and sugary snacks—with higher rates of depression, stress, bipolar disorder, and anxiety. Eating an unhealthy diet may even play a role in the development of mental health disorders. Ideas that may help to improve mood and lower your risk for mental health issues: 1) Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. 2) Cooking meals at home. 3) Reducing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates.

What is a healthy diet?

Eating a healthy diet doesn’t have to be overly complicated. While some specific foods or nutrients have been shown to have a beneficial effect on mood, the overall dietary pattern is most important. The cornerstone of a healthy diet pattern should be to replace processed food with real food whenever possible. Eating food that is as close as possible to the way nature made it can make a huge difference.

The Healthy Eating Pyramid

The Harvard Healthy Eating Pyramid represents the latest nutritional science. The widest part at the bottom is for things that are most important. The foods at the narrow top are those that should be eaten sparingly, if at all. This Healthy Eating Pyramid shows daily exercise and weight control in the widest, most important category. Fats from healthy sources, such as plants, are in the wider part of the pyramid. Refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and white rice, are in the narrow top. Red meat should also be eaten sparingly, while fish, poultry, and eggs are healthier choices.

Building your healthy diet

While some diets may suggest otherwise, we all need a balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body. You don’t need to eliminate certain categories of food from your diet, but rather select the healthiest options from each category.

Switching to a healthy diet doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition. You don’t have to be perfect. You don’t have to completely eliminate foods you enjoy. You don’t have to change everything all at once. A better approach is to make a few small changes at a time. Keeping your goals modest can help you achieve more in the long term without feeling deprived or overwhelmed by a major diet overhaul. Think of planning a healthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps. Consider adding a salad to your diet once a day. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add more healthy choices.

Setting yourself up for success

To set yourself up for success, try to keep things simple. Eating a healthier diet doesn’t have to be complicated.

Prepare more of your own meals. Cooking more meals at home can help you take charge of what you’re eating and better monitor exactly what goes into your food.

Make the right changes. When cutting back on unhealthy foods in your diet, it’s important to replace them with healthy alternatives.

Read the labels. It’s important to be aware of what’s in your food as manufacturers often hide large amounts of sugar or unhealthy fats in packaged food, even food claiming to be healthy.

Focus on how you feel after eating. This will help foster healthy new habits and tastes. The healthier the food you eat, the better you’ll feel after a meal.

Drink plenty of water. Water helps flush our systems of waste products and toxins, yet many of us go through life dehydrated—causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches.

Moderation: important to any healthy diet

What is moderation? In essence, it means eating only as much food as your body needs. You should feel satisfied at the end of a meal, but not stuffed.

Try not to think of certain foods as “off-limits.” Start by reducing portion sizes of unhealthy foods and not eating them as often. As you reduce your intake of unhealthy foods, you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as only occasional indulgences.

Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently. If you don’t feel satisfied at the end of a meal, add more leafy greens or round off the meal with fruit.

Take your time. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tell your body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly and stop eating before you feel full.

Eat with others whenever possible. Eating alone, especially in front of the TV or computer, often leads to mindless overeating.

It’s not just what you eat, but when you eat

Eat breakfast. A healthy breakfast can jump start your metabolism, while eating small, healthy meals keeps your energy up all day.

Avoid eating late at night. Try to eat dinner earlier and fast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Studies suggest that eating only when you’re most active and giving your digestive system a long break each day may help to regulate weight.

Make fruit and vegetables a tasty part of your diet

Fruit and vegetables are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Focus on eating the recommended daily amount of at least five servings of fruit and vegetables.  A serving is half a cup of raw fruit or veg or a small apple or banana, for example.

HelpGuide.org

For help on controlling your eating check out the fully prepared, calorie controlled meal plans at www.thefreshplan.com

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