While the phrase, “You are what you eat,” isn’t exactly true, your eating habits do play a big role in determining how healthy you are. But what exactly is a healthy diet?
If you watch the news at all or read magazines, you’ve probably heard all about all sorts of diets and nutrition plans. There’s always something new that’s the latest and greatest idea for improving your health and helping you lose weight.
But the latest fad isn’t always the best idea for your health. In fact, sticking with some tried-and-true basics can benefit your health and your waistline.
“Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated,” says Allison Haynes, registered dietitian with LIFT Wellness Center. “Following a few basic guidelines on what to eat and how to eat can greatly benefit your health both in the short-term and in the long run.”
Why Healthy Eating Habits Are Important
Eating a balanced and nutritious diet can benefit you in many different ways! Let’s name a few:
- Healthy eating can prevent disease. Many chronic health conditions are related to poor diet and excess weight, so practicing healthy eating habits can help lower your risk.
- Healthy eating benefits your mental health. What you eat absolutely can affect your mood and your risk of mental health issues.
- Healthy eating promotes a healthy weight. Eating a healthy mix of food can help you lose weight and maintain a healthy weight.
Beyond those benefits, practicing healthy eating habits will just help you feel better overall—at your best physically, mentally and emotionally.
What Healthy Eating Habits Look Like
OK, so you know that eating a healthy diet is beneficial, but what exactly is a healthy diet? Following a few basic principles will help you take a big step in a positive direction:
- Fill your plate with fruits, veggies and whole grains. This may sound overly simple, but focusing your attention on these foods is a great first step. Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies and one-quarter of your plate with whole grains, such as whole-wheat pasta or bread. While fresh veggies and fruits are great when you can get them, frozen produce is just as good for you, since it is picked and frozen at its freshest. Even canned varieties offer you benefits! Just be sure to choose fruits and vegetables without sauces and syrup, since those can be loaded with lots of extras you don’t need.
- Choose lean protein sources. So, what goes on that remaining one-quarter of your plate? A serving of lean protein. This can include lean cuts of meat, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts. A plant-based diet has been shown to promote good health, so even if you primarily eat meat, throw in a meat-free day every once in a while!
- Limit your intake of the “bad” stuff. No food is off limits, even in a healthy diet, but limit your intake of saturated and trans fats, excess sodium and added sugars. Each will be identified on a nutrition label, so take a look before purchasing foods.
- Prepare foods in a healthy way. While choosing healthy foods is certainly the foundation of healthy eating habits, how you prepare those foods is just as important. Steaming, poaching, broiling, grilling, baking and stir-frying are all healthier options than frying.
- Choose healthy fats. Yes, you read that correctly. Not all fat is bad! In fact, fat is a necessary component to helping our bodies run optimally. But you want to choose the healthy varieties and eat them in moderation. You want to look for “monounsaturated” and “polyunsaturated” fats, such as those found in olives, avocados, nuts and fatty fish.
- Incorporate fish into your diet. Speaking of fatty fish…reap the health benefits by eating a couple of servings a week! These fish, also called “oily fish,” contain heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids—and include tuna, wild salmon, sardines, anchovies and trout.
- Drink up. But don’t drink your calories! Believe it or not, many Americans drink away a significant number of calories per day. That’s because a lot of beverage options today, including those that seem healthy, are packed with excess sugar. Juice, energy drinks, soda and sports drinks all pack a punch when it comes to sugar and calories. Choose no-calorie or low-calorie beverages—and water is always your best choice.
- Don’t get overwhelmed. We’ve listed seven tips above. But if those feel like too much to master, take them one at a time! Even making one healthy choice is better than none at all. Start slow, and over time introduce other healthy eating habits.
When it comes to health and wellness, LIFT Wellness Center has you covered! We offer a full range of classes and programs designed to meet your needs—and promote good health.