Choosing from all the food groups will not guarantee a balanced diet. Here are six tips to help you eat your way to better health.
Tip 1: Manage portion size
People of different ages, genders, and activity levels need different amounts of food, but many people take in more energy than they use. Researchers believe there is a between large portion size and obesity.
The American Health Association (AHA) explain that a portion is what we choose to eat, while a serving is the amount of food listed on the nutrition facts label.
Examples of servings are one slice of bread and one wedge of melon.
Paying attention to what a serving is, how many calories are in a serving, and how much you are eating can make the difference between obesity and maintaining a healthy weight.
Tip 2: Eat fresh and avoid processed foods
Processed foods are thought to make up 70 percent of the average American diet.
Fresh foods are more likely to be "nutrient rich," while processed foods are often "energy-rich," with added fats and sugars.
Whole foods, such as fresh fruit, are a good source of vitamins and minerals.
Processed foods not only contain added ingredients, including dyes and preservatives, but the processing itself can destroy nutrients.
Some processed foods contain little nutritional value. Consuming a high proportion of processed foods can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes.
Tip 3: Limit added sugars
Naturally occurring sugars include fructose, found in fruit, and lactose, in dairy products.
Adding sugar to foods and drinks enhances the flavor but adds little or no nutritional value.
Swapping cakes and cookies for fruit, and halving the sugar added to coffee and tea can reduce sugar intake.
Replacing sweetened sodas with sparkling water, and drinking alcohol in moderation can further reduce excess calories. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend limiting alcohol intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Condiments such as ketchup can also provide more calories than expected.
Tip 4: Replace animal fats in the diet
Animal produce is often high in saturated fats. These are difficult for the body to break down, so levels of harmful cholesterol in the body can rise, potentially leading to heart disease.
Unsaturated fats are found in oily fish and nuts, and these are more health, taken in moderation.
To reduce the amount of unhealthy fat in the diet:
- choose low-fat meat
- cook meat and chicken without the skin
- grill or boil meat instead of frying
- use vegetable oil rather than animal fat
- replace some meat servings with oily fish, nuts, beans, or legumes
Tip 5: Sodium down, potassium up
Sodium, found in salt, is directly linked to high blood pressure, because it increases water retention.
Potassium counteracts the harmful effects of salt. Bananas, tuna, and butternut squash are good sources of potassium. Too much can lead to irregular heart rhythms, so supplements are not recommended.
Limiting the intake of processed foods will reduce sodium intake, as salt is often added during processing.
For flavor, try replacing salt with herbs such as basil, rosemary, garlic, oregano, paprika, and cayenne, or low-salt condiments such a yellow mustard.
Tip 6: Add calcium and vitamin D
Calcium is crucial for strengthening and maintaining the bone structure. Vitamin D enables the body to absorb calcium.
Good sources of calcium include:
- dairy produce
- collard greens
- white beans
Dietary sources do not provide enough vitamin D for the body. Sunlight is necessary to help the body synthesize vitamin D.
Exposing some bare skin to the sunlight each day will help maintain levels of calcium and vitamin D.
For best results, always follow a healthy diet alongside an active lifestyle.