Eating healthy is crucial to maintaining good health. Fortunately, it’s easier than it sounds. Arm yourself with knowledge and you’re halfway there. If you think of eating healthy not as a sacrifice, but more as an opportunity for self-improvement, you’re almost at the finish line. You don’t need someone to tell you the numerous health benefits that putting away the donuts and hamburgers will get you. You want someone to show you how it’s done. Here’s a glimpse.
Choosing a Healthy Diet
- Choose the right carbohydrates. Simple carbs, like sugar and flour, are quickly absorbed by the body’s digestive system. This causes a kind of carb overload, and your body releases huge amounts of insulin to combat the overload. Eat these in moderation. Complex carbs, on the other hand, are slowly digested by the body. They include whole-grain flour, hearty vegetables, oats, and unprocessed grains like brown rice. These foods are usually higher in vitamins and other nutrients that are beneficial to the body, and they are higher in fiber (which keeps your digestive system running smoothly).
- Consider eating leafy greens like kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and Swiss chard. They are packed with nutrients and will fill you up very quickly. A simple sauté with olive oil, garlic, a little salt and pepper and you have a surprisingly tasty meal that is very nutritious.
- Choose wheat (brown) bread instead of white bread and whole wheat pasta instead of “normal” pasta. Processed carbohydrates such as those found in white bread are harder to draw nutrients from, and therefore constitute empty calories. Plain oat meal is also very healthy for you.
- Eat lean, mean protein. Aim to get between 10% and 35% of your daily calories from protein. Protein helps you build muscle and gives you lasting energy throughout the day. Some examples of healthy proteins include:
- Lean fish such as flounder, sole, cod, bass, perch, and halibut.
- Lean poultry such as chicken or duck breast.
- Legumes like beans and soy products (e.g. edamame and tofu).
- Nuts like cashews.
- Know the difference between good fat and bad fat. You need to consume fat for your body to function correctly. However, it’s important to choose the right kinds of fats. Here’s a quick primer.
- Monounsaturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids are good fats, which you should try to consume regularly. They help lower the “bad cholesterol” in your body by raising “good cholesterol”. Foods that are high in fatty acids are olive oil, nuts, fish oil, and various seed oils. Adding these “good” fats to your weekly diet can lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Avoid trans fats and saturated fats. Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat commonly found in processed foods, and consuming them raises your risk of heart disease. Read the labels of what you eat, and look for “hydrogenated” anything on the ingredient list.
- Stock up on superfoods. So-called superfoods may have a misleading title, but some truly are a cut above. Superfoods may have the ability to fight heart disease, stave off cancer, lower cholesterol, and even boost your mood. Here are just a few of them:
- Blueberries. Blueberries may facilitate brain health. If you don’t have access to blueberries, try fresh berries, raspberries, or cranberries.
- Algae. It may not sound appetizing, but then again when you read the list of health benefits you may think again. Rich in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, as well as beneficial in managing natural flora in the gut.
- Salmon. Another creature of the sea makes the list, and for good reason. Salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, a good type of fat. Omega-3 fats are good for blood pressure, brain function, and heart health.
- Watch your salt intake. Although humans need salt in moderation, too much salt can lead to high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and excessive stomach acid. Use salt sparingly, and always check labels on food for the “reduced sodium” option if it’s available.
- Practice moderation. Don’t over-consume any one food or type of food. Instead, try to vary your diet so that you eat a little bit of everything in a moderate amount.
- Some people might be great at giving up meat, sugar, alcohol, or other foods. However, most of us are likely to give it up for awhile, then break down and binge. Avoid this deprivation-binge cycle by allowing yourself to have small “cheats”. For instance, if you want to eat less sugar, allow yourself to eat one dessert each Friday night and abstain for the rest of the week. Having a break to look forward to can help you power through the other days.
Making Easy but Healthy Decisions
Drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated with basic H2O is an easy and dramatic way to improve your health and shed pounds, all while helping you feel full. Drink water during and after meals to aid digestion, and try to consume between 2 and 3 liters per day.
- If you feel like snacking, try drinking a full glass of water first. Some people confuse thirst for hunger, and eat a 400- or 500-calorie snack when a glass of water would have helped them feel satiated. If you’re still hungry 15 minutes after your drink, then it’s time for a snack.
- Avoid soft drinks, juices, sports and energy drinks, as well as other products containing artificial sweeteners. Giving up sugary drinks is one of the easiest ways you can instantly improve your diet and become healthier. A can of coke adds 139 extra calories to your diet. A glass of grape juice will set you back even more. Try drinking water only to improve and aid digestion.  A white chocolate creme frappuccino has a whopping 500 calories. While it’s okay to treat yourself to these and other drinks every once in a while, it’s not a good idea to make them a regular part of your diet.
- Participate in Meatless Mondays. Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to give up eating meat one day per week. Eating less meat can have several health benefits, as most people already have enough protein in their diets.  In fact, vegetarians and vegans weigh less than meat-eaters, and live longer on average.
- Stay away from fast food. We all know fast food is bad for our health. Yet it continues to remain a weekly staple for too many people. For one, fast food is often fried, processed, and excessively salty. Add soft drinks and fries and your meal could easily burn through half of your suggested caloric intake for the day. To add insult to injury, much of the fat contained in fast food is trans fat, the worst kind of fat.
- Drink one glass of wine or beer occasionally, but be wary of more. Adults who drink a glass of wine or beer with their meal report numerous health benefits, including improved memory function, reduced bacterial infection, and even boosted estrogen levels. Unfortunately, what may be good in small doses can be destructive in larger doses. Any more than two drinks of alcohol per day is probably detrimental to your health.
- Red wine, in particular, contains a polyphenol called resveratrol that scientists believe is particularly heart-healthy. Resveratrol works by improving the function of blood vessels in the heart and curbing the amount of “bad” cholesterol in your body.
- Are you pregnant and worried about drinking? While it’s normal for expectant mothers to abstain from alcohol, scientists say that it’s perfectly harmless to drink one glass of wine a day.
Changing Your Mindset
- Adopt a healthy attitude towards food. Take a hard look at your eating habits. Do you eat more when you feel stressed? Do you withhold food from yourself in order to feel like you’re in control? Try to evaluate whether you have an unhealthy emotional attachment to food. If you do, here are a few steps to consider:
- Find a healthier replacement. If you find that you tend to gorge on unhealthy foods when you’re stressed, find a substitute activity — for instance, you could instead go for a walk, take a long bath, or call a trusted friend for a chat. Whatever you choose, it should be something that helps you decompress so that you no longer feel the need to binge.
- See food as sustenance. A lot of Western culture is rife with messages that food is for entertainment or for relieving boredom. Break yourself of this cognitive habit by consciously evaluating food in terms of what it can do to keep your body healthy. Ask yourself if what you’re about to put in your mouth is good for you, and if it will help your body function as it was designed to.
- Consult a medical professional. Eating disorders are classified as mental illnesses, and you can’t always just talk yourself into stopping destructive behaviors.  If you suspect that you have an eating disorder (whether it’s over- or under-eating), ask your general practitioner to refer you to the appropriate care.
Determine how many calories your body needs to function each day. This number can vary widely, depending upon your metabolism and how physically active you are. As a rule, the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you need to consume to function properly. Otherwise, your body will start breaking down muscle tissue for energy.
- If you’re the kind of person who puts on 10 pounds just smelling a slice of pizza, then your daily caloric intake should stay around 2000 calories for men, and 1500 calories for women. Your body mass also plays a part in this — more calories are suitable for naturally bigger people, and fewer calories for smaller people.
- If you’re the kind of person who can eat without putting on a pound, or you’re physically active, you may want to increase your daily caloric intake by 1000-2000 calories, a little less for women.
Don’t skip breakfast. Many people do this because they think they can drop pound, or they just don’t feel hungry first thing in the morning. Although the scientific evidence is still inconclusive, there are several reasons why you might not want to skip what many people believe is the “most important meal of the day”.
- Eating breakfast gets your metabolism going and keeps it active throughout the morning. Skipping breakfast may kick off the “starvation response” in some people. Your brain says “There is no food! It has been hours! It must be a famine!” The next time you eat, the body stores as much fat as it possibly can.
- Furthermore, skipping breakfast might leave you famished by lunch, causing you to binge as a way to compensate.
- A small breakfast is better than no breakfast. If you don’t feel up to a full meal, at least drink some water and eat a piece of fruit, a granola bar, or a piece of toast. Get more nutritious bang for your buck by eating a breakfast smoothie.
- On the other hand, a technique called “intermittent fasting” has been shown to contribute to more rapid weight loss with possibly other health benefits. The effect, however, may vary from individual to individual.  However, it may not be a good idea to skip breakfast the day of an important exam, job interview, or other critical event as you may be distracted by your hunger or not have enough energy to perform up to your potential.
- Eat slowly. Have you ever gorged on a huge meal and felt fine immediately after, but felt like exploding 15 minutes later? This happens because it takes some time for your stomach to tell your brain that it’s full. Circumvent the problem by consuming your food slower. That way, by the time you get the message and start feeling satisfied, you haven’t consumed too much extra food.
- Slow yourself down by waiting 5 or 10 minutes between each course. Chew each bite of food 20 to 30 times before swallowing.
- Drink a full glass of water throughout your meal. Stopping for sips will slow your eating, as well as helping you feel fuller.
- Eat five times per day. You may consider eating three meals per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner), with two snacks in between. Doing this allows you to eat slightly less at your meals, giving your body a more manageable amount of food to digest, and keeps your blood sugar steadier throughout the day because you’re not going six hours at a stretch without eating.
- Never go on an EXTREME DIET!!!! You NEVER want to come to the point where you can’t drink any specific liquids or you have to stay away from things that are actually nutritious for you. If you feel you have more questions or you think you or a family member/friend might be going through this, make sure to contact your doctor or talk to people close to you.
- Consider eating fruit and vegetable salads instead of fast foods.
- Carry water with you at all times. Try to drink water in place of soft drinks and other flavored beverages. A good rule of thumb is to drink half your body weight in ounces per day.
- Try to lower your junk food consumption little by little and in a month or so you will frown upon junk foods!
- Eat before you shop so you can focus on your grocery list without having any unnecessary cravings.
- Make sure there isn’t a lot of unhealthy food in your house that can tempt you. Give or throw away the foods you shouldn’t eat. You can’t eat what you don’t have! And don’t buy those thrown away again!
- Non-fat yogurt can make a great snack, and its healthy bacteria can help with various stomach problems.
- Cravings for junk food usually stop after about 2 weeks of eating healthy.
- When you think you’re craving for unhealthy foods, it may mean your body needs something with nutrients and vitamins, so eat healthier alternatives like fruits or vegetables to stop that unhealthy craving.
- Try chewing more. This will give your body more time to digest the food and absorb nutrients.
- With labels such as “fat free” or “sugar free” there are more chemicals. Most of the time, the simpler the ingredients list, the healthier the food is. For example, juicing your own orange juice is always healthier than store bought orange juice. Even if its labeled fat free on the container. If you make your juice at home, you know exactly what is in your juice and not relying on a label to be truthful.
- Have patience. You won’t see a drastic drop in your cholesterol level or weight or increase in your energy level immediately. You need to give the changes in diet some time to kick in. You may start to notice changes a couple weeks later.
- If you are in school then always eat a healthy breakfast before going to school
- Try not to buy so much junk food because you will feel tempted to eat it.
- Even though eating healthy is good for you, it is a quite a bit harder. Avoid starving yourself w calories. If you want to gain weight for a football team or some such reason, you are going to choose food with lots of calories. However, too many calories, not enough exercise, and eating too much at one time, can make you fat.
- Drink water instead of soft drinks or alcohol.
- Take time to change your diet. For example try switching from chocolate dessert to a heather choice. Then try something else.
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