The food choices you make can affect your health today, tomorrow, and in the future. You may be eating plenty of food, but not eating foods that give your body healthful nourishment can be counter productive. Healthy eating habits can increase your chances for a longer life and reduce your risk of many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis and certain cancers.
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Make Smart Choices
The best way to give your body the balanced nutrition it needs is by eating a variety of whole fresh foods every day. 'Whole fresh foods' are exactly what you think they are: unprocessed, well grown foods in their natural state such as organic fruits, vegetables, nuts and wild caught fish.
- Emphasizes fruits and vegetables. Organic if possible.
- Includes fish, lean meats, beans, and nuts.
- Is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, sodium (salt), and added sugars.
- Avoids high fructose corn syrup, MSG, sodium nitrate, aspartame, and other chemical enhancements.
Mix up your Choices
Mixing up your food choices can be good for both your taste buds and your body. Eating a wide variety of healthy foods within each group allows the body to consume more nutrients.
Tips on how to get the most out of eating:
- Focus on fruits. Eat a variety of fruits in their natural state rather than concentrated fruit juices. Eating fruit raw allows your body to absorb more of the fruit's nutrients.
- Vary your veggies. Eat vibrant colored veggies, such as broccoli, kale, beets, peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash and other dark leafy greens. Make beans and peas a key part of your diet, especially black beans, garbanzo beans, split peas, and lentils.
- Make your grains whole. Choose whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice and pasta every day. Look to see that grains such as wheat, rice, oats, or corn are referred to as "whole" in the list of ingredients.
- Go lean with protein. Choose fish, lean meats and poultry. Bake it, broil it, saute it, or grill it. And vary your protein choices with beans, peas, nuts, and seeds.
Reclaim the Kitchen
Good food is essential to good living, and yet we spend more time watching people cook on television than we do cooking food in our own kitchens. Cooking with fresh ingredients can be both creative and fun with benefits that far outweigh those of being cooked for in restaurants or fast food chains. Cooking a meal and enjoying it with friends and family at the dinner table gives you the opportunity to savor good food and good company.
Tips on healthy and efficient cooking:
- If you can only find the time to cook once or twice a week, make it last by preparing enough for several other meals. Freeze it and have a ready-made healthy meal for the next time you are simply too tired to cook.
- Add vegetables and fruits whenever possible. Try adding peppers or beets to your salads. Garnish crab cakes with a fresh mango chutney.
- Save money and get more nutritional value by purchasing local produce that is in season.
- Recipes will often call for rich oils or heavy cream with added sugar to enhance taste. Try improvising by instead adding fresh herbs and spices to enhance flavor without adding more calories.
Eating Out - The Healthy Way
It can be difficult to eat healthy when you are on the go. Do your best to make smart food choices and watch portion sizes when you can't cook for yourself.
Try these tips when eating out or on the go:
- At restaurants, pay attention to descriptions on the menu: dishes labeled fried, basted, batter-dipped, breaded, or in cream sauce are usually high in calories, unhealthy fats and/or sodium. Order items with more vegetables and choose fish or lean meats when possible.
- Rather than frequenting fast food restaurants for lunch, bring your lunch to work. Make a sandwich on whole wheat bread with some fruit and nuts as a side. Save money and enjoy more energy throughout the day.
- Between meals, avoid snacking on candy and potato chips. Instead try granola, dried fruit, nuts or carrot sticks with hummus.
- Be mindful of what you eat and savor each bite. Eat slowly, chew your food thoroughly and stop before you are full. It takes around 20 minutes for our bodies to register that we are satiated. Mindful eating relaxes you, eases your digestion, and improves the eating experience.
Balance Healthy Eating with Excercise
Being healthy isn't just about eating healthy, it's also about getting active. Fitness and nutrition go hand in hand to help control body weight by balancing the calories you take in with the calories you expend each day. If you consume 100 more food calories a day than you burn, you gain approximately one pound in a month: that's 10 extra pounds a year!