A healthy diet includes a range of nutritious food and beverages in moderation; no single food should be seen as “bad,” but occasional indulgences such as ice cream, cookies, candy and alcohol should be enjoyed without guilt.
Reducing sodium (salt) and added sugar intake by prioritizing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins as your main choices at meals is also key.
1. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Consuming more fruits and vegetables is one of the easiest ways to boost your health. These nutritious food sources contain vitamins, minerals and fiber. Plus they give your body energy throughout the day!
For optimal nutrition, aim to fill half your plate each day with fruits and vegetables; such as berries, peaches and mango as well as asparagus, carrots and sweet potatoes.
If you’re on a tight budget, stock up on frozen and canned fruit and vegetables low in sodium and added sugars. Check out farmers markets to source local produce at more reasonable prices than supermarket food. Adding fruit or veggies as the centerpiece of each meal – such as layering fresh berries over cereal for breakfast, or mixing mango into tuna rice bowl – can add even more fruits and veggies into the equation!
2. Get More Physical Activity
Physical activity is an effective way to stay healthy. Regular physical activity can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure as well as improving mood and sleep quality. This is mentioned in this recent Forbes article, relating regular leisure activities to reduced obesity rates.
Most people believe they don’t have enough time for exercise, but you can find ways to incorporate movement into your everyday routine. Try walking or cycling to work, taking the stairs instead of an elevator and parking farther from your destination. Make exercise part of lunch breaks and coffee breaks by walking during these times.
Find activities you enjoy and can stick with: dancing to music, basketball or tennis games, hiking groups or walking clubs, aerobic classes – whatever keeps you moving! Bring along family and friends as motivators; invest in weatherproof gear so that even in rain or snow you can continue being active!
3. Eat More Whole Grains
Carbs are essential in our diet, but it’s important to ensure we consume only those carbohydrates with nutritional benefits such as fiber. Aim for whole grain options which contain all these benefits and look for foods with the “Whole Grains Council” stamp to find more nutritious choices.
Oldways Whole Grains Council recently issued a report showing that Americans are taking seriously Dietary Guidelines advice to “make half your grains whole.” In fact, more than two-thirds of respondents to an online survey reported increasing their whole grain consumption “some” or “a lot” since five years ago. Brown rice, farro, quinoa and popcorn are all whole grains; food labels typically list first ingredients that make up most of a product while products marked “enriched” or “refined” may not contain similar health-promoting nutrients found in full grain products.
4. Get More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids should be an integral part of daily eating for almost everyone, as their benefits range from heart disease risk reduction and improving mood, vision and skin health to supporting fetal development and alleviating joint pain in people living with rheumatoid arthritis.
Omega-3s cannot be produced naturally in our bodies, so they must be consumed through food or supplements. There are two essential omega-3 fats known as EPA and DHA that must be present. You’ll find them most commonly in seafood such as salmon, herring, sardines tuna and mackerel; flax seeds chia and walnuts also provide omega-3s.
Average Americans typically consume 90-110 milligrams of omega-3 daily, well below the 250-milligrams recommended by experts. Speak with your physician about including more omega-3s into your diet.
5. Get More Fiber
Fiber can keep you feeling full for longer, as well as offering many health advantages, including lower risks of metabolic diseases like obesity and heart disease. Aim to incorporate vegetables, whole grains, fruit and legumes (beans, peas and lentils) into your meals – kidney beans and other bean varieties make great additions to soups, stews or as healthy dips and spreads.
At breakfast, switch from corn or bran flakes to steel-cut oatmeal or add unprocessed wheat bran and/or crushed bran cereal for more fiber. At lunch, pair lentil stew or bean soup with whole-wheat bread sandwiches accompanied by fresh vegetable side dishes and raw nuts as snacks for more fiber intake. At dinner time, opt for side dishes made of brown rice, bulgur or quinoa side dishes or add raw vegetables as snacks!
6. Drink More Water
Drinking lots of water is one of the easiest and most essential ways you can improve your health. Water flushes toxins out of the system, prevents constipation, promotes kidney function and supports skin and joint health, while also helping regulate body temperature and providing lubrication to tissues inside of eyes, noses and mouths.
Starting out right, eight 8-ounce glasses per day is a good place to begin; however, your water intake needs will differ based on age, gender, health condition and activity level.
Not only can water help keep us hydrated, but calorie-free beverages such as milk and low-sodium fruit and vegetable juices are also good options to stay hydrated. Add slices of cucumber or lemon for flavor without additional calories – why not even try sparkling water for something fun and different! Be sure to keep a water bottle handy at all times so as not to miss your fluid needs throughout the day!
7. Cut Back on Sugar
Most Americans consume too much added sugars in their diet, leading to obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. To combat this problem, cutting back on added sugars (which contribute calories with few other benefits) such as candy and soda should be part of any plan aimed at healthy living; that includes cutting back on unexpected sources like jarred pasta sauce, some types of peanut butter and dried fruits.
Food manufacturers must disclose the total added sugars found in a product on its Nutrition Facts panel, making it easier for us to monitor them. But it’s also essential to distinguish between naturally occurring sugars (like those found in fruits and dairy) and added sweeteners like granulated sugar, maple syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, molasses etc. These sweeteners contain empty calories without providing additional nutrition; keeping these items out of your home may help curb cravings when they arise.
8. Cut Back on Processed Foods
Though most food is processed to some extent – even seemingly unprocessed options like salad mix, bagged dry beans and unsalted nuts contain some degree of processing – too much processing can make it harder for our bodies to access vital nutrients. It is wiser to focus on minimally processed items like whole grains, fruits and vegetables for optimum nutrition.
Problematic foods, like packaged snacks and frozen meals, tend to contain salt, sugar and unhealthy fats – not to mention plastic packaging that ends up polluting landfills and waterways.
Target fresh produce, lean meats and healthy fats as alternatives. When dining out, opt for grilled or soup dishes without breading or frying to help cut back on calories and sodium – both are linked with increased heart disease risk, obesity and diabetes.
9. Eat More Lean Meat
Eating lean meats is vitally important to Americans as it can lower the risk of heart disease by providing less saturated fat, which contributes to high cholesterol levels and increases chances of stroke.
If you plan to eat red meat, opt for cuts labeled as “Choice” or “Select.” Additionally, liver is higher in fat content so be wary when choosing organ meat like this.
Poultry is an excellent source of protein. You’ll find low-fat chicken, turkey and duck in grocery stores as an excellent way to nourish yourself with vitamin A and B.
Fish is an excellent source of protein. To maximize its benefits for brain function and body composition, make sure to consume fresh oily varieties of salmon and trout as often as possible – this can add variety to your diet while giving it some much-needed boost! At least twice per week should do.
10. Take a Supplement
Americans rely heavily on various dietary supplements for maintaining good health. Although many of these pills can help, the best way to meet your vitamin and mineral requirements is through food sources.
As an example, adding fish to your diet can increase omega-3 intake, and replacing processed food with healthier options can make a major impactful statement about your commitment to overall wellness.
Cooking in bulk can save both time and money. Try pre-making soups, stews and casseroles or stocking your freezer with healthy meals such as wholemeal toast, yoghurt or wholegrain breakfast cereal to reduce junk foods while keeping calorie consumption down. When reading packaged food nutrition labels be mindful of fats, added sugars and sodium content – make sure not to pick low-fat options which contain higher quantities of both.