Just as you declutter and clean your home from time to time, it can also be a good idea to do the same for the diet. You not only feel better by eating healthier, but you’re also more likely to think clearer by ditching certain food distractions. Unfortunately, with new fad diets always coming to the forefront as well as conflicting nutritional advice, it can be hard to know where to start. The good news is that nutrition isn’t something that has to be complicated. By keeping the following guidelines in mind and remembering that your diet should be looked at as a lifestyle change rather than a temporary solution, you’ll be well on your way to improved health.
1. Know The Formula
A healthy diet means including a healthy mix, meaning your plate should always consist of at least ½ fruits and vegetables, ¼ lean protein, ¼ carbohydrates, and a small amount of healthy fats. For recommended food servings, you can also follow along with Canada’s Food Guide. If you wind up going to a birthday party and find yourself indulging in a slice of pizza or a slice of cake, don’t feel discouraged, as that one day of indulgence won’t necessarily put you in immediate harms way. Just make sure you get back to it the next day, as the magic and success in following this formula comes from consistency.
As mentioned, fruits and vegetables are an important part of your diet as they are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, in addition to heart-healthy fibre that the body needs for proper function. Fruits and vegetables also tend to take up more room in your belly and contain less calories compared to other foods. In addition, when you consume fruits and vegetables, they also trigger the receptors in your stomach that tell your brain you’re full. You should always aim to eat at least two servings of vegetables, or one vegetable and one fruit. Having a starchy vegetable is also acceptable but it should then be considered part of the carbohydrate category. Speaking of carbs, it’s also important to know the difference — because yes, there is one. When you hear the word “carbohydrates” you most likely think of things like bread, pasta, or fast food. While this is true, these particular carbs are known as refined carbs or simple carbs, which contain little nutritional value. They can also cause your blood sugar to drastically spike and then crash. If you’re going to consume carbohydrates of any kind, make sure you’re choosing ones that are complex and rich in fibre, such as brown rice, whole-wheat bread, and legumes. These particular carbs are absorbed slower and provide us with a steadier source of energy.
Choosing the right protein and fat is also important. Lean protein, for example, lowers the level of the hunger hormone known as ghrelin. Examples of lean protein include low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, and soy-based tofu. When it comes to fats, make sure you’re choosing ones that are good for the heart, such as olive or avocado oil, as well as seeds.
2. Beware of Added Sugar
Certain foods, such as fruits, milk and plain yogurt, are naturally sweet — all of which are fine to consume. Things like fruit juice, however, often contain added sugar, and it also often sneaks its way into many of the other foods we eat — especially those that are processed, including bread, and even salad dressing — two products you wouldn’t necessarily think to have sugar in them. When you go grocery shopping, always carefully investigate the foods you’re eating by reading the ingredients label and be wary of any products that have an added sugar listed — especially if it’s one of the top 3 ingredients. Sugar can disguise itself under many different names, so if you don’t know what it is or if you can’t pronounce the particular ingredient, then it’s most likely something you’ll want to stay away from. The more sugar you eat, the higher your risk of developing things like heart disease.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Calories
People often obsess over calories — from counting them, to overindulging them, or avoiding them all together — all of which are counter-productive. Contrary to popular belief, the body actually needs a certain number of calories each day. The recommended daily calorie intake per day is approximately 2,000 for women, and 2,500 for men — though this often depends on other factors such as age, height, lifestyle, and overall health.
4. Stay Organized
Organization isn’t just about cleaning out desks, closets, or doing spring cleaning — as it’s also a good idea to stay organized in the food department, too. The most important way to do this is to organize your kitchen. Make sure healthier foods are easier to spot by rearranging your pantry and having them in easy to reach places, as this will also help you to make healthier food choices. Also make sure countertops and tabletops are clear, as the messier they are, the more inclined you will be to reach for a food that’s quick and easy, but not necessarily healthy, like a bag of potato chips.
Organization can also come from meal prep. Planning what you’re going to eat as much as a week in advance can be helpful, especially if you’re someone who’s always on the go. Things like fruits and vegetables can be prepared and ready to eat, and you can also pre-cook many meals and freeze them so that they’re ready to go the next day by popping them in the microwave for a minute or too. Always be careful with certain foods like meat and seafood, however, as they can spoil quicker than some.
Originally published at alighahary.ca on January 7, 2019.