So you want to begin eating more healthfully but don't know where to start? Seems like the subjects of diet, health and nutrition get more and more confusing each day. News reports surface that contradict old reports about what's good and what's not. Luckily, the science of nutrition and what your body needs to stay strong isn't as complex as you might think. Use these tips to learn how to lose weight with a healthy diet.
First off, let's establish that there are six basic essentials in the balanced diet that the body requires to function well (and to live, for that matter). Those six things are:
- Vitamins (our body needs 13 vitamins)
- Minerals (our body needs 22 minerals)
Science has also recently discovered thousands of compounds in plant foods called phytochemicals. While your body does not require these to live, it does need them to help prevent disease.
So, you may be wondering, "How do you maintain a healthy diet?" Let's outline some simple steps you can take to ensure your body gets what it needs just to live, and to live with vitality.
1. Have 6-8 ounces of high protein foods daily. Protein is the body's building block to repair tissues, help muscles grow, and to create blood cells and disease-fighting immunoglobulins. Protein foods also provide us with B vitamins, iron and zinc. They include meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, eggs, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds. Try to select lower fat meat choices (like poultry, fish and tenderloin) most of the time.
2. Have 6-ounce "equivalents" of grains (preferably whole-grain) each day. Yes, your body does need high carbohydrate foods to function better - the low carb diets may help you lose weight temporarily, but these are not optimal for health and vitality. Whole grains are an excellent source of energy, fiber, B vitamins, and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Look for whole grain or whole wheat cereals, breads, crackers and pastas for extra nutrition. Refined grain products like white bread, white rice and pasta and processed crackers and snack are not "nutrition powerhouses" like their whole grain counterparts are.
3. Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Why? Vegetables provide vitamins, such as vitamins A and C, and folate, and minerals, such as iron and magnesium. They are naturally low in fat and also provide fiber. Fruit provides important amounts of vitamins A and C and potassium. It is also low in fat and sodium. Both fruits and veggies are packed with disease fighting phytochemicals. When it comes to fruits and vegetables, the more, the better. The American Cancer Society and many health professionals (including me) recommend up to nine servings daily for optimal disease protection. In general, one cup of fruit or 100% fruit juice, or ½ cup of dried fruit can be considered one cup from the fruit group. In general, one cup of raw or cooked vegetables or vegetable juice, or two cups of raw leafy greens can be considered one cup from the vegetable group.
4. Have at least 3 dairy servings (preferably low-fat or non-fat) each day. Dairy products provide protein and several vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, riboflavin and vitamin B12. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium.
5. Limit consumption of saturated fats and choose healthier fats like monounsaturates. Saturated fats are not only calorie-laden, but they have been strongly linked to high cholesterol levels and increased heart disease risk. Sources of saturated fat include butter, regular (not reduced fat or fat-free) cheeses, milk and dairy products, cream, cream sauces and red meat with lots of marbling - like prime rib. Better sources of fats include olive oil, canola oil, trans-fat free margarine spreads like Benecol, fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, and nuts and seeds.
6. Limit consumption of sweets, baked goods, processed foods, and processed flours. While it is perfectly fine and encouraged to have treats in your diet, consider these foods just that - treats - and not a significant part of your daily diet. These foods provide a lot of calories, but are significantly limited in providing good nutrients for your body.
7. Drink at least 8 glasses of water each day. This will help you stay well-hydrated and to keep your body and all its major systems performing at their best.
Just seven easy steps and you're on your way to a healthy, well-balanced diet! Begin today with these easy diet tips and you'll start feeling the benefits of improved energy and vitality almost immediately!