How to Improve Your Diet

Leading a healthy lifestyle, with sufficient exercise bolstered by a varied and balanced diet, is essential to long term health. It may also boost energy, outlook and appearance. If you know about the pyramid, and you've heard about complete proteins, the necessary vitamins and minerals, healthy HDL-to-LDL ratio through avoidance of trans fats and maintaining a healthy intake of omega-3s and omega-6s, and it is all just getting too technical, that's just fine. This is just a set of simple suggestions that you can quickly and easily implement in your daily life - and that is a good thing; because modern approaches to diet and exercise are suggested to be lifestyle changes, not short term 'fad diets' to revert bad eating behavior over time.


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    Control your environment. Concerns about weight particularly are mostly due to some natural rhythm being interrupted in your life (whether just recently or for a long period in your life). And this can lead to a lack of: Exercise. There is no substitute for physical activity. Try to at least walk for an hour every week.
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    Look at your diet additively. Where you start with the essentials and add the things you want. Most people intuitively do this in the sense that they make sure to eat at least one "protein" meal every day. The "essentials" you think of are proteins, either a complete protein from meats/fish, dairy or eggs, or a "nearly complete protein" from soy, quinoa, amaranth , buckwheat, etc. -- You very likely only need one of these each day. The rest, grains and legumes, vegetables, fruit, calcium, leafy greens, omega-3s, easily complete the picture (except less easy are calcium for vegetarians, and omega-3s for western agrarian diets). Because of those less easy ones, you might want to make one meal specifically a calcium meal (unless you already get a lot, eg dairy), one specifically for omega-3s, and one for protein.
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    Eat small. Enjoy smaller quantities more often, there's no rule for how many meals you can eat in a day. Many cultures do this (eg, in Spain, with their "tapas", it is very common to have more than six meals). This also helps replace snacks. At least: Eat a salad. One salad a day is very low calorie, and a common problem with busy people's diets is the lack of variety and leafy greens. It can be eaten as a "fourth meal", if you like.
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    Drink zero calorie sodas. Save caloried-sodas for rare occasions, or when you specifically need energy (not "something sweet"). You might want to at least experiment with mixing zero calorie and sugared sodas from the same brands for when you just have to have sugared water.
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    Drink fruit juice instead of sugared sodas. Further limit the amount of sugared soda sugar in your diet by drinking fruit juice. Fruit juice does not lack for sugar! It just has less than soda, which is typically supersaturated with sugar (ie, it contains as much as is possible without crystallizing in the container).
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    Cook. Cooking at home gives you intimacy with the foods you intake, along with direct, hands-on time to understand what you are putting into your body, and it takes energy to gather and prepare the food.
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    Supplement your diet with flax seed. Flax seed is much better for you than flax oil (besides being much cheaper), which is a nice salad oil but has a strange taste to cook with. Some people suggest cracking the flax seed. It goes well in salads, antipasti, cereals, and many of sauces.
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    Use healthy oils. If you substitute out good tasting oils for healthy ones, and you don't pick particularly flavorful ones, the worst you are going to do is actually taste the other ingredients in your meal. Most people in the western world have trouble getting enough omega-3s (according to voluminous research, even the Canadian government in recent times officially lists these acids as vital to proper nutrition). While omega-6s are also healthy, it's the omega-3s you likely need to supplement in your diet. Hemp butter (hemp seed oil) has not only a healthy amount of omega-3s and omega-6s, in the right proportions, but unlike flax seed oil it imparts very little flavor when used for cooking. It's only downside for cooking (apart form cost/availability) is that it has a low smoke point (can't be heated very high) and you basically have to use it as you would butter. ALA, a common omega-3, can be heated to 350ºF (medium heat), and so is safe for any kind of cooking but high temperature cooking. Avocado oil is probably the healthiest high-temperature oil. Canola (rapeseed) and olive oils are also healthier oils than others (eg, butter, lard, peanut oil, palm oil, etc) - canola oil is a good low/medium temperature oil with a light flavor, olive oil has a somewhat stronger flavor but can be heated nearly very high (the common, refined variety).
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    Eat fish. If you are not a vegetarian; many cultures (Spain, Greece, Japan) who have access to both land animals and seafood eat principally seafood, and the healthiness of these diets has attracted a lot of scientific attention. It's why people tell you to drink fish oil, but personally, I'd rather eat fish.
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    Eat grains. Especially if you are a vegetarian: ("nearly complete") grains more than cheese. If you're a vegetarian worried about your weight, this is likely the thing to improve. Use Greek yogurt instead of regular yogurt. Use skim and fat-free instead of whole. Use less dairy generally. In any case, get a good proportion of your protein from grains/pseudo-grains every day. Amaranth, quinoa, chia, are "nearly complete" proteins in the sense that if you combine them with any other whole food (eg, wheat from breads) you are likely to get a complete variety of proteins for the day. They also are high in fiber, including soluble fiber which expands when digested and can help you feel sated more easily.

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Categories: Maintaining Diets