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.
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.
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:
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 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:
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
All of the content and media on Lifesum is created and published for information purposes only. It is not intended to be used as a substitute for medical advice or treatment. Users should always consult with a doctor or other health care professional for medical advice. If you have or think you are at risk of developing an eating disorder, do not use the Lifesum app and seek immediate medical help.