Everyone is talking about eating a healthy diet these days. But what exactly does healthy eating mean? Healthy eating can take many forms, but one element it should contain are key nutrients that will fuel your body and give you the energy you need to get through each day. Foods and drinks are meant to be enjoyed. Healthy foods are part of a balanced diet. Here is how you can get the nutritious foods you need, avoid weight gain and find a healthy eating pattern that works for you.
Make Protein a Priority in Your Healthy Diet
Protein is an essential nutrient for many body processes. Every cell in your body contains it. You need it to help repair cells, especially after exercise, and to make new ones. Protein also fills you up and can help you maintain a healthy body weight. People who undergo weight loss surgery prioritize protein in their healthy diet, which allows them to lose substantial amounts of excess weight.
Eat Nutrient Rich Foods
Many people mistakenly believe they must consume fewer calories when eating healthily. Although avoiding overeating is crucial, your primary concern should be consuming nutrient-rich foods. All foods have calories, but not all are nutrient-dense. Your body needs all important nutrients to thrive, including carbs, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats.
You’ll often read about avoiding empty calories. Those foods and drinks are high in calories but low in nutrients. Examples include:
- Sugar-sweetened beverages like soft drinks and even some fruit juice
- Energy drinks
- Sweetened breakfast cereals
- Potato chips
- Processed foods with excessive added sugars
Packaged foods like macaroni and cheese and candy bars are high in calories but don’t have essential vitamins, minerals, fiber, or protein. On the other hand, some diet-friendly foods may have much fewer calories but also lack nutrients, pointing to the need for a balanced diet. If you base your food choices on the number of calories, you’re missing the point of eating healthily.
Cut Down or Eliminate Ultra Processed Foods
One of the best ways to get more essential nutrients is to eliminate highly processed foods. Along with previously mentioned soft drinks, candy, and sugary cereals, avoid mass-produced baked goods and some boxed snack foods if they contain few whole foods as ingredients. The items tend to have unhealthy saturated fat, hydrogenated oils, and artificial sweeteners. Highly processed meats like cold cuts and sausages also fall into this category. Scientific research indicates that diets high in ultra-processed foods increase the risk of depression, obesity, heart disease and stroke, and similar health problems.
You don’t need to avoid processed foods altogether. In fact, it’s almost impossible. Many healthy choices like nuts and seeds, canned beans, canned fruit, and frozen vegetables have undergone some processing and can be used as part of healthy meals.
Do I Need to Follow a Specific Diet to Achieve Healthy Eating?
Of course not! Some people must avoid specific foods because of chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and other overall health issues. You don’t have to follow a special diet to make healthier choices and feel your best.
However, that’s not to say that a specific eating pattern won’t benefit you. Healthy eating involves smaller portions. Consume food only until you are food to maintain a healthy weight.
How to Make Nutrient-Dense Eating Work for You
Chances are, you may still need to figure out how to maintain a healthy diet with key nutrients. Make food selection one of your priorities. You don’t have to spend hours prepping or cooking, but you do need to become aware of your food selection. A well-stocked pantry makes choosing healthy meals and healthy snacks much more accessible.
When visiting the grocery store, stock up on the following healthier foods:
- Fresh produce
- Oily fish, like salmon and tuna
- Lean red meat (in moderation)
- Low-fat milk
- Protein sources, including chicken eggs, tofu, and Greek yogurt
- Plant-based foods like legumes, canned beans, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash
- Whole grain bread and brown rice
- Healthy fats like olive oil and avocadoes
- Simple snacks, like nut butter, nuts, and seeds, hummus, olives, and dried fruit
- Fiber-rich carbs, including sweet potatoes and oats
Building a Relationship with Essential Nutrients Takes Time
If you need to get used to grocery shopping or cooking, focus on a single meal. Healthy nutrients, especially planted-based foods, are color. Look for vibrant fresh produce, like spinach, sweet potatoes, red and yellow peppers, etc. Fresh fruit, especially various types of berries, is another important food group that should be part of the mix. Add whole grains and lean meats, and you have a balanced diet packed with nutrients.
Nutrient-dense foods are healthy foods that will protect you against disease, lengthen your lifespan, and promote overall health, including mental well-being. Combine your nutrient-dense diet with a physically active lifestyle, and you’ll be more apt to stay healthy for most of your life.
Author’s BIO: Lori Wade is a journalist from Louisville. She is a content writer who has experience in small editions. Lori is currently engaged in news and conceptual articles on the health and beauty industry. You can find her on LinkedIn. Hope you appreciate Lori’s useful insights!