So what constitutes a healthy diet? Super good question! A short answer is nigh on impossible. In fact very thick books have been written on this subject and there is still no definitive answer. And, for every book published that promotes a particular way of eating, there will be another one that completely contradicts it and promotes a very different approach.
For example, on the one side, you have low-carb diets like South Beach and Atkins and on the opposite side you have the Wholefood diet and the Standard American Diet which are built around carbohydrate foods. They couldn’t be more different BUT they both work for someone or they wouldn’t exist!
So, rather than worry about the specifics of any one diet, here are some golden nutrition rules that you can apply to your current diet and help you take a step or two towards making the food you eat as healthy as possible.
- Eat vegetables or fruit at every meal
Plants contain vitamins, minerals and fiber which are essential to your health. Try and eat a variety of colors at each meal to ensure you get a broad spectrum of nutrients. Where possible, eat your vegetables and fruit in the rawest state you can tolerate to further preserve the nutrients they contain. Check out how to make a salad, for a step-by-step guide on how to make salads tasty, healthy, and filling.
- Consume adequate protein at every meal
Protein is important for muscle growth and repair. Protein helps weight loss too. Many diets place an emphasis on carbohydrate foods which is okay but protein is also important. Include a portion of meat, fish, soya, eggs or your preferred choice of protein in every meal to ensure your hard-working muscles get all the amino acids they need and to help fuel post-exercise muscle recovery if you’re working out.
- Eat healthy fats
Fats often get a raw-deal in nutrition and are frequently labeled as unhealthy. While too much fat can make you fat, fats are actually essential for health and wellbeing – especially mono and polyunsaturated fats such as olive and fish oils. Healthy, natural fats are very important for many aspects of your health including your heart, brain and the control of inflammation. After all, the Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest diets in the world.
- Go easy on processed foods
Unless you raise and grow your own food, it’s unlikely you will be able to completely eliminate processed foods from your diet but as these foods are nutritionally poor, it’s worth trying to consume as few as possible. As tasty as a cookie may be, all in contains is sugar, salt and fat. In contrast, an apple contains vitamins, minerals, fiber, water and trace amino acids and considerably fewer calories per gram. Eating more “live foods” and less processed foods is a big step toward health and fitness.
- Exercise portion control
No food is fattening until you eat too much of it. Ice cream, cookies and chips can all be eaten providing you don’t eat too much or too often. Being very calorie dense, it doesn’t take a lot of this kind of food to contribute to a calorie surplus. By all means have a portion of the nice but naughty foods if you really want to but rather than eat the whole pack, limit yourself to a couple of cookies instead. If you see these foods as treats instead of staples, you’ll be a lot better off nutritionally.