How to Eat Healthy in Real Life: The Ultimate Guide
“Healthy eating” can take a variety of forms, depending on who you ask. There is a lot of disagreement over the healthiest way to eat among healthcare professionals, wellness influencers, colleagues, and friends. It’s frustrating to read nutrition articles online that are full of contradictory – and quite often outright unfounded – rules and suggestions.
Simply wanting to eat healthily is not easy when you’re trying to get in shape. The good news is you don’t have to become a health freak to eat healthily. You can enjoy the foods you like while still nourishing your body. The point is, that food should be enjoyed rather than counted, weighed, and tracked. To make healthy eating work for you, this article cuts through the nonsense to explain what it is and how to make it happen.
What is the purpose of healthy eating?
We need to understand why healthy eating is so important before we dive into what it means. You need food to function properly, as it provides you with calories and nutrients. When one or more nutrients or calories are deficient in your diet, your health may suffer.
Similarly, you may gain weight if you consume too many calories. In obese people, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, and heart, liver, and kidney disease are significantly more common. In addition, how you eat influences disease risk, lifespan, and mental health.
Ultra-processed food consumption has been linked with an increased risk of death and diseases like cancer and heart disease, however eating whole, nutrient-dense foods is associated with increased longevity and better health.
Depressive symptoms are more likely to occur in people who consume highly processed foods, particularly if they get less exercise. Moreover, if you’re eating mainly ultra-processed foods and beverages, such as fast food, soda, and sugary cereals, but not much whole food like vegetables, nuts, and fish, you’re likely consuming too little of some nutrients, which could be detrimental to your health.
It promotes optimal mental and physical health, fuels your body, acquires nutrients, lowers your disease risk, and extends your life.
Can you eat healthily without following a certain diet?
Not at all!
For most people, following a specific diet is not necessary to feel their best, even if they do have health reasons to avoid certain foods or adopt diets.
That doesn’t mean eating in a certain way can’t benefit you. A low-carb diet may benefit some people, while a high-carb diet may benefit others. Eating healthy, however, is not dependent on diets or following certain dietary principles. Keeping your body fueled with healthy foods means prioritizing your wellness. For each individual, the specifics will vary due to their location, financial situation, cultural background, and taste preferences.
There is no single diet that is healthy. Rather, choosing nutrient-rich foods to fuel your body means prioritizing your health.
Getting the basics of great nutrition
To begin learning about nutrition basics, let’s review why healthy eating is so important.
Dietary nutrients provide.
A calorie is probably your first thought when it comes to healthy eating. You should put nutrients first, even though calories are important. Your body is meant to thrive by consuming nutrients like protein, carbs, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Dietary nutrient density is an indicator of the number of nutrients food provides as compared to how many calories it provides.
Calorie-rich foods contain fewer nutrients, but all foods provide calories.
Candy bars or boxes of macaroni and cheese, for example, may contain a lot of calories but provide few vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fibers. Similar to diet foods, foods marketed as “low calorie” or “diet-friendly” may have very few calories but lack nutrients.
Whole eggs contain more fat and calories than egg whites, for instance. A whole egg, on the other hand, supplies 5–21% of the Daily Value for iron, phosphorus, zinc, choline, as well as vitamins A and B12.
The reason is that eggs contain fat-rich yolks, which are nutritious. Although some nutrient-dense foods, like fruits and vegetables, are low in calories, many – like nuts, full-fat yogurt, eggs, avocados, and fatty fish – are high. No problem! Calorie-rich foods aren’t necessarily bad for you just because they are high in calories. Similarly, a portion of low-calorie food isn’t necessarily healthy just because it’s low in calories. You’re missing the point of healthy eating if you make decisions based solely on calories. If you want to eat mostly healthy food, it should be rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and protein. Nuts, seeds, beans, fatty fish, veggies, fruits, and eggs are among these foods.
There is diversity in diet.
Dietary diversity, or an intake of a variety of foods, is also a component of healthy eating. Maintaining healthy body weight and preventing chronic disease can be done by following a healthy diet rich in different kinds of food. If you’re a picky eater, it can be challenging to eat a variety of foods. When introducing new foods, introduce them one at a time. Starting with one or two vegetables per day, if you don’t eat many vegetables, you can build from there. In spite of your disinclination to try new foods, research shows that the more you are exposed to a food, the more likely it is that you will become accustomed to it.
There are three main macronutrients in food: carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. (Fiber is considered a carbohydrate.) Usually, you should balance your meals and snacks between the three. Fiber-rich carbs can be made tastier and more filling by adding protein and fat.
Add a spoonful of nut butter or a bit of cheese to a piece of fruit as a snack to keep you fuller than if you were eating only fruit. You should maintain a balanced diet, even if it’s not always balanced. It isn’t necessary for most people to count macros and follow a specific macronutrient plan – except if they are athletes or want to achieve a specific body composition or if they need to gain excess body fat or muscle for medical reasons.
In addition, counting macros and obsessively trying to stay within a particular macro range may result in an unhealthy fixation on food or disordered eating patterns. Some people benefit from diets high in fat and protein and low in carbs – or from diets high in carbs and low in fat.
It is not necessary to count macronutrients in these diets. You can, for example, choose low-carb foods such as nonstarchy veggies, proteins, and fats more often than high-carb foods if you feel better on a low-carb diet.
Avoid processed foods, which have been laced with chemicals.
It is best to reduce your intake of ultra-processed foods if you wish to improve your diet. Processed foods aren’t necessary to eliminate completely. In fact, even many healthy foods have been processed one way or another, such as shelled nuts, canned beans, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Conversely, high-processed products like soda, mass-produced baked goods, candy, sugary cereals, and some canned snacks contain little if any whole food ingredients. The ingredients in these items include high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners. Researchers link diets containing ultra-processed foods to an increased risk of depression, obesity, and heart disease, among other problems. In comparison, a diet high in whole, nutrient-rich foods has the opposite impact, protecting against disease, promoting longevity, and promoting overall well-being.
Limit highly processed items in your diet and consume nutrient-dense, whole foods.