Variety Is The Key To A Healthy Diet
When examining the diets of my clients, I commonly find that even of those who tell me they eat from a healthy diet actually eat from a very narrow selection of foods. Most of their food choices are also processed or heavily prepared before eating. These people also frequently complain of failed diets and of their desire to maintain a more healthy weight and to feel the benefits they expect from a healthy diet. One of the most frequently cited reasons that diets and attempts at healthy eating fail is boredom. Many people simply do not know how to meet the challenge of keeping a healthy diet interesting day after day.
With just a little bit of planning and the huge variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats and other healthy foods at the local grocery store, it is possible to create exciting, nutritious meals that will keep boredom at bay.
The key to the success of any plan for healthy eating is to eat what you like, but to exercise moderation when it comes to the less healthy foods. Improving your level of health and fitness does not mean saying no that piece of chocolate cake, but it does mean limiting yourself to one piece, and possibly a smaller piece than you normally eat. A key contributing factor in unwanted weight gain is lack of portion control. Restaurants provide portions which often provide the entire daily recommendation for calorie intake, but in a single meal!
A healthy diet contains all types of foods, including carbohydrates, proteins, and even fats. However, there is a significant difference in the quality of the fats in fried foods compared to the fats in a lightly cooked fish, an avocado or flax seed. Seek out quality sources of nutrition and limit your intake of processed foods. Look through some simple cookbooks with pictures. Look for a small collection of appealing dishes that use similar ingredients. This way you can economize at the grocery store by shopping for ingredients you can use for an entire week. Do not buy too far in advance and avoid buying ingredients in bulk because you will likely get tired of them before you finish using them up.
The revised USDA food pyramid contains five major food groups - grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and dairy, and meat and beans. When choosing foods from these groups, it is important to eat an appropriate amount of a wide variety of foods from every food group. Doing so will not only give you a great deal of variety and keep boredom from setting in, but it will provide the best nutritional balance as well. Seek out new food items and try them out. Perhaps you can choose a new type of bean or a fruit that is new to you. If you don't like it, you don't have to buy it again, but try new foods and think about how the flavors might work in simple dishes or as replacement ingredients in your favorite recipes.
When choosing foods from within the various food groups, some choices are naturally better and healthier than others. For instance, choosing skim or 2% milk instead of full fat whole milk is a good way to cut down on both extra fat and calories. Choosing poultry or lean meat is a great way to get the protein you need every day without extra fat, cholesterol and calories. You don't even need to eat animal protein for healthy protein intake. Even champion bodybuilder, and vegetarian, Bill Pearl, manages to get all the protein he needs from vegetable sources only. You don't have to "go vegetarian," but you don't have to eat an animal every day either.
Not all low fat foods are created equally. Check the label! Many low fat foods add starches and sugars which will raise insulin levels and may lead to unwanted weight gain. Remember, your body is designed to store extra sugar in the fat cells around your middle, so low fat eating isn't necessarily going to help you loose weight if that is your goal.
Cereals and breads that carry the whole grain label are healthier than those that do not. Not all breads labeled whole wheat are entirely whole wheat. Don't forget to check the label. Even in the world of fruits and vegetables some choices are better than others. For instance, peaches packed in heavy syrup add unnecessary sugar to the diet, while those packed in water or juice provide better nutrition. The best sources are always the unprocessed variety.
Eat seasonal foods when they are available. Berries are excellent sources of essential nutrients, and antioxidants. Eat them raw, in homemade smoothies, and as toppings for a desert. Berries can also be an excellent ingredient in entries as well. Search your cookbooks, or the Internet, for great recipes that are quick and simple. In the fall, the many varieties of gourds provide a surprisingly wide range of flavors and nutrition. They are also an excellent source of dietary fiber, which is a critical factor in the support of optimal health.
Eating well does take a bit more effort than popping a prepared meal in the microwave, but with a little bit of planning it should not require a significant time investment. You also don't need to be a gourmet cook. Preparing your own meals is easier than you may think so give it a try and don't be afraid to mess up a dish from time to time. The learning experience will lead to you being an even more skilled cook. The benefits include better nutrient intake, and lower intake of sodium, transfats, and preservatives. Invest a little time for a healthier you and enjoy the wide variety of tastes that real, unprocessed foods have to offer.***
by Dave Saunders
About the author: Dave Saunders is a professional lecturer, and certified nutritional educator. He enjoys creating interconnections through his writings and lectures to help others create context and see new discoveries and technologies in more a practical light. You can find out more about how to maintain a healthy diet at www.glycoboy.com.