Your body is a complex machine with many moving parts, so what you choose to fuel it with matters significantly. Read on to learn the benefits of eating a balanced diet, as well as 5 tips on how you can eat better and feel better in a way that you will be able to maintain in the long run.
Healthy Lifestyle Benefits from Eating a Balanced Diet
Eating healthy food that nourishes your body has many benefits beyond just the physical. Here are just a few of the positive effects you can expect to experience with the proper nutrition:
- May help you live longer
- Keeps skin, teeth, and eyes healthy
- Supports muscles
- Boosts immunity
- Strengthens bones
- Lowers risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers
- Supports healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding
- Helps the digestive system function
- Helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Diet: Healthy Food Ideas
1. Everything in Moderation—Don't Deprive Yourself or Overindulge
First and foremost, in order to develop healthy eating patterns that are sustainable in the long run, the most important thing you need to get right is your mindset. Leading a healthy lifestyle is not an overnight process, and it certainly should not be approached with an “all or nothing” mentality. Food is not the enemy. Food is what fuels our bodies and allows us to have the energy to experience the precious moments in our lives with the people that we love. Setting out on a journey to eat healthier is about loving yourself enough to nourish your body with foods that are good for you and make you feel good.
This means that you should never deprive your body of the food it needs or get caught up in the toxic cycle of yo-yo dieting that you won’t be able to realistically maintain. Strive for progress, not perfection. Excessive restriction and elimination of foods will only lead to stronger cravings and burnout that will cause you to fall back into your old patterns. Instead of depriving yourself of whole food groups or cutting your calories in half, try making overall healthier choices when you eat by choosing foods that are lower in calories and higher in nutrients. Don’t cave every time you have a craving for junk food, but allow yourself to indulge in treats once in a while. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle isn’t about perfection. It’s about progress and making healthier choices every day that eventually form into habits.
2. Start Meal Planning Ahead of the Week: Nutritious Meals Made Easy
With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, from commuting to and from work to picking up your grandchildren from school, food is often an afterthought rather than a priority. You are too tired when you come back from work to cook, so you order take out. You don’t have time to sit down and eat a meal, so you swing by a fast-food restaurant for a quick meal on the go. You’re hungry and don’t have any fruits and veg in your fridge, so you reach for the convenient bag of frozen french fries in your freezer. No matter what the excuse is, meal planning is a way to make food a priority and assure that you are always prepared with healthy, nutritious food in any scenario.
Before the beginning of each week, fill your fridge with nutritious foods you would like to incorporate into your diet such as fresh fruits and veggies, protein-packed produce, fibrous foods, and whole grains. Plan out what healthy meals and snacks you would like to eat throughout the week. You can even cook food ahead of time and package it up so that all you have to do is heat it up when it’s time to eat. For convenience and cutting down time, remember to include easily transportable snacks that you can reach for even when you’re in a rush such as apples, carrots, and hard-boiled eggs.
3. Stay Hydrated and Fuller by Drinking Plenty of Water
You’ve heard it before, but nonetheless, it is a truth worth repeating. Two-thirds of our bodies are made up of water, so it is absolutely essential to your health to stay hydrated. We need water for many of the important processes in our bodies to occur such as the kidney getting rid of waste products; lubrication of joints and eyes; the smooth functioning of the digestive system; and the flow of blood that carries essential oxygen, glucose, and nutrients to our cells, just to name a few.
Beyond this, drinking plenty of water also makes you feel fuller, as sometimes, people can mistake thirst for hunger. Drinking more water has also been shown to aid weight loss. In fact, studies have shown that people who drink mostly water consume up to 200 calories less on average and that drinking water increases the amount of calories that you burn. Generally, for adults, it is recommended that you drink 1 to 2 liters of water a day, so bottoms up!
4. Opt for Snacks and Meals High in Protein or Fiber When Hungry
Eating healthy isn’t about ignoring your body’s signals and denying yourself food when you are hungry. Rather, it is about being mindful of your decisions, choosing to fuel your body with nutritious food that fills you up and makes you feel good. For example, choosing to satisfy your hunger with snacks and meals that are high in protein or fiber is more likely to leave you feeling full and energized than highly processed foods loaded with sugar and fat.
Some good examples of snacks high in fiber or protein that will leave you feeling fuller and more energized for longer periods of time include almonds, carrots with hummus, boiled eggs, berries, roasted soy beans, avocado on whole-grain toast, etc. Next time you’re hungry, instead of reaching for salty pretzels or sugary candy that will still leave you feeling hungry later, reach for a healthier, more satisfying snack that will leave you feeling sharp and satisfied.
5. Be Aware of Your Eating Habits and Be Patient with Progress
When we’re hungry, or even when we’re just bored, it’s easy to snag a bag of chips from the cupboard and mindlessly munch while binging our favorite shows. However, one of the keys to developing healthy eating patterns is to be conscious of your eating habits such as what you eat, when you eat, and how much you eat. This is why it is important to pay close attention to your current behaviors regarding food so that you can modify them, making healthier choices and working towards positive change.
As you begin to monitor your habits, it is important to limit your distractions when you eat so that you are fully aware of what you are putting into your mouth. A helpful way of keeping track of your eating patterns is to put away your phone, turn off the T.V, and really hone in on your eating experience. What are you eating? How much are you eating? Are you eating your meals at a slow or rapid pace? Do you feel satisfied and energized after your meal or stuffed and sluggish? Taking the time to answer these questions gives you better insight into how you can improve your eating habits and make healthier choices. Keeping a food diary is also a helpful, detailed way to monitor your eating habits, as well as your progress towards a healthier lifestyle.
Finally, one last piece of advice: Don’t beat yourself up. Lifestyle changes take time, so be patient with your progress and gentle with yourself. We are all only humans who will slip up once in a while, but don’t let this discourage you or be the reason that you give up. Remember that progress is progress, no matter how small. You are making these changes for your own health and wellbeing, so treat your mind and body with the same care that you would for someone you love very much.