How to eat healthy
Why should I eat healthy?
Here is why you need a healthy diet:
- Your productivity levels spike
According to a study published in the magazine Population Health Management, an unhealthy diet is linked with a 66 percent increased risk of loss in productivity. In comparison, smoking leads to a 28 percent increased risk of low productivity.
- Your energy levels increase
A good balance of glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids will boost your energy. You will reach all your goals faster and easier.
- You become smarter.
A diet rich in fruits, veggies, and omega-3s can increase your focus and awareness.
- Your stress level goes down
Watching your diet can help to reduce stress by itself. For example, foods packed with vitamin C, Omega-3 and magnesium, and a protein-rich diet can help keep levels of cortisol, the primary stress hormone, under control. So healthy eating is an excellent way to feel happier.
- You sleep better
Scientists found that sleep quality and duration are related to a diet. You can improve your sleep duration with a great food variety. Like complex carbs: shredded wheat, barley, and buckwheat that help digestion and produce melatonin. Or turkey, which contains tryptophan and serotonin and also helps us sleep.
- Your digestion will be better because you will take enough fiber.
- With vitamins and antioxidants, your skin will look younger and brighter.
- You can avoid diabetes.
Occasional influxes of glucose from sugary food can be a cause of insulin resistance. It can lead to the second type diabetes. Whole grains release sugar slowly and maintain a steady level of sugar in your blood.
- You can avoid heart diseases.
A high level of bad cholesterol from poor fats can cause plaque which harms your blood vessels. In the long term, it can lead to stroke, heart diseases, or heart attack. If you eat a moderate amount of unsaturated fats from seeds, nuts, avocado, and fish, it helps to protect your heart.
- You can decrease your risk of cancer.
Eating fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants can neutralize potential cells damage.
- Healthy eaters have greater longevity.
- You can save money on medicine because if you eat healthy, you don’t have to pay much for doctors because eating healthy is an excellent way of preventing diseases.
So if you begin to eat healthy, you have a chance to increase your quality of life and productivity right now.
What is a healthy diet?
To be more clear, your diet can be unhealthy for two reasons:
- Lack of nutrition
If you miss out on too much protein, vitamins, and minerals, your muscle mass will decrease as your fat store increases. Another problem is a deficit of the antioxidants we need to reduce normal wear and tear on our blood vessels. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation counts approximately 678,000 deaths each year in the U.S., due to nutrition- and obesity-related diseases.
- Too much unhealthy food like alcohol, preservatives, and free sugars.
Scientists provide substantial evidence that sugar and preservatives contribute to obesity.
To prevent the risk of diseases linked to the unhealthy food consumption, you should refrain from a few products:
- Refined sugars.
These can be the sugar you put in your cup of coffee or tea or sugar from processed foods. Check the list of ingredients and find a tab “calories from sugar.” The maximum daily amount of calories from sugar can be 150 calories or 9 teaspoons for an adult man and 100 calories or 6 teaspoons for a woman.
- Preservatives. Check the list of ingredients. Usually, all synthetic ingredients have E-numbers. Avoid benzoates (E210-E219), sulfites (E220-227), nitrates and nitrites (E249-E252). These adds can be a cause of allergies, headaches and kidney diseases.
- Poor quality fats. There are a lot of sources of that kind of fat. The main examples are mayonnaise, all types of ready-to-use sauces, all kinds of pastry and all hydrogenated oils like margarine. Check the line “Trans fats” on the ingredients list.
The proper amount of nutrients and calories depends on your age, weight, height, and goals – do you aim to lose weight, gain weight or keep it stable. Online food trackers and apps like See How You Eat, Lifesum, FatSecret, or MyFitnessPal can help you to understand how many calories and nutrients do you need and regulate your portions.
How much I should eat?
1. Many trackers have approximate weights for many products. So you can just write that you ate one banana, one teaspoon of honey, or one slice of a whole grain bread. Of course, if you want to lose weight, you have to be more strict about the number of calories you consume. In that case, you will have to weigh your food. But the good news is that you will do it only for the first two or three weeks. After that you will study to estimate the weight just by your eyes and most of your food will be in the memory of tracker you use.
2. Use the palm method. The amount of each type of food is associated with different parts of your hand. For women, you should use only one hand, for men you need double the size for each kind of food. Here are the parts you use to measure your dish:
- palm — is your protein portions.
- cupped hand — to determine how much carbs you need.
- thumb — your fat portions.
- fist — is your veggie portions
3. You can use the Healthy Plate System every time you make your dish or to estimate your menu for the whole day or an even more extended period.
- Vegetables and fruits
It should be ½ of all your portion – they decrease blood sugar and help you control appetite. Also they reduce blood pressure, prevent heart diseases, reduce cancer risk, and support your gastrointestinal health. The only plant that is not recommended is the potato, because it can increase blood sugar if you eat too big portions.
- Whole grains
1/4 of your plate. Brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat and other types of whole grains contain a lot of necessary minerals and help you maintain your blood sugar all day long. That means you will have a lot of power to work and will not have cravings because a steady blood sugar level doesn’t allow you to feel hunger. Avoid refined grains like white rice, noodles, ready-to-eat cereals, and pastry. They increase a blood sugar and don’t have valuable nutrients.
Approximately ¼ of your plate should be filled with meat, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts, and beans.
Your muscles, immunity, heart, and respiratory system need protein. The best type of protein is the one from animal sources because it contains all necessary amino acids, but you have to be conscious about saturated fats; they are not harmful, but very high in calories, and you can consume too many calories if you eat too much red meat.
To maintain a proper amount of your body fluids you have to drink at least 2 glasses of water without sugar. It helps you to control calories, because water makes you feel full before you overeat.
Use a moderate amount of healthy oils like olive oil, canola oil, and other unrefined oils. It can improve your blood cholesterol and also it is a good source of omega-3.
Put this picture in your refrigerator, and use it every day as a guide for choosing food.
You can use any method but remember that keeping a healthy diet means eating foods that contain all the nutrients your body needs in the appropriate amounts for your body condition.
Paleo, Atkins and other diets
68,000 people participated in a large study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the American Diabetes Association. The scientists compared the effectiveness of different diets. Low-carb diets were found more effective than diets with a low fat content, but researchers also note that in the long run, all diets are ineffective.
Let’s see more details about most popular low-carb diets.
This diet promises rapid weight loss and an increase of energy because you eat a lot of vegetables. It looks like a good idea.
You can eat:
- whole foods
- lean proteins
- healthy fats
And you should exclude:
- dairy products
But there is reliable research suggesting that eating whole grains improves our health, and the benefits of beans are also obvious to scientists, so the restriction of these products seems an unreasonable step that can lead to a lack of necessary nutrition.
The British Dietetic Association includes Paleo on their list of worst diets. The association warns that the Paleo diet can be a danger to your bone health by creating a calcium deficit and can cause a shortage of other nutrients and unhealthy relationships with food.
The very high-protein Atkins diet is famous for its carbohydrate-restricting rules. By cutting carbohydrates, the body should go into ketosis and burn off stores of fat.
You can eat:
- High-fat and high-protein food. Fried eggs with bacon and grilled sausages, cheese, butter, and cream are not forbidden but even recommended.
- Low-carb vegetables like leafy greens.
- Small amounts of fruits.
And you should exclude:
- Vegetable oils
- High-carb vegetables and fruits
Studies at Duke University have recorded that among followers of this diet 70% have constipation, 65% have bad breath, and 54% have headaches. The deficiency of nutrition can make us weak and listless. The main thing missed by the propagandists of a low-carb diet is that carbohydrates are the vital source of energy and the average person not engaged in physical work should consume 300-400 grams of carbs per day. If you exclude carbs from your diet, energy for recovery will be taken not only from subcutaneous fat but also from your muscles.
To avoid problems with high levels of cholesterol some people begin a low-fat diet. They cut back on meat, fried food, dairy products, and eggs. Low-fat products are trendy in supermarkets. But scientists say that people who keep low-fat diet have a 30% higher risk of early mortality. Реорle have to replace fats in their diet with carbohydrates. This can lead to obesity and cardiovascular diseases. So the habit of sticking to any diet leads to a deficit of macro- and microelements. The consequences are gut diseases, chronic fatigue, and immunity problems.
The idea of restricting yourself to any diet is also hard for busy people, because it requires a lot of immediate and stressful changes in the menu. Healthy eating is much simpler and better for your health.
Is vegetarian diet healthy?
If you want to keep a vegetarian diet, you should consult with your doctor. Your physician will carry out all necessary clinical analyses to make sure that a vegetarian diet is not dangerous for your health. And while you keep that diet you should visit the doctor regularly to control your vitamins, macro- and microelements.
Let’s see what type of vegetarian diet can be safe and healthy for you:
- Vegans abstain from any animals products or by-products. They refuse any meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, and even honey. This is a very strict diet. Vegans don’t have natural sources of B-12 and Calcium. The potential problems for vegans are Becker Muscular Dystrophy, bone fractures, and anemia. Not recommended.
- Lacto-vegetarians add dairy products to the vegan diet. Not recommended.
- Ovo-vegetarians add eggs to the vegan diet, but this is also not recommended.
- Mixed lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet is possible. This kind of diet is healthy enough because it provides enough of necessary nutrients.
- Semi-vegetarian diets are the most recommended by the scientists:
– pollotarians — add poultry to their plant-based diet,
– pescetarians — eat fish, eggs and dairy products.
– flexitarians — they add meat to their food occasionally.
Most of the vegetarian diets are not recommended because they can lead to a severe deficit of nutrients, but you can try some semi-vegetarian diets — they are healthy and safe.
How long does it take to see results of eating healthy?
Immediately after you begin to watch your diet:
- Feel less heavy and bloated after eating, because now you control your portions and eat a lot of fiber with grains and vegetables. Fiber helps to reduce appetite and improves digestion.
- Feel vigorous all the day long, because if you replace refined carbs with whole grains, your blood sugar will be steady through the day.
Within a few weeks to few month:
- Better sleep thanks to the food rich in the primary nutrients for that goal like vitamin C, selenium, tryptophan, and lycopene.
Within a few months to a year:
- Eliminate your mouth-related problems, because of reducing sugars in your food.
- Small weight change, which depends of total amount of calories you consume. It will happen because now you will consume enough nutrients.
Within 5 years:
- You will age slower. Research from Integrative Cardiac Health Program shows that healthy lifestyle can significantly change genes responsible for the aging of vascular system.
All these benefits listed above are more side-effects of a healthy diet than results. They will help you to enjoy your new lifestyle and keep eating healthy. Serious health improvements and a decrease in the risk of the various type of diseases depends on your age and the condition of your health before you begin to watch your diet.
Healthiest food in the world
Food you should never eat
The ingredients you should avoid:
- Added sugar
The problem with sugar is that it gets turned into fat in the liver, and it leads to insulin resistance and some metabolic problems. Very often we consume sugar without knowing it. Processed food and canned food can contain sugar even if the taste is not sweet. To avoid sugar see the labels on food. If the food contains more than 5 grams of sugar per 100 grams, it is high in sugar. The recommendation of daily intake of sugar for an adult is between 25 and 37 grams — 6-9 teaspoons.
- Trans fats
These are the fats you can meet low-fat products, hydrogenated vegetable oils, and in fast food. Researchers claim that replacing natural fats in the diet with trans fats increases the HDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and increases risk factors for heart disease. Read labels to be sure you’re avoiding trans fats. The label “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” is a marker that a food should be excluded from a healthy menu. Buy regular butter instead of margarine, and coconut or olive oil instead of harmful vegetable oils and also it is better to eliminate processed food and fast food from your diet.
- Chemical preservatives
Some synthetic preservatives are known by their carcinogenic properties. The University of Hawaii conducted a seven-year study with 20,000 participants. Researchers discovered that people who ate preferably processed meats had a 67% higher risk of pancreatic cancer. In the same research, scientists found that consumption of poultry, fish, eggs or saturated fats doesn’t affect one’s cancer risk. If you see sulfites, nitrates, nitrites, and benzoates on the label, don’t put that food into your basket. Sometimes manufacturers use the code with numbers and letter “E” like E101 – riboflavin. Some of that additives are not dangerous, but there is a list of hazardous E-numbers you should avoid.
- Too much salt
High sodium intake leads to the higher risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and osteoporosis. The recommended daily amount of salt for adult people is 2,300 mg of sodium – 6 grams or one teaspoon. This includes the sodium you get with prepared food. So it is better for you to choose sodium-free or very low sodium products.
As you can see, there are not so many foods you should avoid, but reducing your consumption of processed food, fast food, low-fat products, and canned food–as well as being conscious about reading ingredient lists–can be an excellent improvement of your diet.
Eco, organic, fitness food
Special fitness food is good business nowadays. There was a significant FDA study showing that people can make poor dietary decisions based on the labels “dietary”, “fitness” or “added vitamins.” Food manufacturers can put in a minimal amount of natural ingredients, fiber, or vitamins to be allowed to put a fashionable “healthy” label on their products. From the full range of terms only “organic” is regulated by law. Other types like“hormone free,” “free-range,” or “natural” are just a publicity stunt.
When you buy food, you should look at the list of ingredients, not at the labels.
Stanford University conducted research to compare organic and conventional food. The conclusion was that there is no significant difference in nutrient content. According to the study, organic food is lower in pesticides. Some pesticides are carcinogenic and can be a cause of a certain type of allergy, but only if you consume too much. All analysis of conventional food has shown pesticide levels within safety limits.
The widely known organic food accreditation is created by U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are some special conditions for food to be eligible to be called “organic.” If you want to buy organic, you should understand the labels:
- “100% organic” label and a seal with letters “USDA” means the food doesn’t contain synthetic ingredients
- The label “organic” means the food has a minimum of 95% organic ingredients. It can also use the USDA seal.
- The label “made with organic ingredients” means that there are at least 70% organic ingredients in the food. It is not possible to use the USDA seal for that type of food.
- If meat, poultry, dairy products, or eggs are labeled “organic,” they must come from animals that have never taken growth hormones or antibiotics.
The Environmental Working Group recommends buying only some products organic — those that are most likely to contain a lot of pesticides:
- Sweet bell peppers
EWG also gives recommendations about clean products. EWG analyzed pesticides tests of these items and found the lowest levels of pesticides in these products. You can buy them without organic label and don’t be afraid of pesticides:
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Sweet corn (frozen)
If you don’t have the opportunity to buy any organic food, you can use conventional food, but there are some rules to help you to feel safe with what you eat:
- Wash and scrub fruits and vegetables under streaming water to remove surface pesticide, dirt, and bacteria. You don’t have to use soap, but you should wash the products even if the skin is not eatable.
- Peel fruits and vegetables like apples, potatoes, and cucumbers.
- Don’t eat the outer leaves of leafy vegetables.
- Eliminate visible fat and skin from meat and poultry. Pesticide residues can collect in fat.
How to stop eating unhealthy?
There are 3 simple steps that will help you enjoy your new lifestyle and not struggle with yourself:
1. Don’t try to change everything in one moment, but change your diet gradually.
Incorporate one healthy change and keep it up until it becomes a habit; then make another one.
- For several days replace mayonnaise in your salad with olive oil. Once you start doing that, it becomes your new standard.
- Next week add fruits and vegetables to your breakfast.
- Then add veggies to your lunch and so on.
2. Be sure that you consume enough carbs, healthy proteins and fats. You will not crave unhealthy things if you get all necessary nutrients. For that step you need our Healthy Plate — use it every time you choose your meal. To identify your good and bad eating habits you should track what you eat. The best way to do it is a food diary – notes where you track the time you eat, the food, and portion sizes. You can do it on paper or with these apps: See how you eat, Food diary, Lifesum, Fatsecret, My diet coach.
3. Trick your brain
If you want to eat sweets, it works like a drug addiction. Gradually you need more and more sugar or chocolate to get pleasure. And willpower will not help limit consumption of your favorite foods, because the body will produce more ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and you will feel the danger of starvation. It will lead to cravings again and again. So we have to be smarter and just trick our brain on the way to a healthy lifestyle.
How to trick your brain and not eat too much:
- Drink enough water: some people mix up thirst and hunger.
- Fight your stress. It increases the cortisol level level in your blood, then you crave more.
- Sit when you are eating, take time, enjoy. Do not watch TV, send messages, or surf social media while eating. Concentrating on your food gives your stomach and brain time to understand when you are full.
- Include more meals with dietary fiber. You will not feel hungry as quickly because it takes more time to digest.
- Use raw nuts and fruits as daily snacks.
- Don’t buy junk food.
- Exercise. Daily physical activities can reduce your food cravings because they suppress the hunger hormone ghrelin.
- Low serotonin level makes you crave sugar and salt. Keep yourself busy and excited, so your serotonin levels will be stable.
I’m too busy to eat healthy
If you have time to eat in the morning:
- Breakfast is optional for those who can eat later, but if morning intake is your only possibility to eat, have a good meal.
- Replace your morning muffin with some healthy menu of cereal, fresh fruits, and a dairy product. This way you will inspire yourself for a healthy day.
- Choose food rich in fiber – it takes more time to digest – and slow carbs, which maintain steady blood sugar and help you not feel hunger for a long time.
If you eat only in the evening
- There is no reliable research that proves benefits of staying hungry after 6 p.m., so you can eat any time you feel hunger.
- Make a smaller portion and avoid food that can make your sleep uncomfortable – potatoes, beans, cabbage, and coffee, but you don’t have to go to bed hungry.
If you never know when you will have an opportunity to eat:
- Always keep small healthy snacks in your bag like raw nuts, apples, protein bars, yogurt. It can help you to eat something before you feel starved and crave something unhealthy.
- Avoid simple carbohydrates like bread, cookies or sweets – they give fast power but make you hungry very soon. Replace them with complex carbs like whole grains and beans.
- Fast food is a very bad idea for a meal, but homemade sandwiches can be very healthy and tasty. Make a sandwich with a whole grain bread, green leaves, and meat and it can replace a lunch if you are too busy.
- Even if you are in a rush, do not eat and work at the same time. Find 5 minutes to concentrate on food. It will help your brain understand that you have food and reduce hunger.
As you can see, you don’t have to restrict yourself with any timetable, but you have to be conscious about calories and nutrition as you eat.
The “right” food in the supermarket
- Never shop hungry: it will help you avoid the temptation to buy junk food.
- Make a shopping list: you will concentrate only on the groceries you need.
- In the supermarket try to stick to a perimeter – usually, refrigerators with less processed food are located there.
Here are some tips for finding really good food:
- Look at the number of ingredients.
Fewer ingredients mean less processed food. And try to avoid products with the ingredients you never heard of. For example, sulfites can cause headaches and allergies, nitrates and nitrites can lead to stomach cancer, and benzoates have been suspected to cause asthma and skin rashes.
- Get unprocessed or unpackaged food
- If you have an opportunity to buy locally grown food, grab it. This food contains more nutrients than products imported from other places.
- When you think about the cost of food remember the formula – nutritional value/energy content. Pay for the nutrients, not for calories.
If you remember these simple rules your grocery basket will always be full of healthy stuff.
No time for shopping and cooking
The simple things you can do, if you don’t have time for anything:
- Look for healthy eating places in your neighborhood.
- Try to find healthy meal services that deliver to your home.
- Keep raw nuts and fruits at home.
- You can choose some healthy meal delivery services and get the pre-portioned ingredients you need to make your food. Also, they give you a certain amount of calories and list of nutrients you consume. You can find some food delivery close to your home. Here are the examples of services popular in USA and UK:
If you can buy food once a week:
- Save time by buying things pre-chopped.
- Use your freezer. You can buy whole frozen foods like broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini.
- Never buy junk food, avoid keeping it at home.
There are some foods you don’t have to cook:
- Plain yogurt with no added sugar and preservatives. Mix it with some granola or oatmeal, and you will have the healthiest breakfast ever.
- Pre-chopped washed green leaves. Add some cherry tomatoes, and feta or mozzarella cheese and a luxurious salad is ready.
- Seaweeds are usually sold ready to eat, and they are perfect for those who want to eat healthy.
- Baby carrots are one more snack you can eat as a part of your lunch or dinner or as a separate snack when you are hungry.
- Tofu or bean curd is a food full of nutrients and can be eaten with soy sauce, honey, or fruits and vegetables you like.
If you sometimes have a moment to cook:
- Try always have basic ingredients in your kitchen. Olive oil, sugar, salt, onions, lemon juice, and all type of grains can help you to make an easy meal at any time.
- If you cook something, make a bit more than you will eat and freeze some leftovers.
- Study how to cook a couple of simple dishes you like. Try some one-pot dishes when you throw everything in a pot and watch the wonder of cooking.
If you’ve found time to make some food on your day off:
- Make some snacks for the week. If you like frozen yogurt, you can prepare a lot of different variations with berries and fruits.
- Plan and decide on two to four dishes you will have for the week and cook them on the weekend and freeze.
How to eat healthy with friends?
There are some tricks which help you to eat healthier when you are not at home:
- First, decide on a portion of vegetable, then take grains or beans, and the last dish you take is meat or fish.
- Avoid sauces and mayonnaise, replace them with olive oil, lemon juice, or homemade vegetable sauces.
- The first bite is the best! Sometimes you don’t have to eat an entire portion to enjoy the taste.
- If you can choose a plate, take the smallest, the portions will look bigger for you.
- Drink lots of water. Food with water absorbs slowly and it helps you feel full.
- Eat something before you go. It is a great idea to fill you up with some fiber, for example, you can eat on apple.
- Check all the options available before you start to choose food. Then you can decide what will you eat and how much.
- Don’t waste calories on something you can get anytime, like French fries. Choose the cool stuff like scallops, oysters, or something special.
- Avoid alcohol mixed with soda. It can help you reduce empty calories.
- Choose a fruit-based dessert. Fruits are rich in fiber, which helps you to feel full before you eat too much sugar.
- Eat enough to satisfy your hunger, so you will not eat again at home.
Healthy eating should improve your life quality and not restrain your relationships with the people around you.
Checklist for eating healthy
- Choose healthy snacks such as fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and white cheese.
- Limit caffeine. The safe limit for adults is 400 mg a day – 2-3 cups.
- Limit alcohol. Moderate alcohol use means one beer (355 milliliters) or 1 glass of wine (148 milliliters) or one shot or 44 milliliters of distilled spirits a day.
- Reduce sugar. The limit for added sugars is 6-9 teaspoons, or 25-37 milligrams, a day. That means you should check the ingredient list of products you buy. The total amount of calories from sugars can be 100-150 calories.
- Reduce salt. You should eat less than one teaspoon of salt a day; this is 2,300 mg of sodium, that amount should include the salt you got with processed foods from a supermarket. You can check the sodium amount in the list of ingredients.
- Stay hydrated, drink a lot of water. The daily recommended amount for men is 13 cups and 9 cups for women.
- Control your portion sizes. Track the total amount of calories with the special apps and websites we discussed above. Also, you can use the method of palm measurement we described above and this app that can show you what 200 calories looks like for many types of products.
- Eat different foods, don’t stick to mono diets.
- Stop eating when full.
- Do not work or watch TV when you have a meal. To give your brain an opportunity to understand that you are full; keep concentrating on your food while eating.
Eating healthy can look like a difficult challenge. But if you stick with our simple steps and don’t try to change everything all at once, it can be an easy and exciting experience that will lead you to better health and quality of life.
Healthy eating is much better and easier than strict diets, and once you begin implementing good eating habits in your life, the process will get more relaxed.