Close your eyes for a moment and think what comes to mind when you think about healthy eating and a well balance diet. What constitutes “healthy eating” varies depending on who you ask. Everyone whom you ask appears to have their own best opinion on the healthiest diet, including professionals, marketers of fad diet plans, your best friend, your neighbours and even your family members.
Additionally, to add to the perplexity and complicate things, unsolicited advice on nutrition basics from friends and neighbours, and online social forums can be extremely damaging for long term health without proper knowledge about food and nutrition.
In reality, the truth is that eating a balanced diet doesn’t have to be difficult. It is totally possible to eat the foods you love and still fuel your body. After all, food should not be feared, tallied, weighed, or trolled and looked upon as good or bad; rather, it should be enjoyed to the fullest.
It’s essential to first discuss why healthy eating matters before delving further into what it entails. First and foremost, the type of food that you eat provides you with the energy and nutrition your body needs to function. Your health may suffer if your diet consists of foods that are low in calories or one or more nutrients.
Similarly, consuming too many calories than those required by the body might result in unwanted weight gain. Health studies point out that obese or overweight people are much more likely to develop conditions like type 2 diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, liver, renal, and heart problems.
Your diet’s quality also has an impact on your risk of contracting diseases, longevity, and mental wellness. Eating the right foods can be a daunting task, especially with so many conflicting opinions and information available online.
What’s more, if your current diet is high in ultra-processed foods and beverages like fast food, soda, and sugary cereals but low in whole foods like vegetables, nuts, and fish, you’re likely not eating enough of certain nutrients, which may negatively affect your overall physical and mental health.
However, with the right knowledge and approach, it can be a simple and enjoyable lifestyle choice. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start eating healthy and improving your relationship with food.
Most people still believe in the age old myth that eating healthy requires them to adhere to a specific diet and that they would have to sacrifice the foods that they like to eat. Does eating healthfully require adhering to a specific diet? Absolutely Not!
Most people don’t need to adhere to any particular diet in order to feel their best, even though some people need to avoid certain types of foods or adopt special diets for health reasons. For e.g: A diabetic patient or a patient has certain restrictions on the type of foods that they can eat as a part of their diet)
That is no reason to argue that you cannot benefit from some a healthy diet just by tweaking your eating habits. The only thing is that you need to have a positive relationship with the food that you eat and recognize the type of food that your body requires.
For instance, some people find that a low-carb diet makes them feel the healthiest, and gives them results whereas high-carb diets suit other people much better even though they are considered healthy in terms of BMI.
However, generally speaking, eating healthy has little to do with following a diet or restrictive dietary guidelines. In simple words, “healthy eating” refers to putting your health first by nourishing your body with wholesome foods.
The definition of “healthy foods” again depends on each person’s geographical location, financial status, culture, society, and taste preferences, and the specifics may vary from region to region. For e.g: In Indian cuisine, even though curry or “dal” as it is known in local language is considered a healthy food option, it varies from region to region in terms of taste and ingredients.
Healthy eating is also not about staying unrealistically thin in terms of weight, or depriving yourself of the foods you love. Rather, it’s about feeling great, having more energy, improving your health, and boosting your mental health. At its core, healthy eating means consuming a well-balanced diet.
The first question that comes to mind about healthy food is the number of calories. There is a prevailing myth that high calorie foods are unhealthy and that they should be avoided all together in the diet plan. Although calories are significant, nutrition should be your top priority.
That’s because your body needs nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals, to function properly. Therefore rather than counting calories eating healthy requires an understanding of “nutrient density”, which describes how many nutrients are present in a food in comparison to the number of calories it contains.
While calories are present in all foods, even though the food labels mention zero calories, not all foods are nutrient-dense. For instance, while a candy bar or your favourite mac meal with cheese may have a lot of calories, they don’t include any vitamins, minerals, protein, or fibre. Likewise, items labelled “diet-friendly” or “low calorie” may have extremely few calories but be deficient in nutrients.
For instance, compared to entire eggs, egg whites have significantly lower calories and fat. The Daily Value (DV) for iron, phosphorus, zinc, choline, and vitamins A and B12 is only 1% or less in an egg white, but the DV for these nutrients in a whole egg ranges from 5-21%. That is as a result of the egg’s healthy, high-fat yolk.
The yellow part of the egg also contains cholesterol, which may be required to be controlled in the case of a specific type of diet for those who are suffering from heart related problems or high cholesterol levels.
However, the irony here is that without understanding, most of us believe that the white is healthy and the yolk constitutes unhealthy food as far as health is concerned. Additionally, while many foods that are high in nutrients, such as a variety of fruits and vegetables, but are low in calories, others, such as nuts, full-fat dairy products, egg yolks, avocado, and fatty fish, are often high in calories and in nutrients. That’s just OK! You do not need to beat yourself up and feel guilty about eating those foods.
Not all foods that are high in calories are unhealthy for you. Likewise, a food doesn’t automatically qualify as a healthy option just because it has few calories. Most of us are losing the point of healthy eating because most of our meal decisions are made purely on the basis of calories rather than the nutritional value of the foods.
Therefore the main objective of a balanced diet plan should be to eat a majority of foods that are high in vitamins, minerals, fibre, healthy fats, and nutrients like protein. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, fatty fish, and eggs are some of these foods.
No doubt. You’re absolutely right! Following healthy eating habits imply that you follow dietary diversity, or consuming a wide range of foods. A well balanced diet full of a variety of foods maintains your gut flora, encourages a healthy sustainable body weight, and protection against chronic disease in the long term.
Still, if you’re a picky eater, it could be challenging to eat a range of meals. The more you are exposed to a food, the more likely it is that you will become accustomed to it, even if you don’t particularly love eating new cuisines. A well balanced diet includes:
Carbs, fat, and protein are macronutrients, or the primary nutrients you obtain from diet. (Fibre is viewed as a kind of carb.)
Generally speaking, in a well-balanced and healthy meal there should be a balance among all the three during your meals and snacks. Particularly, adding protein and fat to glucose sources that are high in fibre increases the hunger filling power and flavour of food.
When you snack on fruit, for instance, combining it with a spoonful of nut butter or a small amount of cheese helps you feel filled longer than if you were to consume the fruit alone.
It’s perfectly okay if your diet isn’t consistently balanced. There’s no need to beat yourself up about it and feel guilty and increase your stress levels. Most people don’t need to count macros or adhere to a rigid macronutrient plan, with the exception of athletes, those trying to achieve a specific body composition, and those who must increase their muscle mass or body fat for medical reasons.
Additionally, focusing over a certain macro range and tracking macros can result in disordered eating behaviours or a harmful preoccupation on food and calories, which leads to a negative relationship with food in the long term. This not only affects physical health, but also the mental health of the individual.
It’s crucial to keep in mind that some people may do well on diets that are heavy in fat and protein, low in carbs, or low in fat and high in carbs. However, this does not mean that the same diets would work for everyone.
For your healthy diet plan, you need to have an understanding about your unique body type and its nutrient requirements rather than what is mentioned in the diet plan. The reason that most diet plans fail to give results is because they focus too much on restrictive eating and cannot be customized for each body type.
One of the many parts that make up your daily lifestyle is food. Food may be the least on your list of family priorities after a stressful day of commuting, daily meetings at work, and family obligations with the children and their studies and other activities.
Making food a priority among other activities is the first step to maintaining a happier and healthier lifestyle. This doesn’t imply that you have to spend hours learning complicated meal recipes or complicated meal preparations, but it does mean that you need to put some thought and work into it, especially if you lead a very hectic lifestyle.
For instance, making sure you shop for groceries once or twice a week will help you make sure your fridge and pantry are stocked with nutritious food options rather than the instant foods and ready to eats.
Making a proper healthy eating plan takes care of more than half the stress. While shopping out for groceries, prepare a list in advance and on your next visit to the supermarket, stock up on options like:
If you’re still finding it overwhelming deciding about what healthier options to stock up, and you’re feeling stuck, keep it straightforward and stick to the threes:
For instance, a nutritious breakfast could consist of a bowl of spinach with an egg and avocado sandwich or a bowl of fruits loaded with milk and nuts. Lunchtime would be sweet potato loaded with vegetables, beans, and shredded chicken, and at dinnertime fish fillet or baked tofu with sautéed broccoli and brown rice would be healthy options.
To simplify things further, you can also break up the ingredients meal wise and concentrate on a single meal option. On your visit to the supermarket, to keep things simple, purchase the ingredients for a few breakfast or dinner dishes for the upcoming week at the grocery store. Once you have trained yourself and it is ingrained as a part of your weekly routine, add other meals until you are cooking most of them yourself.
In conclusion, it could take some time to establish a positive healthy relationship with food as you are not accustomed to healthy eating habits as a part of your current lifestyle. You’re not alone if you don’t have a positive relationship with food and eating habits.
Eating disorders or tendencies towards disordered eating are common with thousands of people all around the world. What is crucial is that you need to take the right advice and the appropriate care if you have concerns that you may be suffering from one of these disorders that has been having a negative impact on your current health.
The best way to start with repairing your connection with food would be to work with qualified professionals, such as a dietitian and psychologist who specialises in eating disorders.
One needs to understand that imposing food restrictions, following fad diets, and self-diagnosed ideas like “getting back on track” won’t help and might even be detrimental not only to physical health, but also mental health. It could take some time, but improving your relationship with food is essential for both your physical and mental health.