How to Eat Healthy: 7 Easy Tips

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You’ve decided to set sail on a path towards healthier eating — amazing! Step one on your quest is researching what to eat. Yet after spiraling down a web search of conflicting and confusing nutrition information, you’re left feeling lost and deflated. You’ve got enough to stress about these days. Don’t worry your magnificent mind, healthy eating is (and should be) simple. Here are seven easy tips for how to eat healthy.

1) Keep an eye on calories

Calories are energy we get from food that fuel our daily lives. Getting the right amount on a daily basis is essential for overall health and body function. They also play an important role in helping us reach our weight related goals. In general, if we eat more calories than we burn, we’re more likely to gain weight. And if we eat less calories than we burn, we’re more likely to lose weight. The number of calories we need per day depends on factors such as our height, weight, age, sex, and activity level. A calorie counter app can help determine how many calories are needed on an individual level. Healthy eating isn’t all about this calories in versus calories out balance. The source of where we’re getting our calories also contributes to our wellbeing. 

2) Balance meals with macros & micros

Macronutrients 

Macronutrients are nutrients that the body requires in large amounts. They’re required for normal body function, growth, and metabolism (1). To eat healthy, aim to include a balance of these macronutrients in every meal:

  • Protein: maintains our body structure, builds and repairs muscles, makes enzymes and hormones.
    • Sources: fish, eggs, dairy, tofu, beans, nuts, meat, poultry.
    • Chose lean protein sources such as fish, eggs, tofu, and lower the intake of processed meat such as sausages, salami and cured bacon.
  • Carbohydrates: main fuel source for our brain and muscles. 
    • Sources: whole grain bread and crackers, rice, pasta, potato, grains, fruit, vegetables.
    • For an overal healthy diet – complex carb such as whole grain products, vegetables and root vegetables are to prefer, since they are filled with dietary fibers, vitamins and minerals. Carb sources like white bread, pastries and sweets are recommended to be eaten in low amounts, since they will get the blood sugar to rise quickly and provide a low amount of nutrients.
  • Fats: important for our hormones, insulates the body, helps absorb fat soluble vitamins
    • Sources: nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and oil, fatty fish.
    • Aim at eating unsaturated fat such as olive oil, fatty fish, avocado and seeds, and limit the intake of saturated fat such as red meat, butter and cream.

A standard macronutrient ratio for weight maintenance is about 45-60 percent carbs, 10-20 percent protein, and 25-40 percent fat. Macronutrients can also be adjusted according to weight related goals

Micronutrients 

Micronutrients are needed in smaller amounts than macronutrients but are still essential for our overall health. They include vitamins and minerals which help boost our immune system, support normal growth, and help cells and organs operate (2). 

Vitamins can be both water-soluble and fat-soluble. Fat-soluble vitamins will be stored in the body longer than water-soluble vitamins. Water-soluble vitamins include B vitamins and vitamin C which are found in grains, soy, meat, poultry, fish, dairy, fruits, vegetables, beans, and potato. Then there are the fat-soluble vitamins (vitamin A, D, E, K) which are found in leafy green vegetables, sweet potato, and dairy (2).

Minerals include macrominerals and microminerals. Both are important but the microminerals are needed in smaller amounts than the macrominerals. Macrominerals include calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium which can be found in vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and dairy. Microminerals include iron, manganese, selenium and zinc which are found in meat, seafood, whole grains, nuts and seeds (2).

Vitamins and minerals are found more or less in all kinds of foods. Nutrient-dense foods such as vegetables, whole grains and fruit have a variety of vitamins and minerals, so make sure to include them in your diet. When eating a varied diet filled with whole grains, vegetables, fruits, root vegetables, eggs, fish and low-fat dairy products – you will reach your daily recommendations of vitamins and minerals. 

Here are some deliciously well rounded Lifesum recipes:

3) Focus on more fluid fats

As a general rule of thumb, fats and oils that are liquid at room temperature are the ones that are better for us, such as olive oil or canola oil. These include monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that also are found in whole food sources such as fatty fish like salmon, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocado. Eating more of these fats can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (3). Eating too many saturated and trans fats is not good for us. Aim to have less than 10% of your total calories come from saturated fats (3). These include fried foods, fatty meat and dairy, fast-food, sweet pastries and baked goods. When we replace foods high in trans and saturated fats with those foods high in monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, it can help decrease “bad” cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and improve heart health (3).

4) Soften the sweet tooth  

Regularly consuming foods and drinks that are high in sugar can increase the risk of weight gain, tooth decay, and blood sugar imbalance (4). Many packaged foods and drinks contain surprisingly high amounts of sneaky added sugars including sugary sodas, sweet breakfast cereals, pastries, cakes, sweets and chocolates. Of course these are fine to enjoy on occasion as part of an overall healthy diet. But when we can’t get enough of the sweet stuff, a sugar detox can help. 

5) Variation: taste the rainbow 

Not referring to the rainbow that comes in a candy bag but rather a colorful variety of fresh foods. The naturally bright and vibrant foods contain medicinal-like benefits called phytonutrients. Phytonutrients can help protect against certain diseases, support eye and skin health, and prevent age-related damage to the body (5). Plus it looks nice and appetizing when there are lots of colors on the plate! Eat at least five portions of colorful fruits and vegetables per day (6).

6) Get to know H2O

Staying hydrated by drinking enough water daily is essential for health. Water is necessary for maintaining every system of the body, including the organs, brain, and muscles. The general recommendation for water intake is about nine cups per day (2.2 liters) for women and 13 cups (3 liters) per day for men (7). Fluid needs increase in some situations such as exercise and hotter climates. It can be hard to remember to drink enough water. Create a habit of hydrating with a water tracker.

7) Suitable meal schedule

Some research has found that eating on a regular body clock schedule, called the circadian rhythm, can help improve digestion and metabolism. But more research is required before recommending an eating pattern that’s best suited for everyone (8). To keep energy levels high, it can be helpful to eat smaller meals every three to four hours, instead of large meals less frequently. With an active lifestyle, it may be better to eat according to working out times. Finding an ideal eating schedule can be very individual. The most important thing is finding a plan that promotes overall healthy habits. 

Enjoy eating  

Regardless of different types of diets and eating schedules, the key to healthy eating is focusing on a variety of natural foods, with a balance of nutrients. Find the foods that nourish and strengthen but also bring you joy. 

References

  1. Science Direct. “Macronutrient – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.”. www.Sciencedirect.Com. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/food-science/macronutrient.
  2. NCCIH. “Vitamins and Minerals.”. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals#:~:text=Vitamins%20and%20Minerals.
  3. Heart Association. “Saturated Fat.” 2010. www.Heart.Org. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/fats/saturated-fats.
  4. Malik, Vasanti S., Barry M. Popkin, George A. Bray, Jean-Pierre Després, and Frank B. Hu. 2010. “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages, Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, and Cardiovascular Disease Risk.” Circulation 121 (11): 1356–64. https://doi.org/10.1161/circulationaha.109.876185.
  5. Science Direct. “Phytochemical – an Overview | ScienceDirect Topics.” 2011. Sciencedirect.Com. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/phytochemical.
  6. NHS Choices. 2019. “5 A Day: What Counts?  Eat Well.” Accessed June 5, 2020.  https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/5-a-day-what-counts/.
  7. Institute of Medicine. 2004. Dietary Reference Intakes for Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate. Www.Nap.Edu. Accessed June 5, 2020. https://www.nap.edu/catalog/10925/dietary-reference-intakes-for-water-potassium-sodium-chloride-and-sulfate.
  8. Mattson, Mark P., David B. Allison, Luigi Fontana, Michelle Harvie, Valter D. Longo, Willy J. Malaisse, Michael Mosley, et al. 2014. “Meal Frequency and Timing in Health and Disease.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111 (47): 16647–53. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1413965111.

With Lifesum, tracking your healthy habits (and the not so healthy ones) becomes a breeze. We’ll help you pick the right food, and eat the right portion sizes, to reach your personal health goals.

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