How to Eat Right

Four Parts:Eating a Balanced DietGetting All Your NutrientsAvoiding the Wrong FoodsMaking Lifestyle Changes

Nutrition advice is constantly changing, and it can be hard to keep track of the latest food crazes and nutritional scares. But achieving a proper diet doesn’t have to be difficult: there are some basic and unchanging principles about healthy eating that you can always trust, despite whatever new diet is popular at the moment or what the trendy food guru is selling. When it comes right down to it, eating healthy is all about getting the nutrients we need to keep our bodies running properly, avoiding too much junk food, and enjoying everything in moderation. When you eat a healthy and balanced diet, you’ll have a healthier body, a lower risk of many diseases, more energy, a better outlook and mood, and you’ll feel better physically and mentally.

Part 1
Eating a Balanced Diet

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    Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies are nutrient dense and low-calorie, contain essential vitamins and minerals, are packed full of fiber, and have antioxidants. To ensure you’re getting all the right nutrients, eat brightly colored foods of all colors.[1] Go for fresh produce when you can, but frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (as long as they don’t contain any extra ingredients) can be just as good.[2]
    • Green foods, which are high in zinc and iron, calcium and magnesium, and vitamins A, C, E, and K, include: spinach, Chinese cabbage, kale, chard, broccoli, arugula, and collard greens.
    • Orange and yellow foods, which contain flavonoids, vitamins A and C, and potassium, include: mangos, peaches, and apricots, tangerines and oranges, peppers and carrots, and pumpkin,[3] as well as yellow apples, beets, and squash.[4]
    • Red foods, which contain lots of lycopene and anthocyanins—phytochemicals that are good for circulation and memory—include: tomatoes and red peppers, cranberries and raspberries, cherries, and beets.[5]
    • Blue and purple foods have lots of phytochemicals, and they include: eggplant, blueberries, plums, purple cabbage and grapes, and black currants.[6]
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    Eat the right protein. Getting protein isn’t actually difficult, so it’s important to focus on the best sources of this vital nutrient. Plant-based proteins have the added benefit of having additional nutrients compared to animal-based proteins. Among the best protein sources are:
    • Beans, lentils, and soy
    • Unsalted nuts
    • Seafood twice weekly
    • Lean meat or poultry, if you are going to consume animal protein
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    Get your calcium. Everyone knows that calcium helps build strong bones and teeth. What people don’t realize, however, is the abundance of foods that contain this essential nutrient. Dairy isn’t the only calcium-rich food, and other high-calcium foods include:[7]
    • Dark leafy green vegetables
    • Asparagus, celery, cabbage, summer squash, and cremini mushrooms
    • Pinto, black, white, kidney, and other beans
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    Go for whole grains. Whole grains are foods that still contain the bran, germ, and endosperm of the original foods. They are less processed than non-whole grains, and contain more nutrients. [8] Whole grains, such as brown rice, millet, corn meal, oats, barley, and amaranth, are high in:[9]
    • Protein
    • Fiber
    • Iron, magnesium, zinc, and copper
    • Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, and B9
    • Phytochemicals and antioxidants
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    Choose healthy carbohydrates for energy. Carbohydrates provide our bodies with energy, and come in the form of sugar, starch, and fiber. Healthy carbs are digested slowly, stabilize blood sugar levels, and give your body hours of energy. Healthy carbohydrate options are:[10]
    • Whole grain foods, such as cereals, pastas, and breads
    • Fruits and vegetables, especially apples, pears, and carrots
    • Beans and nuts
    • Potatoes and other tubers
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    Don’t shy away from healthy fats. While many people tout the benefits of low-fat diets, our bodies do in fact need fat to function. The trick is eating the right fats, which can reduce the risk of heart disease and help prevent dementia. Healthy fats can be found in:[11]
    • Flax, walnuts, hemp, and many fish, which contain omega-3 and other polyunsaturated fats.
    • Avocados, seeds, and nuts, which contain monounsaturated fats.
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    Drink enough water. Historically, the rule of thumb was to drink eight glasses of water per day, where each glass was one cup (eight ounces). However, tea, coffee, juice, fruits, and vegetables all contain water that count toward your body’s daily water intake, so use your body’s thirst guide to determine how much water to drink: if you are thirsty, drink a glass of water.

Part 2
Getting All Your Nutrients

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    Look at food labels. When deciding whether to buy a food item in the grocery store, have a look at the nutritional label to see if it’s worth the money and the calories. Remember that these values are based on a daily 2,000-calorie diet, so you may need to adjust this a little to understand how it fits into your daily requirements.[12]
    • When you look at a food label, pay attention to the serving size, and make a note of how that compares with how much you actually eat. If, for instance, you’re actually eating two servings of a food, be sure to double all the daily values.
    • A daily value of five percent or less is low. Look for foods that have a low daily value for total fat (including saturated and trans fats), cholesterol, and sodium.
    • A daily value of 20 percent or higher is high. Look for foods with a high daily value for fiber, minerals, and vitamins.
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    Get enough fruits and vegetables. The recommended daily minimum for these foods is five servings, where a serving is either half a cup, or a small piece of fruit (such as an apple, or one banana).[13]
    • Since fruits and vegetables are full of fiber and other nutrients, filling up on them can help you cut back on your consumption of other, unhealthier foods.
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    Consume enough calcium. Depending on your age, you should be consuming between 1,000 mg and 1,200 mg of calcium per day.[14]
    • One cup (250 g) of dried figs contains 300 mg of calcium, as does one cup (eight ounces) of calcium-fortified orange juice.[15]
    • One ounce of roasted sesame seeds contains 280 mg of calcium
    • One tablespoon (0.5 ounces) of molasses contains 135 mg of calcium
    • Four ounces of firm tofu can contain as much as 750 mg of calcium
    • One cup of cooked spinach contains 240 mg of calcium
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    Fill up on fiber. You should be eating between 25 and 38 grams of fiber per day in order to lower your risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart disease.[16] In case you aren’t getting enough, try:[17]
    • 24 almonds, which have 3.3 grams of fiber
    • A quarter-cup of raisins, which has 1.5 grams of fiber
    • Three cups of popcorn, which has 3.5 grams of fiber
    • A single orange, which has 3.1 grams of fiber
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    Determine how much protein to eat. On a daily basis, most people should be eating about 0.8 grams of protein for every 2.2 pounds (one kilogram) of body weight. This means that if you weigh 150 pounds (68 kilograms), you should aim for 54.4 grams of protein per day.[18]
    • Another way to think about it is to get between 10 and 35 percent of your daily calories from protein, which is about 200 to 700 calories per day, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
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    Energize with carbohydrates. Roughly 45 to 65 percent of your calories should come from healthy carbohydrates. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this translates to 900 to 1,300 calories from carbs, which is about 225 to 325 grams.
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    Consume the right amount of healthy fat. Total fat should account for no more than 20 to 35 percent of your daily caloric intake, and saturated fat shouldn’t make up more than 10 percent of your calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet:
    • This is about 400 to 700 calories from total fat, and 140 to 200 of those calories from saturated fat.
    • This is about 44 to 78 grams of total fat, including 16 to 22 grams of saturated fat.
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    Don’t overdo the sodium. We do require small amounts of sodium in our diets, but too much can cause problems. Limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day, and stick with the lower end if you have diabetes, kidney problems, or high blood pressure.
    • One-quarter teaspoon of table salt contains 575 mg of sodium.[19]
    • One-half teaspoon of table salt contains 1,150 mg of sodium.
    • Three-quarters of a teaspoon of table salt contains 1,725 mg of sodium.
    • One teaspoon of table salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.

Part 3
Avoiding the Wrong Foods

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    Steer clear of highly processed foods. When foods are processed, they can lose vital nutrients and flavor, so fat, sugar, and salt are often added in to make up for this flavor loss. Low-fat foods are among the worst offenders, because they often have a much higher salt and sugar content to make up for the lost fat.
    • No more than 100 to 150 of your daily calories (that’s six to nine teaspoons) should come from added sugar.
    • Highly processed foods that often contain these hidden ingredients include frozen meals, canned soup, and low-fat or low-calorie foods.
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    Stay away from unhealthy fats. The easy part is knowing that you have to avoid trans fats; the hard part is identifying them. Trans fats can raise bad cholesterol, lower good cholesterol, and may increase your risk of developing diabetes.[20] They can appear in the form of vegetable shortening, margarine, and partially hydrogenated oils. Trans fats are often found in:
    • Processed baked goods
    • Cookies, crackers, and snack foods
    • Fried foods
    • Candy
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    Avoid processed meat. These meats, including bacon, ham, and sausage, hot dogs, canned meat, salami, and corned beef and beef jerky, are chock-full of sodium and preservatives, and they’ve recently been added to the World Health Organization’s list of known carcinogens. Any meat can be considered processed if it’s been cooked or treated to extend its shelf-life or improve flavor, so this includes any meat that’s been:[21]
    • Cured
    • Smoked
    • Preserved with salt or other preservatives
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    Ditch the unhealthy carbohydrates. Whereas fresh fruits, veggies, and whole grains are great healthy carbs, the unhealthy ones you want to avoid include white flour and rice, non-whole grains, and refined sugar.
    • Juices, sodas, and other flavored drinks are packed full of added sugar. If you are thirsty, drink water.
    • Sugar comes in many forms (such as honey, agave, and molasses) and has many names. On an ingredients list, look for glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose, syrup, cane juice, and dextrose.[22]

Part 4
Making Lifestyle Changes

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    Start small. Making positive dietary and lifestyle changes can be difficult, especially if you overwhelm yourself with too much change at once. Sticking with your healthy choices is just as important as making them in the first place, so start with baby steps and expand your goals as you succeed with the smaller changes.
    • For instance, just start by adding a single salad per day to your diet.[23]
    • Once you get used to the daily salad, try adding fruit or berries to your morning breakfast, and slowly add more healthy foods to each meal.
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    Swap out unhealthy foods for healthy ones. One of the biggest parts of healthy eating is decreasing the amount of unhealthy food you consume as you increase the number of healthy food choices you make.
    • For satisfying snacks, try crunchy fruits and vegetables like carrots, celery, apples, and nuts instead of potato chips and crackers.[24]
    • To deal with a sweet tooth, replace candy and baked goods with fruit, peanut butter, and sweet veggies.
    • For carb-lovers, exchange baked goods, pizzas, and pastries for soy, nuts, seeds, potatoes, and beans.
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    Enjoy in moderation. This includes all food, healthy and otherwise. Don’t eat when you aren’t hungry, and stop eating when you feel yourself getting full. A key to this is eating slowly, which gives your body time to start the digestion process so that your brain will actually register that you’re full before you’ve already eaten too much.
    • If you are worried about wasting food, just pack up your leftovers and save them for tomorrow.
    • Not-so-healthy snacks and junk are also acceptable in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with splurging once in a while, and it may actually make it easier to eat properly most of the time (if you know you can have that piece of pie now and then, you won’t go crazy thinking about it all the time!)
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    Practice portion control. Healthy eating isn’t just about eating the right foods and avoiding the wrong ones: it’s also about eating the proper quantities of food. It doesn’t help that restaurant portions are often double or triple the size of real portions.
    • At home, divide food into proper portions before storing it (this is also important with snack foods like chips).[25]
    • When cooking, use smaller plates to control your portions and make your meals look bigger.
    • An appropriate portion size for protein is about the size of a deck of cards, and a half-cup serving of vegetables is roughly the size of an incandescent lightbulb.[26]
    • When eating out, order appetizers instead of full entrees, request lunch-sized portions instead of dinner ones, or consider splitting entrees with a friend.
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    Eat the right amount at the right time. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and this is true for many reasons. For one, a healthy breakfast will get your metabolism going, give you energy for the day, and get your body burning fat. Aim for three meals a day plus a snack.
    • Breakfast should be the largest meal of the day (consume roughly one-third of your daily calories at breakfast),[27] and aim to eat within 45 minutes of waking.[28]
    • The evening meal should be your smallest, and try to eat it at least three hours before bed time.[29]
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    Cook your own meals. Eating out, getting take-out, or using premade or processed foods is acceptable once in a while, but for the most part, try to cook your own meals from scratch. Not only does this provide a connection with the food you eat, it also allows you to focus on foods that are low calorie and packed with vitamins and nutrients.[30]
    • Home cooking gives you control over everything you’re eating and allows you to manage your portions. For instance, instead of eating added sugar in processed food, you can add natural sugar with vegetables like corn, sweet potatoes, and carrots.[31]
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    Keep junk food out of the house. Especially if you struggle with will power and portion control, it’s best to just leave the junk food and snacks at the grocery store. If it’s not in the house and convenient to eat, you’re not going to eat it.
    • This can be difficult especially if you don’t live alone. If junk food is an unavoidable item in your house, keep it hidden in a cupboard or somewhere you won’t see it and be tempted every time you go into the kitchen.
    • To help control your portions, never sit down with an entire bag of chips. Put a single portion of chips into a bowl and put the rest away. The same applies for other treats and desserts.
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    Sit down to eat. Many people find food enjoyable, and taking the time to sit down and appreciate your meal will make you feel more satisfied with what you’ve eaten. Turn off distractions like the television, put your work away, and take time to sit down and eat.
    • People who eat on the run tend to eat more fat, sugar, and processed food.[32]

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Categories: Appreciation of Food | Diet & Lifestyle