In our efforts to live and eat healthfully, admittedly, there’s a lot of confusion and dated information regarding what’s good for us. We have found ourselves in a society striving to define what is healthy for our minds and bodies and are witness to a plethora of fad diets, weight loss advice, dos, and don’ts of healthy eating. Some of them are even contradictory. To stay updated and on the safe side, it’s best to adhere to science-based facts, which rid the world of nutrition from dated assumptions. With this in mind, we will have a look at the five new rules and guidelines for healthy eating.
1. Don’t count calories
About a decade ago, the weight loss and nutrition industry were all about calories. It seemed like you could eat a piece of cardboard because hey, no calories! There are still numerous people who insist on sticking to a regime of counting calories, but nutritionists of the modern-day recommend dropping it altogether. Scientists knew it already, but the wider population has finally accepted it as well: “Not all calories are created equal”.
So the next time you’re at a grocery store and reaching for that snack-pack that has only 100 calories, read the label on the back to see how much sugar or sodium it has, and whether it has any protein or vitamins. It’s a great marketing trick: most snacks count only 100 calories because they come in a small serving, and those are just empty calories that won’t provide you with any nutrition. Instead of counting calories, stick to nutrient-dense foods, and fresh produce.
2. Don’t eliminate food groups
Fats don’t make you fat and carbs are not here to destroy us. Processed and sugary foods are the culprit, whereas all nutrients are necessary to sustain our bodies. Fill your plate with vegetables, whole grains, and a source of protein (such as fish or lean meat) and incorporate healthy fats into your meals by cooking with coconut or olive oil or adding avocado and nuts.
A balanced, diverse diet is key to a healthy body and proper cognitive function. No food group should be entirely avoided, and sugars (from fruits and vegetables) are also necessary in amounts appropriate for an individual’s body weight and level of activity.
3. Eat protein in order to stay full
Breakfast still is the most important meal of the day – that piece of information remains something nutritionists agree on. But there’s a big difference between eating eggs for breakfast or a bowl of sugary cereal. Contrary to previous recommendations, it is protein and fiber that will keep your body and mind awake – not sugar. Sugar just provides an instant jolt that’s likely to result in a crash at lunchtime.
Eat a protein-rich breakfast and if you get cravings later, snack on almonds to stay full until the next meal, as they are full of protein. If you’re physically active and making an effort to tone your body you’ll need a larger amount of protein daily. That’s why most athletes and gym enthusiasts drink shakes with casein protein or other protein supplements. A protein-rich smoothie for breakfast is another great option for staying full and alert until lunchtime.
4. Eat vegetarian or Mediterranean as often as you can
A very recent study has proven that both of these diets are very effective in reducing cardiovascular risk factors. The Mediterranean diet has consistently been championed as the best eating regimen for heart health, as it is light on red meat, refined sugars, and processed foods, heavily relying on olive oil, lean protein, nuts, produce, and whole grains.
But new research shows that a diet based on healthful, unprocessed vegetarian foods is equally as effective in reducing cholesterol, regulating body weight, and reducing body fat. Look up delicious vegetarian or Mediterranean recipes for your next dinner idea – you’ll most likely love the food and want to make it again.
5. Enjoy and indulge
Fad diets and strict regimes most often backfire, and that’s because there’s a huge psychological factor behind what and how we eat. It has been proven over and over again that being too rigid with eating is likely to result in cravings.
The most important part of healthy eating is that it’s not something you force yourself to do daily as you dream of gobbling up junk food – it’s a lifestyle whose essence lies in a healthy relationship with food. Listen to your body; our bodies actually crave healthy food, but every once in a while, they want something unhealthy as well. You don’t have to eat perfectly all the time – just do your best with every meal and it will become a habit. Experiment with healthful dishes and don’t force yourself to eat something you hate just because it’s healthy – there’s always an appropriate substitute. But if you feel like eating a hamburger, have a hamburger; it’s not the end of the world.
Especially for those of us with children, where we’re not only responsible for their nutrition but also for setting a good example, striving to establish a healthy relationship with food is of utmost importance. A great first step towards that is stocking up on fresh produce and cooking at home as often as possible. In the end, it’s all about balance and learning through experience what works best for our bodies.