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Healthy Guidelines on What to Eat
Once you know HOW to eat, it’s important to understand WHAT to eat. There are a million different diets out there that tell us a million different things, but as with learning how to eat, just understanding a few simple guidelines on what to eat can make all the difference, and allow you to tailor a diet to suit your own needs.
Natural, Whole Foods
To begin, stick as much as possible to whole, unprocessed foods. Eat fresh fruit and veggies rather than juices and frozen or canned produce. Eat lean, unprocessed meats rather than deli or canned meats. Stay away from refined flour, and stick to whole grains as much as possible. If you feel like it, eat organic. Avoid foods with added sugar, salt, oil, preservatives, chemicals, and dyes.
Finally, remember, it’s not just big companies that process foods; you do, too! Avoid overcooking your food, or drowning it in sauces and oils. Food processing techniques suck the essential vitamins and minerals out of food. The more fresh and natural your meals can be, the healthier you will be as a result.
Food for Thought
ALWAYS READ FOOD LABELS! The fewer ingredients listed on a product, the better. A fun general rule is to stay away from products containing ingredients you can’t spell. If you can’t spell it, your body probably doesn’t want to process it.
Labels will also help you to count calories, which is the key to weight loss. Take in fewer calories a day than you use up, and you will lose weight. Furthermore, labels must tell you what amounts of sugar, fat, vitamins, and minerals your food contains. If you want to be a healthy eater, these labels are going to become your training manual for life.
What You Need to Know
Sugar – Our bodies convert sugar into glucose, which gives us energy. This is a good thing, unless we get too much of it. Many of us get way too much sugar, not just from sweets, but from carbohydrates like bread and pasta that we consume in amounts too large for our bodies to effectively process. Ideally, sugar should be consumed in moderation.
Because sugar is so addictive, it can be hard to moderate. It might mean saying goodbye to super-sweet foods altogether. This is difficult at first, but you’ll find that after just a few weeks of avoiding cake and cookies and candy, the cravings will subside, and your body will get all the glucose it needs from fruit, grains, and other starchy foods.
Fats - Avoid trans fats and saturated fats. Saturated fats come from animal products like fatty meats, milk, butter, and cream, and from cheap tropical oils such as palm and coconut oil. Trans fats are hydrogenated vegetable oils, like margarine. They are used in many processed and fast foods, as are palm and coconut oils. These fats cause obesity and heart disease. Avoid them like the plague they are.
Ideally, saturated and trans fats should be replaced in your diet by monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These fats give your body the good cholesterol it needs, and they help to clean out the bad kinds of cholesterol that kill. These fats can be found in unhydrogenated vegetable oils, fish oils, peanut oil, and olive oil.
For many of us, an easy transition is to move towards cooking only with olive oil. It’s delicious, nutritious, and it also makes a great salad dressing, whereas creamy dressings, like Cesar and Blue Cheese, turn your body into a fat factory.
Fiber - Make sure to keep your diet high in fiber. Fiber cleans out your digestive tract, and keeps it running smoothly, which in turn helps you to lose weight, and stave off illnesses and disease. Legumes, whole grains, and green vegetables all contain excellent amounts of fiber. Keep your diet high in roughage, and your body will thank you.
The Pie Chart Plate
In the end, your dinner plate should like a bit like a “good health” pie chart. On this pie chart, half the space is taken up by veggies (and fruit, to a lesser degree), one quarter is taken by protein, and one quarter is taken by carbohydrates. Tailor your menu to suit your tastes, but make sure you are eating a big salad, and a small potato, or a big pile of green beans, and a small chicken breast.
You Are What You Drink
Last, but not least, have a look at what you are drinking. Basically, if you are drinking anything other than water, plain tea, or plain coffee, you are venturing into the high-calorie zone. Even fruit juices are as full of sugar and calories as any soft drink.
Next time you are at the market, read those labels. You will be shocked at how many juices contain added sugar. You will also be shocked at how high in calories are those juices that don’t contain any added sugar. We are much better off getting our daily servings of fruit from whole, natural sources.
In fact, a big glass of orange juice has more calories and sugar in it than a bottle of beer. Of course, we don’t drink six glasses of orange juice at a time, which is where alcohol drinkers really suffer. Do your brain, and your body a big favor, and drink alcohol, and all other sweet beverages, in great moderation.
By following these simple guidelines, most people should be able to lose weight, or maintain a healthy weight, and gift themselves with a healthy body that feels great. You don’t have to be strict, starve yourself, or deny yourself delicious food in order to eat healthy. Just make smart decisions, consume in moderation, and listen to your body. It knows what it needs to be healthy, even when your brain is screaming out for a Big Mac.