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Healthy Diet Tips

Read below for basic tips on how to create a healthy diet. This page is for general information only, and should not be used to replace a visit to your doctor or local dietitian. Please remember that every condition and every person has different needs, goals, medical histories, and preferences.  All of these factors (and more) need to be considered when deciding what is “healthy” for you.

Components of a Healthy Diet

  • Above all else, eat more plants, even if you eat meat
    • Increase your total volume and your variety of fruits and vegetables.
    • 90% of Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Underconsumption of fruits and vegetables can lead to heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, and declining mental health, as well as milder conditions, including gastrointestinal disturbances and acne.
    • Increase your produce consumption gradually. Evaluate how many servings you eat in a day, then add one serving per day every week until you are consistently eating at least 5-6 servings of vegetables and 2-3 servings of fruit per day.
      • Increase your water intake each time you increase your servings of produce. Otherwise, you may find yourself constipated. Increasing your activity level helps, too.
    • Increasing your intake of plant foods increases your intake of fiber, complex carbs, vitamins, minerals, and a plethora of antioxidants and phytochemicals that protect your overall health.
      • Vary your fruit and vegetable sources throughout the week to reap the most benefits from these various components. Eat the rainbow!
  • Make the switch to whole grain, at least 50% of the time.
    • Whole grain products have more protein, more flavor, are more pleasing to chew, and are more filling than their refined counterparts. About 1/4 of what you eat each day should be either starchy vegetables or whole grains.
  • Make smart protein choices
    • If you or your family members eat meat, choose lean sources of meat such as poultry (white meat!), fish, and leaner cuts of pork more often.
      • Save your fattier meats (beef, bacon) for special occasions.
    • To better utilize your protein, spread it throughout the day instead of big chunks of protein once or twice a day.
      • Oatmeal is a common breakfast choice. While healthy, it has relatively low levels of protein. This will lead to hunger pains only a couple of hours later. Consider adding a protein and fat source to your oatmeal to make the meal last longer. Peanut butter oatmeal sounds amazing!
    • Vary your protein sources: fish, cheese, chicken, and turkey for the meat-eaters. Dairy and eggs for meat-eaters and vegetarians. Beans, lentils, nuts and seeds, and soy (tofu, tempeh, edamame) for everyone. These foods all have protein and provide their own individual benefits. Everyone should embrace at least some vegetarian protein sources, even if they are not vegetarians.
  • Monitor your fat intake.
    • Unsaturated fats work to decrease your bad cholesterol (LDL), and some can increase your good cholesterol (HDL).
      • These come from plants and fish. Focus on including olive oil, avocado, peanuts, and almonds in your diet as much as possible. Oily fish are great for pescatarians and meat-eaters.
      • Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats that primarily come from fish. Those who don’t fish can get these from walnuts, ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil, and algal supplements.
    • Saturated fats increase your LDL levels.
      • These come primarily from animal sources, though coconut, palm oil, and shortening are also high in saturated fats and can have detrimental effects on your heart health if eaten in excess.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
    • Red wine has been shown to provide some heart-healthy and cognitive benefits. Limit yourself to 1 (5oz) glass per day. 
    • Don’t start drinking just for the perceived benefits. Alcohol is also linked to higher rates of certain cancers and can cause GI distress.
    • *Updated: Most major health organizations no longer consider any amount of alcohol “safe.”  If you choose to drink alcohol, do so safely and with intention or awareness of why you are drinking.
  • Leave room for indulgences and other favorite foods
    • At least once or twice a week, be sure to include your favorite food indulgence.
    • Think about what you really crave: typically sweet, chocolatey, salty, or crispy/crunchy.  Find the best version you can of what you want, and enjoy the hell out of it.  Banish guilt (and make-up workouts) from your food choices. Enjoy it, understand that these indulgences serve a purpose other than nourishment, and then move on.

Additional Sources

Dietary Guidelines 2015-2020

MyPlate

What constitutes a glass of wine?

 

To read the opinions of multiple other health and wellness professionals, read this awesome round-up.

Pay special attention to the tallies at the top!

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