All of us know that we should eat a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet that contains plenty of fruits and vegetables. However, as much as we know this, most of us are quite unaware of the exact ingredients of a healthy diet. This is also because there is so much conflicting information out there. For instance, grapes are natural fruits and should be classed as healthy. At the same time, they are packed full of sugars, which should be avoided. Avocado is a very healthy fruit, but it is also incredibly fatty. So just what is a healthy diet and how do you make sure you actually eat it?
Understanding Healthy Diets
There are two incredibly important elements to a healthy diet. Firstly, it has to be sufficient to sustain your level of activity. Secondly, it should include a large variety of ingredients, which is what makes it balanced. You should make sure that you eat plenty of vegetables and fruits every day, as well as starchy foods such as potatoes, rice and bread (do always choose wholegrain). You also need to add at least some dairy to your diet, preferably low fat and some protein that is provided through non-dairy products (choose meats and fish, or other protein sources for vegetarians). Finally, you need a little bit of fat and sugar in your diet as well.
Choose Your Plate
There are various tools out there to help you visualize just what a healthy diet should consist of. Most of these tools, such as the Choose Your Plate tool, are shaped like plates, which gives you an easy explanation of what you should and should not consume during the day, and in what amounts. One third of this plate is always made up of fruits and vegetables. Another third of this plate is made up of starchy foods. The final third should be divided mainly between protein sources and dairy sources, with a tiny amount (around one eight of your full plate) made up of fats and sugars.
Tips for a Healthy Diet
The above should help you to make more positive choices when it comes to your nutrition and diet. However, people often still struggle with making these types of decisions. A lot of it is down to common sense, but we also live in a consumerist society where we are encouraged to eat lots of processed foods that are made to look like they are good for us. Unfortunately, eating a healthy diet will require some effort on your part, and you need to take ownership of your own diet.
Starchy foods are very important, as you need these for energy. The potato is a fantastic piece of starchy food, but you need to make sure that you eat it either boiled or baked. Roasted potatoes or fried potatoes in particular, have lost all their healthy benefits and they are covered in oils. Not just that, most French fries and other such products are actually made of a potato puree, which means that they have even less nutritional value.
Next, you should make sure that you eat at least five portions of vegetables and fruit every day. Luckily, this can be achieved in many different ways. For instance, you could have porridge with banana on the morning with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice, and you will already have consumed two of your daily fives. Some experts are now suggesting we should increase this to seven pieces per day, mainly because so many fruits and vegetables have been GMO treated. However, if you grow your own (which is also fantastic for healthy living overall), five a day should be more than sufficient.
You must consume plenty of protein, and fish tends to be healthier than meat. We have a tendency to eat a lot of red meat in this country, which is actually very bad for our heart. On the other hand, a lot of fish are contaminated with the various pollutants in our oceans. As such, the official recommendation is to eat two pieces of fish a week and to eat red meat no more than once a week. On the other days, choose lean white meats such as chicken and turkey.
There are three ingredients that are found in large amounts in all processed foods, and you should try to avoid these as much as possible. The three ingredients are salt, sugar and saturated fats. Neither of these three ingredients have any health benefits to you, and you must try to cut them from your diet. Looking back at the plate, you only have a small proportion allocated for sugars and fats, so if you want to enjoy the occasional cream cake or chocolate bar, you must cut this out of your diet.
You will probably have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and that is absolutely true. A lot of people, particularly those who count calories, will skip breakfast so that they can enjoy a larger lunch and dinner. This is actually a very bad idea, because your body will have entered starvation mode by that time, filtering out only the bare minimum of nutrients and storing the rest as fat. If you want to eat a healthy, balanced diet, you absolutely must eat breakfast as well. Also, remember that breakfast is an opportunity to consume some of your five pieces of fruits and vegetables per day.
A healthy diet is unbelievably important, but it is not the only thing you must work towards if you want to be healthy overall. You must also drink plenty of water, thereby giving your body a chance to remain hydrated and to remove toxins from your system. And of equal importance is to be physically active. Even if you only eat healthy foods but you are essentially a couch potato, you will not be fully healthy and you will start noticing the ill effects of this. Making healthy choices is a lifestyle change, but it will soon become second nature to you.