You are what you eat. It’s more than an adage, it’s the truth. If you want to get the most out of your body, you’ve got to know which foods to choose, and have the dedication to follow a smart diet every day.
Choosing healthy foods seems like a simple enough concept, but after a hard day at work it’s just so much easier to stop for drive-thru burgers or, worse yet, sit down with a comforting tub of cookie dough ice cream. You need to educate your mind before feeding your body. Understand what you’ll get from good nutrition, and you’ll find it much easier to make healthier choices.
Mother Earth has already given us the foundation of a healthy diet in the form of vegetables and greens. Choosing an assortment of vegetables every day can be an easy way to get the 2 cups you need. Mix up your choices to ensure that you’re getting the proper assortment of nutrients. Leafy dark greens, like spinach and broccoli, provide different nutrients than lighter greens and root vegetables. Sweet potatoes and yams can be baked or boiled for a tasty alternative to everyday white spuds. A plate of carrot and celery sticks with veggie dip will easily take the place of chips, and counts toward your daily vegetable requirements. When you just can’t say “no” to a burger for dinner, try a side salad instead of fries. There are many ways to substitute nutritious vegetables for other snack and side dishes alternatives.
Nutritionists recommend that we consume six ounces of grains everyday. To give you an estimate of just how much six ounces can be, consider that an average slice of bread contains one ounce. A cup of cereal also contains an ounce of grain. Of course, choosing whole grain products will boost your intake. Rice, crackers and pasta are also good grain choices.
Sweet, delicious fruits make choosing healthy foods so easy. Try to eat two cups of fruit each day. That’s about the equivalent of an apple and a banana. Toss a handful of grapes into a salad, or slice a banana over a bowl of cereal. Fruit salad is a great way to get a variety of flavors in one sitting. Fruits can be canned, frozen or dried, but fresh is always the best choice. A glass of fruit juice can also count toward fulfilling your daily intake, although fruit juices should be consumed in moderation.
Don’t Skip Dairy
Calcium is necessary for healthy teeth and bones, and is a vital requirement at any age. Children from two to eight years of age should have a calcium intake totaling about two cups of milk. Older children and adults need three cups. When choosing dairy products including milk, cheese and yogurt, go for the low-fat options. If you are lactose intolerant, there are lactose-free products on the market, as well as a variety of calcium-rich fortified foods and beverages.
Beans and Meat
Protein is essential to every good diet, and meat is a natural choice. There are many other natural sources, however, and vegetarians lead protein-rich lives by choosing these alternatives. There is a wide variety of beans and peas that pack a protein punch in all sorts of recipes. Getting your five ounces of protein per day can also be achieved by eating fish and nuts. When you do choose meat, try to trim away any excess fat, and grill or bake your meat to avoid fatty greases.
Easy on the Fat
Your body needs certain fats to function normally, but fats must be taken in moderation. The important thing is to know how to choose between “good” and “bad” fats. Foods that are high in fat, such as butter, will only add to your weight and cholesterol levels, so take steps to limit your intake. Saut your food in a little chicken or vegetable broth, or use a non-stick pan instead of loading your skillet with butter, margarine, lard or shortening. You can also add to the flavor of foods without the fat by using fruit juices and seasonings.
Smart eating begins with smart shopping. Many processed foods are loaded with fat, salt and additives. Try to stay within the fresh produce and meat aisles at your supermarket. When you do purchase pre-packaged foods, check the ingredient labels and nutrition facts before you buy. This will help to reduce your intake of saturated fats, trans fats and sodium.
Once you begin to make healthier food choices, you’ll begin to notice a change in all aspects of your lifestyle. Fueling your body with a nutrient-charged diet will give you energy and a brighter overall outlook. Those evenings of lying on the couch after consuming an eight-slice pizza will be behind you, as you begin to enjoy evening strolls after your healthy dinners. It’s not always easy to choose healthy foods, but your efforts will be rewarded with a lifetime of good health.