Whole Foods Nutrition Made Easy
It seems like a new diet that “really works” comes out every month. Some urge cutting all carbs, others claim a vegan diet is the one and only path to health, while others push nutritional products and meal replacements. If you’re trying to eat a healthy, balanced diet or lose weight it can be hard to figure out which, if any, of these food philosophies will work for you.
Even though new research comes out all the time about the science of food and health, the foundation of healthful eating is simple: a diet of whole foods (those foods that are not processed) that is heavy on vegetables and low in sugar and saturated fat. While some of the complex diet plans may work, you don’t need to count calories, meticulously weigh out portions, or eliminate entire food groups to eat healthfully.
Unfortunately, most of the foods that we buy and eat are processed. Things like crackers, cookies, sugary cereals, frozen meals, and processed meats are a few examples. While not all processed foods need to be avoided – frozen vegetables, canned items such as beans or tomatoes, and whole grain breads and pastas are all healthy options – most do not provide our bodies with the kinds of fuel they need. The best way to keep processed foods out of your diet is to not purchase them in the first place. If they aren’t in your pantry or refrigerator you won’t eat them! So changing your shopping habits is an important first step. Try purchasing the majority of your items from the outside aisles at the supermarket, as most of the packaged, processed foods are in the center aisles.
Give vegetables the star role in your diet and make green your new favorite color. Green, leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, and other lettuces are full of nutrients and very low on calories – you can literally eat as much of these as you want! Try making a salad your entrée instead of your side at dinner, and load it up with a variety of greens and your other favorite vegetables. If you find salads and raw vegetables boring, try sautéing or grilling them instead and adding your favorite herbs or seasonings. Peppers, onions, mushrooms, and zucchini taste great prepared this way.
Aside from your veggies, add lean protein, fruits, whole grains, and healthy fats to complete your balanced diet. Perhaps top your entrée salad with a small portion of chicken, turkey, shrimp, salmon, or very lean beef. Or mix one of those in with your grilled vegetables. While meat typically takes up the most space on the dinner plates in most households and restaurants, meat portions should generally only be about the size of a deck of cards. Keeping fruit on hand for snacks or desserts will help keep you on track when cravings or hunger kicks in, and most guidelines recommend three servings of fruit per day. And while many fad diets consider carbs the enemy, moderate portions of whole grains breads, brown rice, and quinoa are healthy supplements to a vegetable-rich diet. Finally, naturally occurring fats, such as those in nuts, avocados and olive oil are actually helpful to our bodies in moderation.