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

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

3. Don’t Be Afraid of Calories

4. Stay Organized

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.

Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. http://www.alighahary.ca