Over the course of the last several years, I’ve come to find that there are certain rules to eating healthy that work really well, and for the most part, are indisputable. We often try to make things really complicated when they don’t have to be. Simple is always better. So, I’ve decided to share my basics of eating healthy in the most straightforward format possible.
- Drink lots of water. Aim for the number of ounces that equate to your weight in pounds divided by two (150 pound person would drink 75 ounces per day). Hydration helps keep your body in good shape and helps you stay full.
- Eat Tons of Vegetables. Eating vegetables is an easy way to be fuller longer and to make sure you are getting plenty of fiber. And as a bonus, the calories for what you would eat add up to very few compared to other foods.
- Fill with Fiber. Ensure you are getting enough fiber at each meal (vegetables, whole grains and/or fruit). This will help you stay full for a longer period of time as well. Further, it will help keep your digestive tract in good shape and keep your heart healthy.
- Pay Attention to Portions. This can be the biggest pitfall for people. They eat all the right things, but tend to eat too much without even realizing.
- Keep your Carbohydrates in Check. When eating carbohydrates, limit carbohydrates that are high in sugar (e.g., fruits and dairy products) to the morning and mid-day.
- Mix Starchy and Fibrous Complex Carbs. Try to eat both complex fibrous (vegetables) and complex starchy carbohydrates (grains, cereals and legumes) together. This helps to slow the digestion of starchy vegetables.
- Eat well and Eat Often. Breakup your caloric needs throughout the day by eating smaller meals every 2 to 3 hours to add up to a total of 5 to 6 meals a day. This will keep your metabolism revved.
- Balance each Meal. It is best to have protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats in each meal. This helps to keep you satiated.
- Build in Protein. Incorporate lean proteins with each meal. If you eat meats, aim for 2 – 3 oz. of lean protein at every meal. If you are vegetarian or vegan, build in beans, quinoa, nuts and soy into your meals.
- Supplement with a Daily Multi-Vitamin. To ensure you are getting all of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) you need, take a multivitamin daily.
- Choose Healthy Fats. Whole fats that aren’t processed (nuts, avocado and seeds) are especially healthy. When a recipe calls for oil, use extra virgin olive oil or canola oil whenever possible. Be sure, however, to use it sparingly.
Limit or avoid:
- Intake of Alcohol. Alcohol adds 7 calories to your diet (as compared to proteins and carbs which only add 4 calories per gram).
- Fried Foods. These add tons of calories and bad fats to your diet. Try grilled, baked and broiled options instead.
- Processed Foods. If you eat something that has been manufactured or processed, be sure you know what all of the ingredients are and that they don’t contain partially or fully hydrogenated oils, artificial ingredients and sweeteners, or preservatives.
- Non-Whole Grains (White/Bleached Flour Products). Don’t eat bread, cereal or grain products that have been processed or bleached. Eat those made from whole grains.
- Fruit Juice. Although fruit is healthy, fruit juice tends to be less nutritious. Whole fruit offers you the benefits of fiber, which helps to reduce cholesterol and risks of heart disease, as well as the threat of Type II Diabetes. Unfortunately, fruit juice offers no fiber and is very high in sugar content, which can cause blood sugar levels to spike and plummet (just like candy).
- Fatty Meats. When eating meats, always choose leaner options: skinless, white meat poultry and fish are the best sources for this. Avoid sausage, bacon and fatty cuts of pork, lamb and meat.
- Sugar. Avoid foods with refined sugars. These include candy, soda, chocolate, sugar, syrup, jelly and jam, cookies and baked goods. If something has sugar in it, it should be a natural part of the food (e.g., fruit).
Also, it makes sense to employ an 85% / 15% rule. Look to eat healthy 85% of the time (6 days a week) and allow yourself to indulge 15% of the time (one day a week).
What are your favorite “rules” of healthy eating?