First off, let’s define our terms here: when talking about a healthy diet, we’re not talking about “going on a diet” or restricting eating in any way. What we mean is more along the line of a nutritional plan, specifically talking about the food items that make up the meals you prepare.
In today’s society, “diet” is usually used as a term embodying new, restrictive, sometimes unhealthy methods of losing weight, when in reality, your diet is just another phrase for what you choose to eat everyday.
What is a healthy diet?
A healthy diet is as simple as it sounds—the combination of nutritious ingredients that boost your body’s systems so you can have more energy, greater mental clarity and even better sleep quality. It’s not a limiting of ingredients, necessarily, but a conscious balance of vitamins, proteins and minerals.
Why are healthy diet foods important?
Would you ever think to fill your car’s gas tank with anything other than gasoline? No, of course not! Pour maple syrup into the tank and not only will it refuse to run, you could do some serious long-term damage to the vehicle overall.
The same concept applies to what you put into your body. If you fill it with lots of sugar, fats (the unhealthy ones, not the good fats), and processed, deep-fried ingredients, your body will slowly, but surely, start to shut down. Those food items simply don’t contain enough nutrients and are overloaded with harmful, unnecessary ingredients.
Healthy food choices are important because they determine how you run—how well your brain works, how strong your immune system is and how well you sleep at night. What goes into your body directly impacts both physical and mental health.
How do I build a healthy diet plan?
There are a number of dos and don’ts when it comes to building and incorporating a healthy diet. While being selective at the grocery store is important, first you have to know just what you need to look for and how you’re going to begin utilizing it.
Veggies, veggies and more veggies
Vegetables are a huge staple to any healthy diet as they’re full of fiber, vitamins, water and antioxidants. Plus, they can be substituted for almost anything, so you don’t feel stuck eating salads for every meal. Consider using cauliflower rice to accompany your homemade stirfry, mix chopped peppers and onions into your morning eggs or opt for spaghetti squash in place of pasta.
Other important veggies to include are:
- Dark leafy greens like kale, with high vitamin C content
- Garlic, known to boost immune functioning
- Cucumbers, as they’re loaded with water and low in carbs and calories
- Bell peppers, with delicious taste and lots of antioxidants
- Asparagus, with minimal carbs and calories and maximum vitamin K
No matter what vegetables you opt for, you’ll be benefiting your body with natural sources of vitamins and minerals.
Yes, water is a crucial component of any healthy diet plan. In fact, the building block of any healthy lifestyle starts with consuming the right amount of water. Water has a number of health benefits, including:
- Regulating body temperature
- Flushing the body of waste and toxins
- Transporting oxygen through the body
- Lubricating and cushioning joints and organs
- Increasing skin and hair health
- Assisting with the absorption of vitamins and minerals
So get yourself a 40 oz. water bottle and start drinking.
Refined, enriched and processed wheat/gluten products don’t contain the nutrients that whole grain items do, and are typically pretty high in sugar content. To reduce the consumed amount of unneeded sugars, and benefit your body with the nutritional content of whole grain, opt for whole grain breads, cereals and oats.
By consuming whole grain, you’re providing your body with an ample supply of nutrients like:
- B vitamins
So tomorrow morning, upgrade your avocado toast game with a little whole grain.
Proteins are crucial to any healthy diet plan as they assist with immune function, support and functioning of cells, movement, hormone synthesis and chemical reactions within the body (to name a few). In other words, without good sources of protein, your body will suffer.
Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to incorporate protein into your diet, including:
- Chicken breast
- Seafood, like salmon and tuna
- Dairy products like greek yogurt and milk
- Beans and lentils
When searching for protein options at the grocery, make sure you check the ingredients list on things like peanut butter or almond milk—you don’t want your protein to be compromised with added sugars or more water than almonds.
Building a plan for yourself
If you’ve wanted to boost your health, physical and mental, a dietary revamp is a great way to begin. Just remember, it’s not the same as a trendy new diet; rather, a healthy diet plan is the selection of food items proven to increase overall health and well-being.
For more information on the benefits of healthy eating, or to speak with a nutritionist or counselor about getting started on the path to well-ordered eating today, reach out to Seeds of Hope anytime by calling 610-644-6464.