healthy eatingSimple Steps for Healthier Eating

We all realize eating a healthy diet is the key to a healthy body but too many of us think it’s complicated or takes too much thinking to make a difference. Nothing could be further from the truth as eating a well-balanced diet is simple if you remember a few basic rules that can bring your diet into balance. Implementing the following guidelines will provide your body with the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber and phytochemicals that it needs. It will give you less of what you don’t need- fats, sugars, salt and extra calories.

Choose whole grains rather than refined grains. Several studies have shown those who eat whole grain products rather than refined grain products are 30% less likely to develop heart disease and diabetes. Whole grain products contain many nutrients, such as vitamin E, fiber, chromium, selenium, copper, magnesium, folate and all are essential for metabolizing carbohydrates and for protecting the cardiovascular system. Refined grain products, like white rice, white flour and white bread, have been stripped of most of their vitamins, minerals and fiber. Whole grain products are also more filling, and for a longer period of time, resulting in less overeating.

Cut down on fats. A tablespoon of butter or mayonnaise is about 100 calories and 10 grams of fat. Substituting with a low-fat or lighter version of either one will cut the calories and fat content without sacrificing flavor. Put cooking oil in a food grade spray bottle for stick-free pan cooking and baking pans.

Lower your sodium intake. One teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 milligrams of sodium and that is almost the entire recommended daily allowance. Limiting salt helps to control blood pressure and certain medical conditions. Processed foods, such as canned soups and meals, lunch meats, bacon, hot dogs, sausage and many types of cheese are often very high in sodium. Read labels carefully and select products that are low in sodium. Remove your salt shaker from the dinner table and substitute a no-salt herb and spice mixture instead.

Eat sugar sparingly. Sugar has no nutritional value but is loaded with calories. Sugar can deplete your body’s reserve of the B vitamins, as well as chromium and other vitamins and minerals. A moderate daily amount of sugar would be about 10 teaspoons but the average person consumes about 30 teaspoons per day. Whenever possible, try substituting with a more natural food, such as honey.

Eat two to three servings of protein every day. Adequate protein is critical for muscular strength and for maintaining muscle mass. A serving size is about four ounces. Select lean cuts of beef and pork, poultry, fish and protein-rich alternatives like eggs, dried beans and soy foods. Oily fish, such as mackerel and salmon, have an essential type as fat known as omega-3. At least twice a week, fish should be substituted for meat. Incorporate more dried beans, peas and lentils into your meals as they not only provide protein, but they also have no cholesterol and are full of soluble fibers that help stabilize blood sugar and lower cholesterol.

Eat two to three servings of foods rich in calcium daily. Calcium is responsible for not only building strong bones, but is also important in maintaining normal blood pressure, and in preventing cancer and heart disease. A daily amount equal to 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium is recommended. It isn’t necessary to get your daily allotment of calcium entirely from dairy products either as many leafy green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli and bok choy, are loaded with calcium. Select no- and low-fat dairy products or calcium-fortified soymilk, cheese and yogurt if you prefer non-dairy calcium sources.

Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Five servings is the absolute minimum and reaching ten daily servings would optimize your health. A serving size is a medium sized fruit, a cup of leafy greens or a half cup of raw fruit or vegetables so getting the daily minimum shouldn’t be difficult to manage. Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals and are essential in preventing cancer, heart disease and many other health problems. Starchy vegetables, like corn and potatoes, should be limited as they are not as rich in nutrition but are high in calories. Heaping on high fat salad dressing or butter is counter-productive so try sprinkling lemon juice on your veggies or use low-fat dressings.

As you can see, eating healthier doesn’t have to be difficult. Making better choices when planning your meals goes a long way towards a healthier you.

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