Healthy Foods for a Healthy Lifestyle
There are several fad diets that will lead to successful weight loss if you follow them exactly as they are designed. That doesn’t mean every food that fits into a diet is a healthy food, but it does mean you have to change your eating patterns to fit the diet’s rules.
Rather than worry about following a fad diet, think about your health and your lifestyle instead. Start by learning which foods are good for you.
Healthy Foods to Eat
The closer a food is to its natural state, the better it is for you. Fresh fruits and berries are great and will satisfy a craving for sweets. Whole vegetables have lots of vitamins and minerals, so eat more green, orange and yellow vegetables. Steam them to retain the most nutritional value and be careful with sauces, they may be high in calories and fats that aren’t good for you.
Any pasta or baked goods should be made from whole grains. Avoid sugary snacks and pastries as well. An apple is good for you, an apple pie really isn’t.
Shop for lean meats and don’t forget the fish. The omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in ocean fish are often deficient in our diets, so serve seafood two or three times per week. Baked fish and chicken are healthier than fried, and lean meats like bison or venison may be healthier than higher fat beef.
Processed lunch meats, hot dogs, bacon, and sausages have a lot of saturated fat and nitrates in them you don’t want in your body. If you love these meats, you can find healthier versions sold at health food stores.
Remember to eat a variety of foods to get all of the vitamins and minerals you need to be healthy.
Stick to water, milk and 100% fruit and vegetable juices as your main beverages and limit sugary soft drinks. If you get tired of plain water, add a slice of lemon or lime to add a touch of flavor. For kids, try some fruit juice jazzed up with carbonated water.
- Battered and deep fried foods
- Sugary sodas
- Processed lunch meats
- Greasy snack chips
- White bread and refined pasta
- Most canned spaghetti and ravioli
- Sugary breakfast cereals
- Frozen fried chicken, fish sticks and corn dogs
- Green and brightly colored vegetables
- Dark leafy greens and lettuce
- Fresh fruits and berries
- Lean turkey and chicken
- Nuts, dried fruits and healthy snacks
- Whole grain breads and pasta
- Healthy cooking oils like canola and olive oils
- Grass fed beef and bison
- Cold water oily ocean fish
- Low fat milk or soy beverages
- Nuts, seeds, and legumes
Assess Your Lifestyle
Once you learn which foods are good for you, you need to look at your eating habits. If the foods you eat are not healthy, you might want to work within your habits and current lifestyle conditions, since they are usually tough to change. Consider these questions, then read on for tips to help you add healthy foods:
- Do you eat because you are bored, sad, or happy?
- Do you snack in front of the TV without even giving it much thought?
- Are most of your meals eaten at home or in restaurants?
- How often do you eat fast food?
- Do you like to cook?
- How often do you grocery shop?
- Do you skip breakfast or lunch, then overeat later in the day?
- How big are the portions you consume?
- Do you crave sweets?
- Are there foods you won’t give up?
Healthy Foods for Snackers
If you are an emotional eater, keep the junk food like potato chips, tortilla chips, ice cream, and candy out of the house. Keep healthy snacks like fruits, crunchy vegetables with dips, or nuts handy. If you absolutely feel the need for a treat, then purchase a small piece of high quality chocolate or your favorite treat and enjoy it, just don’t buy any to bring home.
The same tips are helpful for those who enjoy TV snacking at home. If you don’t want to give up nibbling while watching your shows, keep low calorie foods close by, because it is very easy to eat too much when you are entranced by your favorite drama, football game or cooking show. Eat crisp raw vegetables with your dip instead of greasy chips.
Healthy Foods When Eating Out
It is difficult to maintain good health if you eat out a lot. Those salads might not be as appealing as a greasy cheeseburger and fries. Restaurants frequently serve huge portions of food too, much more than you need. If you can’t hold your resolve to stick to the salads, compromise; pick out an appetizer that you love, combine it with a salad or a cup of soup, and skip the larger entrees. You can also share a meal or take half of it home. You could die for dessert? Order as small a size as possible, or maybe just one scoop of ice cream, rather than a larger, heavier dessert. Try a dish of mixed berries topped with nuts and a small bit of whipped cream. Be careful with the after-dinner drinks as well. Maybe just have one glass of wine with your meal.
If you eat a lot of fast food, you have found out how difficult it is to feel good and stay healthy. Some places have added salads and some better choices, but it really isn’t a good way to eat. Keep fast food dining to a minimum, don’t go with the super sizes and choose places that offer more fresh ingredients.
Eating Healthy Foods at Home
If you hate to cook, all that fresh produce you bought may just rot in your refrigerator. You might prefer to purchase prepared foods from markets that specialize in healthier whole foods, or even hire a personal chef to prepare meals that only need to be heated and served. If you have a tighter budget, perhaps you can set aside some time on weekends to prepare meals and freeze them to be reheated later that week.
It is important to be prepared if you are going to eat good foods at home and not run out for fast food when you don’t feel like cooking. Unfortunately, grocery shopping can be very tedious. Set aside enough time to do your shopping for a few days’ worth of healthy food and ingredients. Make a list and stick to it. Don’t go shopping when you are hungry, and once you are at the store, stay away from the junk and the processed food aisles. Buy lots of fresh produce and choose lean meats and fish. Stay away from processed meats, fake cheese products, processed boxed and canned meals and avoid the snack aisle. Better yet, shop for organic products whenever possible. If you have no choice but to shop infrequently, choose frozen fruits and vegetables over canned, as they may retain more of their nutrients and don’t have the extra sodium.
Don’t Skip Meals
If you skip breakfast, you may find that you lose energy by midmorning. Rather than skipping breakfast completely, split it in half. Eat a small breakfast early, such as an egg, small serving of oatmeal, or a slice of whole grain bread. Have a small snack on hand such as raisins and 10 or 12 almonds to eat at midmorning. This split breakfast is a much better solution than reaching for coffee and candy bars to perk yourself up.
Control Portion Size
Our stomachs really aren’t that big. Without stretching, the stomach will hold about two cups of food, but because the stomach will stretch, it can hold considerably more food than we need at any given meal.
When you eat at home, serve your meals already dished up on individual plates rather than family style at the table. You will be less likely to reach for “seconds” that way. At restaurants, ask for “take home” containers and take half of your meal home to heat up tomorrow. Avoid buffets, unless you are very disciplined. It is way too tempting to load up three or four plates plus dessert.
Tame Your Sweet Tooth
Curb your cravings for sweets with fruits and stay away from sugary snacks and pastries. These treats have lots of calories and can be loaded with unhealthy fats. If the fruits and berries aren’t sweet enough for you, add just a bit of Splenda, stevia or even a tiny sprinkling of sugar. Avoid sugary sodas and try iced herbal teas or ice water with Splenda, and a slice of lemon or lime.
Things You Won’t Give Up
Do you feel like you can’t live without your chocolate? If there are foods you won’t give up, enjoy them in smaller amounts. Buy one tiny high quality piece of candy and enjoy it, but don’t buy a bag full of snacks to take with you. Limit other treats or favorite foods that aren’t healthy, maybe let yourself eat them one time per month, or search for healthier versions at natural foods markets.
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
If you can’t transform your unhealthy diet overnight, don’t despair. Most people can’t. Start implementing some of these ideas, even just one at a time. Every change you make will be one step in the right direction.