By Anett Ume, MA, RD, LDN
There is a significant amount of misleading information about healthy eating, and it can be challenging to decide what to believe on the internet and what is false promotion. Registered dietitians are experts who have the knowledge and experience in helping clients figure out a way to eat that works for them. Finding the middle ground between mindless overeating and obsessive calorie counting is key. The goal is to enjoy a variety of foods in the right amount. Although everyone is unique with different needs and preferences, here is a quick guideline to healthy eating according to a dietitian from Family Food:
1. Eat when you are hungry.
Healthy eating starts with mindfulness and knowing when you are hungry. It takes some time to adjust your mind and body to listen to signs of hunger if you have not done that in a while. Such signs include feeling low on energy or hearing your stomach rumble. Too often, we eat in response to stress or boredom. Identifying this behavior is the first step in avoiding unnecessary eating.
2. Stop eating when you are full.
Some may find it difficult to stop eating because they enjoy the taste of food too much. Our body is smart enough to tell us when we are satisfied. Ignoring those signals (stretched stomach, decreased appetite) can lead to weight gain and unhealthy eating behaviors. An easy trick can be using smaller plates to remind yourself about healthy portions.
3. Eat regularly.
Sticking to the exact meal times every day can be challenging, however, it has its benefits. Eating around the same time consistently helps our circadian rhythm stay regulated and leads to better health outcomes such as reduced risk for metabolic and chronic diseases. Try to have all your meals within a 12-hour window during the day, with most of your meals consumed earlier in the day. Contrary to common American habits, dinner should be the lightest meal of the day. Consistent eating patterns are especially important for those who take certain medications, have diabetes or reflux disease.
4. Load up on fiber.
Fiber can be found in all fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. It is an important part of a healthy diet and should be consumed daily to prevent heart disease and promote healthy guts. High-fiber foods are typically lower in calories, they increase and prolong satiety by slowing down the speed at which foods get absorbed. Therefore, fiber is a key component of a healthy weight management strategy. Add fruits to your breakfast and snacks: top your cereal or pancakes with berries or bananas, and eat oranges, apples, grapes, pears, and melons just to name a few. Include veggies in your meals as much as possible. Examples might be steamed broccoli and carrots, a side salad, veggie soup, and vegetable stir fry. Choose whole grain cereals, oatmeal, whole wheat bread, and brown rice to further increase your fiber intake.
5. Focus on healthy fat.
Consuming greasy, fatty foods regularly is linked to high cholesterol, heart disease, and obesity. Instead of frying, try other cooking methods like baking, sautéing, or steaming. Investing in an air fryer is an excellent way to eat your favorite foods but with less oil. When you cook with oil, use a little bit of canola, olive, or corn oil as they contain the healthy kind of fats, called unsaturated fats. Healthy fats such as omega-3 help with normal functions of the brain, lower blood cholesterol, and reduce inflammation in the body. Eat fish and seafood weekly, as well as unsalted nuts, walnuts, avocados, peanut butter, and seeds to take advantage of their health benefits.
6. Add protein.
Protein is found in every part and tissue of our body, providing structure and function. Eating adequate protein also helps maintain muscle mass and growth, so it is especially important for children and the elderly. Choose healthy protein food sources such as lean meat, turkey or chicken, seafood, beans, lentils, low-fat milk and dairy, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, and seeds. Adding protein to your meals also fills you up for a longer time.
7. Limit added sugar and sodium by reading the label.
When talking about healthy eating, it should be also clear what foods need to be limited in our diet. It means that they should be consumed in moderation, occasionally, and not excessively. These are foods with high added sugar and sodium content. Typically, convenience, processed and fast-food products contain the highest amount of these two ingredients. They also tend to be high in calories: Pizza, microwaveable meals, chips, sugary cereals, candy bars, cupcakes, fries, and soda. The best way to control how much we eat of them is by reading the label for added sugar and sodium content. Added sugar should be less than 24 grams per day for women and 36 grams for men. Our daily sodium intake should be less than 2000 mg for all genders. Children should consume even less than the above limits.
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