Tips for Starting a Healthy Diet

healthy diet
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Sticking with a healthy diet is crucial for staving off disease and achieving overall wellness. Not only essential in fighting obesity, a healthy diet can help you prevent a host of major health problems. For example, the World Health Organization states that unhealthy eating habits may contribute to such diseases as diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, dental disease, and some forms of cancer.

What to Include in a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet should focus on foods high in nutrients.

Here are some tips on what to include in your diet:

1) Fruits and vegetables. Eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day can boost your intake of many nutrients and antioxidants. Fill at least half your plate with fruits and vegetables at mealtime, and make sure to choose fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors.

2) Whole grains. Whole grains such as barley, quinoa, brown rice, oats, and buckwheat are high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. For more help in increasing your intake of whole grains, opt for cereals, breads, and pastas that list a whole grain as the first ingredient.

3) Legumes. Foods like beans and lentils are another top source of fiber, which is important for heart health and digestion. Legumes can also help you load up on protein.

Related: 5 Tips to Improve Your Digestion

4) Lean protein. Along with boneless, skinless chicken breasts and turkey cutlets, cuts of ground beef labeled 90 percent lean or higher are among your healthiest options for protein.

At least twice a week, get your protein from fish (a key source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids). You can also get more protein by eating eggs.

5) Low-fat dairy. Skim milk and dairy products such as low-fat yogurt and low-fat cottage cheese can provide bone-building calcium.

6) Nuts and seeds. Another class of antioxidant-rich foods, nuts and seeds also offer healthy fats, fiber, and protein.

What to Avoid in a Healthy Diet

Following a healthy diet means reducing your intake of foods containing salt, saturated fats, trans fats, and added sugars. Here are a few tips on eliminating unhealthy foods from your diet:

• Instead of sipping soda or juice, drink water.

• Ease up on sugar by choosing fruit for dessert and snacks.

• Flavor your foods with herbs and spices rather than salt.

• Choose the low-sodium option when buying soup, canned vegetables and beans, and condiments such as soy sauce and salad dressing.

• Avoid the refined grains found in foods like white rice, white bread, and many cereals, crackers, and pastas. Unlike whole grains, refined grains are produced according to a process that removes most of their fiber and other nutrients.

Healthy Diets for Weight Loss

Along with exercise, a healthy diet is key for weight loss.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), reducing daily intake by 500 to 750 calories should amount to a weight loss of about 1 to 1 ½ pounds per week for most people.

The NIH also state that a diet containing 1,200 to 1,500 calories each day will help most women lose weight safely, while a diet containing 1,500 to 1,800 calories each day will safely promote weight loss in men and in women who weigh more or exercise regularly.

Different Types of Healthy Diets

Certain types of diets may be especially helpful in enhancing your health. For example, a research review published in the British Journal of Nutrition in 2014 determined that the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (also known as "the DASH diet") is an effective strategy for reducing risk of heart disease.

Designed to protect against high blood pressure, the DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and limits saturated-fat-rich foods (including fatty meats and full-fat dairy products). It also includes fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils, and limits intake of sugary foods and beverages.

In addition, adopting an anti-inflammatory diet may be beneficial in protect against a number of health issues. You can learn more about the link between chronic inflammation and your health here.

Related: 4 Ways to Fight Inflammation Naturally

Sources

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Description of the DASH Eating Plan." September 2015. 

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. "Healthy Eating Plan." Last accessed October 2015. 

Siervo M1, Lara J1, Chowdhury S1, Ashor A1, Oggioni C1, Mathers JC1. "Effects of the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet on cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta-analysis." Br J Nutr. 2014 Nov 28:1-15.

World Health Organization. "Diet, nutrition and the prevention of chronic diseases." Last accessed October 2015.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Step 4: Take a cooking class
Your local health food store is a great resource for this. Inquire about classes, and take a look on bulletin boards and in free health newletters and magazines for healthy cooking classes in your city. Invite a friend to join you. It's a great way to get inspired!

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