Planning a healthy diet

Focus on whole foods.

To learn more about how to eat well, it’s helpful to first understand what a “whole food” is. In general, the term refers to a food that has not been refined or processed in any way. Whole food is safe for human consumption and can help you reach and maintain your ideal weight. It also has the ability to boost your immune system, strengthen your bones, and support your digestive system.

Some examples of whole foods include fresh fruits, vegetables, and dairy products such as cheese; lean meats like chicken or fish; and nuts, seeds, legumes (dry beans), avocados, eggs, spices (like flax seeds), herbs (like dill), and other healthy foods that have been grown organically or ethically raised in the US

Limit added sugars.

If you’re like most adults, you consume more than twice the recommended amount of added sugars each day. One key way to cut calories and improve your diet is to reduce your intake of added sugars. Added sugars are sugars used during food processing or preparation (such as putting sugar in your coffee or adding sugar to your cereal). They also are found in many processed foods and beverages that you may not think of as sweet, such as bread, salad dressings, and tomato sauce.

The general recommendation for added sugar intake is no more than 10% of total daily calories from added sugar. That’s about 200 calories per day from added sugar—or 50 grams—for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet. However, the American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of added sugars you consume to no more than half of your daily discretionary calorie budget—or about 100 calories per day for most women and 150 per day for most men.

For example: If you eat 2,500 calories a day on average (recommended for active women), then no more than 125 daily calories should come from added sugars—about 6 teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar. If you eat 3,000 daily calories (recommended for active men), then no more than 175 calories should come from added sugars—about 8 teaspoons or 33 grams of sugar.

Eat more protein.

  • Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood.
  • Protein can also be used as an energy source.
  • There are 20 different amino acids that combine to form a protein; 11 of them can be synthesized by the body while the other 9 (called essential amino acids) must come from food.
  • The term “complete protein” describes protein sources that contain all 9 essential amino acids (building blocks).

Meat, poultry, fish, and eggs are complete proteins because they contain all 9 essential amino acids.

Add more whole grains to your diet.

Whole grains are good for your heart and help lower your risk for certain diseases. And you don’t have to eat a lot of them to see health benefits. One serving, or 16 grams, is enough. For example:

  • 1 slice of whole-grain bread
  • ½ cup cooked 100% whole-grain pasta or brown rice
  • ¼ cup 100% whole-grain cold cereal

Here’s how to add more whole grains to your diet:

  • Make at least half the grains you eat whole grains. Try a new recipe that uses a combination of refined and whole-grain flour. When baking, replace half the white flour with wheat flour. If you’re trying new recipes with only whole grains, be sure to add an extra ¼ teaspoon of salt per cup of wheat flour. This will make up for the reduction in sodium that happens when you swap out refined grains for their more nutritious counterparts.

For example instead of pasta use quinoa, instead of white rice use brown rice

Plan to eat a variety of colors and flavors each day

Eating a variety of colors and flavors each day is key.

You should take care to eat a rainbow of colors in order to provide yourself with all the nutrients your body needs. The more colorful your plate the better! In addition, you should regularly incorporate new flavors into your diet. Eating foods and spices from around the world will ensure you have an exciting and fun diet!

Finally, consider incorporating seasonal produce into your meals. Eating local is a great way to support small businesses, farmers, and other members of your community. Plus, it’s usually fresher than produce that has been shipped from far away places.

Make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need in your diet

Use these tips to make sure you’re getting all of the nutrients you need in your diet.

Following a healthy diet does not mean cutting out all of your favorite foods and eating only salads.

It means eating a wide variety of foods from each of the five main food groups, in the amounts recommended by Canada’s Food Guide.

Protein is an essential nutrient that helps build and repair body tissue, produce hormones, and fight infection. Good protein sources include lean meats, fish, poultry without skin, eggs, and tofu.

Whole grains are better choices than refined grains because they contain more fiber and other nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals (chemicals found in plants). They also help to lower cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of some types of cancer. Some examples include whole-wheat bread or pasta, brown rice, or barley.

Eating a variety of healthy foods every day will help you get all the nutrients your body needs to feel good. Try including at least one serving from each food group at each meal whenever possible: vegetables; fruit; grain products; milk products; meat alternatives

Write down your goal for the diet

Let’s be real: you’re probably not going to stick with a diet that doesn’t have a goal.

It can be tempting to just jump into a new routine, but taking the time to write down your goals will help you decide what you want to achieve and eventually help you stay motivated. It also gives you something to refer back to when you’re struggling with your new changes.

Goal setting is an essential part of success and it can determine whether or not your diet sticks long-term. A few tips:

  • Look for a specific metric for your goal, like “lose 5 lbs” instead of “lose weight.” Having something concrete will keep things less abstract and more tangible. That said, try not to set too many goals at once because it’ll be too difficult and may lead you down the path of failure.
  • The more goals the better, but don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to accomplish everything at once! If anything, start off slow: there are no rules about how much weight (or how many pounds) has been lost on this particular journey yet so don’t pressure yourself too hard from day one!

Take an inventory of the foods you have

Take an inventory of the foods you have.

Whether you’re just getting started or trying to explore new possibilities with your current diet, it’s a good idea to take an inventory of what food you have in your kitchen. How can you tell if something is a fit for your diet when you don’t even know what’s available?

You may think that there isn’t much use for a list of the five different kinds of pasta sauce in your pantry and the multiple boxes of cereal lining your cupboards, but trust me: having this information will make meal planning much easier.

At some point, we’ve all stood in front of our refrigerators or cupboards and felt overwhelmed by their contents. In those moments, it can be helpful to look at things from an outside perspective. Taking pictures of these spaces and saving them somewhere where they’ll be easy to access can help us see how we use our kitchens.

Using those pictures as inspiration, write down everything that’s inside each space—you may discover things went were forgotten about! Once this is done, review what was written down and brainstorm ideas for dishes that can be made with all items on the list:

Are there any side dishes that complement each other?

Is there a main ingredient (or several) that could work together?

This process will give you more direction when choosing recipes later on.

Make a grocery list.

Finally, the most crucial part of meal planning is the grocery list. You can plan all you want, but if you don’t have the right ingredients, you won’t get to eat any of them.

So make a grocery list! Write down what you need to buy and stick with it. It will help with budgeting and will also prevent food waste. If you go in without a list and stock up on different foods that aren’t going to go together well, then it will be much harder for yourself when making your meals later on. Remember: don’t over-buy, or else it will all go bad before you can even use it!

It may take some time to get used to keeping a shopping list organized and updated, but once you do, the habit will greatly reduce stress while shopping and save money by preventing overbuying.

Shop for healthy choices

Choose foods that are low in calories and filling. They’ll help you feel full without consuming too many calories. Healthy, low-calorie food includes fruits, vegetables, whole-grain products, and fat-free or 1% dairy products.

  • Avoid unhealthy choices in your shopping cart.

Steer clear of foods that contain large amounts of saturated fats, trans fats, salt (sodium), or added sugars such as sweetened breakfast cereals, baked goods, and soft drinks. These foods often contain a lot of calories but not much nutrition — so they don’t keep you feeling full for long periods of time.

If you have diabetes or high blood pressure or need to restrict sodium (salt), be sure to check the labels for sodium content and other nutritional information on packaged items before purchasing them

  • Buy frozen, canned, or dried versions of fruits and vegetables when fresh varieties aren’t available or are out of season. Just make sure they’re labeled as being packed without added salt or sugar
  • Choose whole grains over refined grain products whenever possible — they contain more fiber and can help make you feel full longer

Set aside time to cook every day

Setting aside time to cook every day can be a difficult thing to do, but it is well worth the effort. It’s true that you may have to spend more time in the kitchen than if you were to go out and buy food, but pre-planning your meals and learning how long they take to make will help save time in the long run.

In an emergency, people often say that cooking from scratch takes too long. This doesn’t have to be true! If you plan ahead and know what you’ll eat on each day of the week, so you can precook meals for part of the coming week.

For example, if you love having spaghetti for dinner on Sundays, why not make extra sauce and keep it in a jar? The next time you need a quick meal on Thursday night, all you need is pasta noodles.

Planning your diet will help you stay on track

Research shows that people who plan their meals are more likely to be successful with weight loss. Planning your meals will help you limit your calories and stay on track and also help you avoid making unhealthy choices in the heat of the moment.

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