It’s well-known that following a “healthy diet” is good for you, but what exactly makes up a healthy diet can be harder to understand. Eating a variety of foods is a solid foundation, but there are also plenty of healthy eating plans that exclude or heavily favor certain types of foods. Before you make any major changes to what you currently eat, consult with your doctor or a registered dietitian to help find a plan that’s healthiest for your lifestyle.
Striking a Balance
A typical balanced diet should include vegetables, fruits, starchy foods, whole grains, dairy products and nondairy proteins. There’s no mandate saying that you need to eat all of those types of food every day, but including all of them in your regular diet and eating a wide range of foods from each group will likely fulfill all of your needs for essential nutrients and give you the energy you need.
A key component of healthy eating is moderation, in both food choices and serving sizes. For example, it’s possible for a healthy eating plan to include occasional small servings of ice cream, but eating several cups of ice cream every day doesn’t fit into a healthy diet. According to HelpGuide.org, moderation can be summed up by eating a little less food in general; less of unhealthy substances specifically, including refined sugar and saturated fat; and more of healthy and low-calorie items like fresh vegetables and fruits.
Paring It Down
It can be easier to grasp healthy eating concepts if you pare them down to choosing simple, whole foods. Unprocessed and minimally processed foods have the highest natural concentrations of vitamins and minerals and are better for your health than supplements and processed foods with “added nutrients.” For example, choose oranges over orange juice, brown rice over white rice and oatmeal over boxed cereal.
Knowing Your Nutrients
Guessing at what’s healthy and what’s not can work some of the time, but you’ll get more accurate information about what you choose to eat by reading nutrition labels. A loaf of bread that claims it is “made with whole grains,” for example, doesn’t mean the bread is primarily a whole-grain loaf; to find out, check the ingredients list to confirm that “whole wheat flour” or another whole grain is listed as the first ingredient.