We know that fish, fruits and vegetables should be staples in our diets whilst processed and junk foods such as pizzas and french fries should be avoided. However, we often find it extremely challenging to stick to what needs to be done to be consistent with this endeavour.
This 2023, if you’re resolved to build better dietary habits, control your weight gain or be healthy overall, it’s vital to be mindful of what you eat. Read on to discover how you can set yourself up for success through five simple tips.
Role of Balanced Meals in Your Health
The key word to any diet is “balance.” A balanced meal plan ensures that your body is getting the right amount of nutrients, minerals and vitamins from diverse food sources for it to function properly. It is vital for leading a healthy, productive life.
For a balanced and healthy diet, the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has made this recommendation:
• 1/2 of your plate - Fruits and vegetables
• 1/4 of your plate - Whole grains such as brown rice, barley, quinoa, oats, brown rice and whole wheat pasta
• 1/4 of your plate - Protein-rich foods such as fish, chicken, eggs, beans and nuts
Award-winning Registered Dietitian Lauren Manaker notes that protein-rich diets, in particular, can particularly support muscle growth for a stronger immune system and bones, amongst other benefits.
Why Healthy Food is Good for You
Your nutrition goals will help you make more balanced food choices, guiding you toward adopting healthy eating habits. Better food choices bring about these results:
1. Reduced risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, some types of cancers, and heart diseases
Go for low-fat dairy and nutrient-filled whole-grain foods such as quinoa, barley and whole wheat bread, in addition to foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, and trout.
2. Strong immune system and bones
Add red bell peppers, spinach, ginger and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli to your meals to boost your immune system and help protect your bones.
3. Healthy skin, teeth and eyes
Consider eating fish, eggs, kiwifruit, avocados, walnuts, asparagus, and many more. These are good for your skin, teeth and eyes.
4. Healthy digestion
Apple, yoghurt, chia seeds and papaya are foods that work to help improve the function of your digestive system.
5. Better weight management
With low consumption of foods high in sugar and fat, you can control your weight and keep the stubborn excess body fats at bay.
How to Stick to Eating Healthy: 5 Tips
Registered Dietitian Lizzie Streit wrote that goal-setting is important because it gives you “a sense of ownership over your plan [so that you can] work towards a visible goal.” In your nutrition-goal setting, it helps to keep the following tips in mind:
Make Your Goals SMART
In everything, including your food intake, SMART goals set clear parameters so you can achieve them within a specified timeframe. SMART stands for:
Specific: Specific implies clearly defining your goals. According to Streit, being specific addresses the what, why, and how. The simpler and more sensible your nutrition goals are, the better and more achievable.
Measurable: Your nutritional goals should have measurable results to be effective.
Achievable: For Streit, this means that the goals are “under the control of the person setting the goal instead of someone else.”
Relevant: Your list should be “realistic and consider your current circumstances,” wrote Streit.
Time-bound: A time-sensitive goal sets the direction for your approach.
If, for example, you aim to increase your veggie intake this new year, a SMART goal could look like this: “I will fill half my plate with my favourite green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach and cabbage during lunch five times this week.” It’s clear, easily achievable and time specific.
Keep A Journal
Journaling will track your progress and keep you focused on your goals. Tracking your healthy eating goal may enable you to identify old habits, therefore helping you adjust your diet accordingly. Keeping a food diary is also great to help you identify which areas to work on so you remain aligned with your nutrition goals.
Diversify Your Foods
It’s no fun to eat the same food over and over again. Eating a variety of meals that you love without straying away from your goals makes them easier to follow. The trick is striking a balance and practising portion control.
Plan Your Meals
Diversifying your food means planning your meals. By doing so, there’s no excuse for you not to eat well even if you're busy at work or have other commitments. Meal planning steers you away from unhealthy options. Registered Dietitian Silvia Veri notes that preparing your meals in advance makes nutritious meals accessible and, thus, you are sure to eat better more often.
Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself
Like it or not, you will eventually miss your goals. When this happens, don’t get discouraged. This happens and it’s perfectly normal to restart. Also, permit yourself to have a “cheat day.” The road to a healthy you can be fun and does not have to be rigid.
Consuming nutritious food is a crucial step towards achieving good health and staying in shape. When coupled with a regular exercise regimen, this is one of the best ways to guarantee your health in the upcoming year.
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