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Healthy Eating: Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet & Sticking to It

Healthy Eating: Easy Tips for Planning a Healthy Diet & Sticking to It

Healthy eating tip 1: Set yourself up for success
To set yourself up for success, think about planning ahealthy diet as a number of small, manageable steps rather than one big drasticchange. If you approach the changes gradually and with commitment, you willhave a healthy diet sooner than you think.
Simplify.Instead of being overly concerned with countingcalories or measuring portion sizes, think of your diet in terms of color, variety, and freshness. This way it should beeasier to make healthy choices. Focus on finding foods you love and easyrecipes that incorporate a few fresh ingredients. Gradually, your diet willbecome healthier and more delicious.Startslow and make changes to your eating habits over time. Trying tomake your diet healthy overnight isn't realistic or smart. Changingeverything at once usually leads to cheating or giving up on your new eatingplan. Make small steps, like adding a salad (full of different colorvegetables) to your diet once a day or switching from butter to olive oil whencooking. As your small changes become habit, you can continue to add morehealthy choices to your diet.Everychange you make to improve your diet matters. You don't have to be perfect and you don't have tocompletely eliminate foods you enjoy to have a healthy diet. The longterm goal is to feel good, have more energy, and reduce the risk of cancer and disease. Don't letyour missteps derail you--every healthy food choice you make counts.
Think ofwater and exercise as food groups in your diet.
Water. Water helps flush our systems of waste productsand toxins, yetmany people go through life dehydrated--causing tiredness, low energy, and headaches.It's common to mistake thirst for hunger, so staying well hydrated will alsohelp you make healthier food choices.

Exercise. Find something active that you like to do andadd it to your day, just like you would add healthy greens, blueberries, or salmon.The benefits of lifelong exercise are abundant and regular exercise may evenmotivate you to make healthy food choices a habit.

Healthy eating tip 2: Moderation is keyHarvard Healthy Eating Plate
People often think of healthy eating as an all or nothing proposition, but a key foundation for any healthy diet is moderation. But what is moderation? How much is a moderate amount? That really depends on you and your overall eating habits. The goal of healthy eating is to develop a diet that you can maintain for life, not just a few weeks or months, or until you've hit your ideal weight. So try to think of moderation in terms of balance. Despite what certain fad diets would have you believe, we all need a balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, fiber, vitamins, and minerals to sustain a healthy body.

For most of us, moderation or balance means eating less than we do now. More specifically, it means eating far less of the unhealthy stuff (refined sugar, saturated fat, for example) and more of the healthy (such as fresh fruit and vegetables). But it doesn't mean eliminating the foods you love. Eating bacon for breakfast once a week, for example, could be considered moderation if you follow it with a healthy lunch and dinner--but not if you follow it with a box of donuts and a sausage pizza.If you eat 100 calories of chocolate one afternoon, balance it out by deducting 100 calories from your evening meal. If you're still hungry, fill up with an extra serving of fresh vegetables.
Trynot to think of certain foods as "off-limits." When you ban certain foodsor food groups, it is natural to want those foods more, and then feel like afailure if you give in to temptation. If you are drawn towards sweet, salty, orunhealthy foods, start by reducing portion sizes and not eating them as often.Later you may find yourself craving them less or thinking of them as onlyoccasional indulgences.Think smaller portions. Serving sizes have ballooned recently, particularly in restaurants. When dining out, choose a starter instead of an entree, split a dish with a friend, and don't order supersized anything. At home, use smaller plates, think about serving sizes in realistic terms, and start small. If you don't feel satisfied at the end of a meal, try adding more leafy green vegetables or rounding off the meal with fresh fruit. Visual cues can help with portion sizes-your serving of meat, fish, or chicken should be the size of a deck of cards, a slice of bread should be the size of a CD case, and half a cup of mashed potato, rice, or pasta is about the size of a traditional light bulb.
Healthy eating tip 3: It's not just what you eat, it's how you eatHealthy Eating
Healthy eating is about more than the food on your plate--itis also about how you think about food. Healthy eating habits can belearned and it is important to slow down and think about food as nourishmentrather than just something to gulp down in between meetings or on the way topick up the kids.
Eatwith others whenever possible. Eating with other people has numerous socialand emotional benefits--particularly for children--and allows you to modelhealthy eating habits. Eating in front of the TV or computer often leads tomindless overeating.Taketime to chew your food and enjoy mealtimes. Chew your food slowly, savoring every bite. Wetend to rush though our meals, forgetting to actually taste the flavors andfeel the textures of ourfood. Reconnect with the joy of eating.Listento your body. Ask yourself if you are really hungry, or have a glass ofwater to see if you are thirsty instead of hungry. During a meal, stop eatingbefore you feel full. It actually takes a few minutes for your brain to tellyour body that it has had enough food, so eat slowly.Eatbreakfast, and eat smaller meals throughout the day. A healthy breakfastcan jumpstart your metabolism, and eating small, healthy meals throughout theday (rather than the standard three large meals) keeps your energy up and yourmetabolism going.Avoid eating at night. Try to eat dinner earlier in the day and thenfast for 14-16 hours until breakfast the next morning. Early studies suggestthat this simple dietary adjustment--eating only when you're most active andgiving your digestive system a long break each day--may help to regulate weight.After-dinner snacks tend to be high in fat and calories so are best avoided,anyway.
Healthy eating tip 4: Fill up on colorful fruits and vegetables
Shop the perimeter of the grocery storeFruits and vegetables are the foundation of a healthy diet.They are low in calories and nutrient dense, which means they are packed withvitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.

Try to eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetablesevery day and with every meal--the brighter the better. Colorful, deeply coloredfruits and vegetables contain higher concentrations of vitamins, minerals, andantioxidants--and different colors provide different benefits, so eat a variety.Aim for a minimum of five portions each day.

Some great choices include:
Greens. Branch out beyond bright and dark green lettuce.Kale, mustard greens, broccoli, and Chinese cabbage are just a few of theoptions--all packed with calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, zinc, and vitamins A, C, E, and K.Sweet vegetables. Naturally sweet vegetables--such as corn, carrots, beets,sweet potatoes, yams, onions, and squash--add healthy sweetness to your mealsand reduce your cravings for other sweets.Fruit. Fruit is a tasty,satisfying way to fill up on fiber, vitamins, and antioxidants. Berries arecancer-fighting, apples provide fiber, oranges and mangos offer vitamin C, andso on.
The importance of getting vitamins from food--notpills
The antioxidants and other nutrients in fruits andvegetables help protect against certain types of cancer and other diseases. Andwhile advertisements abound for supplements promising to deliver thenutritional benefits of fruits and vegetables in pill or powder form, researchsuggests that it's just notthe same.

A daily regimen of nutritional supplements is not going tohave the same impact of eating right. That's because the benefits of fruits andvegetables don't come from a single vitamin or an isolated antioxidant.

The health benefits of fruits and vegetables come from numerous vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals working together synergistically. They can't be broken down into the sum of their parts or replicated in pill form.

Healthy eating tip 5: Eat more healthy carbs and wholegrains
Choose healthy carbohydrates and fiber sources, especially whole grains, for long lasting energy. In addition to being delicious and satisfying, whole grains are rich in phytochemicals and antioxidants, which help to protect against coronaryheart disease, certain cancers, and diabetes. Does Phen375 Work Studies have shown people who eat more whole grains tend to have a healthier heart.

A quick definition of healthy carbs and unhealthycarbs
Healthy carbs (sometimes known as good carbs) includewhole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy carbs are digested slowly,helping you feel full longer and keeping blood sugar and insulin levels stable.

Unhealthy carbs (or bad carbs) are foods such as white flour, refined sugar, andwhite rice that have been stripped of all bran, fiber, and nutrients. Unhealthy carbs digest quickly and cause spikes in blood sugar levels and energy.

Tips for eating more healthy carbsWhole Grain StampIncludea variety of whole grains in your healthy diet, including whole wheat, brown rice, millet, quinoa, and barley. Experiment with different grains tofind your favorites.Make sure you're really getting whole grains. Be aware that the words stone-ground, multi-grain, 100% wheat, or brancan be deceptive. Look for the words "whole grain" or "100% whole wheat" at thebeginning of the ingredient list. In the U.S., Canada, and some other countries, check for the Whole Grain Stamps that distinguish between partial whole grain and 100% whole grain.Trymixing grains as a first step to switching to whole grains. If whole grains like brown rice and whole wheat pasta don't sound good atfirst, start by mixing what you normally use with the whole grains. You cangradually increase the whole grain to 100%.
Avoid: Refined foods such as breads, pastas, and breakfast cereals that are not whole grain.

Healthy eating tip 6: Enjoy healthy fats & avoid unhealthy fats
Good sources of healthy fat are needed to nourish your brain, heart, and cells, as well as your hair, skin, and nails. Foods rich in certainomega-3 fats called EPA and DHA are particularly important and can reduce cardiovascular disease, improve your mood, and help prevent dementia.

Add to your healthy diet:Monounsaturatedfats, from plant oils like canola oil, peanut oil, and olive oil, as wellas avocados, nuts (like almonds, hazelnuts, and pecans), and seeds (such aspumpkin, sesame).Polyunsaturatedfats, including Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, found in fatty fishsuch as salmon, herring, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and some cold waterfish oil supplements. Other sources of polyunsaturated fats are unheatedsunflower, corn, soybean,flaxseed oils, and walnuts.
Reduce or eliminate from your diet:Saturatedfats, found primarily in animal sources including red meat and whole milkdairy products.Transfats, found in vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, candies,cookies, snack foods, fried foods, baked goods, and other processed foods madewith partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Healthy eating tip 7: Put protein in perspective
Protein gives us the energy to get up and go--and keep going.Protein in food is broken down into the 20 amino acids that are the body'sbasic building blocks for growth and energy, and essential for maintainingcells, tissues, and organs. A lack of protein in our diet can slow growth,reduce muscle mass, lower immunity, and weaken the heart and respiratorysystem. Protein is particularly important for children, whose bodies aregrowing and changing daily.

Here are some guidelines for including protein inyour healthy diet:
Try different types of protein. Whether or not you are a vegetarian, tryingdifferent protein sources--such as beans, nuts, seeds, peas, tofu, and soyproducts--will open up new options for healthy mealtimes.
Beans: Black beans, navy beans, garbanzos, and lentils are good options.Nuts:Almonds, walnuts, pistachios, and pecans are great choices.Soyproducts: Try tofu, soy milk, tempeh, and veggie burgers for a change.Avoidsalted or sugary nuts and refried beans.
Downsize your portions of protein. Manypeople in the West eat too much protein. Try to move away fromprotein being the center of your meal. Focus on equal servings of protein,whole grains, and vegetables.

Focuson quality sources of protein, like fresh fish, chicken or turkey, tofu, eggs,beans, or nuts.When you are having meat, chicken, or turkey, buy meat that is free of hormonesand antibiotics.

Healthy eating tip 8: Add calcium for strong bones
Add Calcium for Strong BonesCalcium is one of the key nutrients that yourbody needs in order to stay strong and healthy. It is an essential buildingblock for lifelong bone health in both men and women, as well as many other important functions.

You and your bones will benefit from eating plenty ofcalcium-rich foods, limiting foods that deplete your body's calcium stores, andgetting your daily dose of magnesium and vitamins D and K--nutrients that helpcalcium do its job.

Recommended calcium levels are 1000 mg per day, 1200 mg if you are over50 years old. Try to getas much of your daily calcium needs from food as possible and use only low-dosecalcium supplements to make up any shortfall.

Good sources of calcium include:Dairy: Dairy products are rich in calcium in a form thatis easily digested and absorbed by the body. Sources include milk, yogurt, andcheese.Vegetables and greens: Many vegetables,especially leafy green ones, are rich sources of calcium. Try turnip greens,mustard greens, collard greens, kale, romaine lettuce, celery, broccoli,fennel, cabbage, summer squash, green beans, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, andcrimini mushrooms.Beans: For another richsource of calcium, try black beans, pinto beans, kidney beans, white beans,black-eyed peas, or baked beans.
Healthy eating tip 9: Limit sugar and salt
If you succeed in planning your diet around fiber-richfruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and good fats, you may findyourself naturally cutting back on foods that can get in the way of yourhealthy diet--sugar and salt.

Sugar causes energy ups and downs and can add to health andweight problems. Unfortunately, reducing the amount of candy, cakes, anddesserts we eat is only part of the solution. Often you may not even be awareof the amount of sugar you're consuming each day.Large amounts of added sugar can be hidden in foods such asbread, canned soups and vegetables, pasta sauce, margarine, instant mashedpotatoes, frozen dinners, fast food, soy sauce, and ketchup. Here are sometips:
Avoidsugary drinks. One 12-oz soda has about 10 teaspoons of sugar in it, morethan the daily recommended limit! Try sparkling water with lemon or a splash offruit juice.Sweeten foods yourself. Buy unsweetened iced tea, plain yogurt, or unflavored oatmeal, for example, and add sweetener (or fruit) yourself. You'relikely to add far less sweetener than the manufacturer would have.Eat naturally sweet food such as fruit, peppers, or natural peanut butter to satisfy your sweet tooth. Keep these foods handyinstead of candy or cookies.
How sugar is hidden on food labels
Check food labels carefully. Sugar is often disguisedusing terms such as:
canesugar or maplesyrupcornsweetener or corn syrup
honeyor molassesbrownrice syrupcrystallizedor evaporated cane juicefruitjuice concentrates, such as apple or pearmaltodextrin(or dextrin)Dextrose,Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, or Sucrose
Most of us consume too much salt in our diets. Eating toomuch salt can cause high blood pressure and lead to other health problems. Tryto limit sodium intake to 1,500 to 2,300 mg per day, the equivalent of oneteaspoon of salt.
Avoidprocessed or pre-packaged foods. Processed foods like canned soups orfrozen dinners contain hidden sodium that quickly surpasses the recommended limit.Becareful when eating out. Most restaurant and fast food meals are loadedwith sodium.Opt for fresh or frozen vegetables insteadof canned vegetables.Cut back on salty snacks such as potatochips, nuts, and pretzels.Choose low-salt or reduced-sodium products.Try slowly reducing the salt in your diet togive your taste buds time to adjust.Related ArticlesResources & References
Related ArticlesNutrition for Women
Nutrition for Women -Whatever your age, a healthy diet will help you look and feel your best so that you can enjoy life to the fullest.
Senior Nutrition
Eating Well Over 50 -As we age, eating well can bethe key to a positive outlook and staying emotionally balanced.
Nutrition for Kids and Teens
Nutrition for Children and Teens -Simple steps to help your children develop better eating habits and learn to enjoy healthy foods.
Calcium and Your Bones
Calcium andYour Bones -Calcium is an essential building block for lifelong bone health in men and women.
Choosing Healthy Fats
ChoosingHealthy Fats -A guide to replacing bad fats with good fats that promote health andemotional well-being.

Cooking & Eating OutEating Well on the Cheap
Eating Well on the Cheap-Get tips on how to stretch your food budget while still making healthy choices.
The Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean Diet -Get started on a diet that can help fight against heart disease, certain cancers, diabetes, and cognitive decline.
Healthy Recipes
Healthy Recipes - Instead of eating out,try making fast, delicious meals at home that are easy to prepare and healthy to eat.
Cooking for One
Cooking for One-Find meal ideas that make cooking for yourself as inexpensive as eating at fast food restaurants--but much healthier.
Organic Foods
OrganicFoods -Learn how to navigate the maze of organic food labels and make the healthiest choices.
Healthy Fast Food
Healthy Fast Food- Learn to makehealthier choices and still enjoy the price and convenience of fast-food restaurants.

Diets & SupplementsHealthy Weight Loss & Dieting Tips
HealthyWeight Loss & Dieting Tips -Learn how to avoid diet pitfalls and achieve lasting weight loss success.
Diabetes Diet and Food Tips
Diabetes Diet and Food Tips -Learn how the right diet can help prevent, control, and reverse diabetes
Heart Healthy Diet Tips
HeartHealthy Diet Tips -Learn which foodsare healthiest for your heart and how diet affects heart disease.
The Anti-Cancer Diet
The Anti-CancerDiet -Learn which foods increase your risk of cancer, and which support your body and strengthen your immune system.
Dietary Supplements
Dietary Supplements -Tips for the smart and safe use of vitamins and other nutrition supplements.

Resources & References
Healthy eating: the basics on carbs, protein and fat
Good carbs guide the way - Describes the role ofcarbohydrates in a healthy diet, and which carbs are best for optimum health.(Harvard School of Public Health)

What is protein? - Information about what foods haveprotein and what happens when we eat more protein than we need. (Center forDisease Control)

HealthyFats - Explains what types of fats and how much of them should be includedin a healthy diet. Includes a chart listing typical serving sizes. (Universityof Michigan)

Face the Fats - (PDF) Describes the complicated relationship between good fats, bad fats, andvarious diseases. (Nutrition Action Healthletter)

Omega-3 Fats: An Essential Contribution - WhatShould You Eat ... - All about health benefits of the important omega-3fatty acids, including the best food sources in which to find them. (HarvardSchool of Public Health)

Essential food groups in a healthy diet
Healthy EatingPlate And Healthy Eating Pyramid - TheU.S. government has scrapped its MyPyramid icon in favor of thefruit-and-vegetable rich MyPlate--animprovement, yet one that still doesn't go far enough to show people how tomake the healthiest choices. This is Harvard's remedy. (Harvard School ofPublic Health)

The World'sHealthiestFoods - Using the theory of nutrient density - a measure of theamount of nutrientsa food contains in comparison to the number of calories -this site liststhe 129 most healthy foods. (The George Mateljan Foundation)

VegetarianFood Pyramid - Alternative protein sources and a pyramid adapted fornon-meat eaters. (Mayo Clinic)

HealingFoods Pyramid - Emphasizes foods known to have healing benefits oressential nutrients, including plant-based choices. (University of Michigan)

Eating smart: a key step to healthy eating
Mastering the mindful meal - Describes the importanceof mindful eating, along with tips on how to eat more mindfully. (Brigham &Women's Hospital)

The role of sugar and salt in a healthy diet
Sodium Content ofYour Food - How sodium affects your body and how to cut down on dietarysodium. Included tips on reading nutrition labels, and suggestions for cookingand shopping. (University of Maine - PDF)

Sugar Stacks - Photosshowing the amount of sugar in different foods. (Sugar Stacks)

Public Health Takes Aim at Sugar and Salt - Articledetailing evidence that too much of these ingredients can harm health. (HarvardSchool of Public Health)

Other tips and strategies for a healthy eating plan
Living the MediterrAsian Way - People in Mediterranean andAsian cultures have long been known for their healthy diets and longevity.Here's how you can incorporate their dietary principles and lifestyle practicesinto your own life. (

Ten Tips Nutrition Education Series - A collection of tip sheets on healthy eating subjects like cutting back onsugar and salt, following a vegetarian diet and adding vegetables to your diet.(My Pyramid Nutrition Education Series)

Meal planning and stocking the kitchen
Stocking a Healthy Kitchen - The basics on stocking ahealthy kitchen and cooking easy, delicious and nutritious meals. (HarvardSchool of Public Health Nutrition Source)

Local Harvest -Information about finding local growers, farmer's markets and CommunitySupported Agriculture (CSA) groups in your area.

TheWell-Stocked Pantry - List of basics for a well-stocked kitchen and samplemeal plans focused on adding more vegetables and fruits to your diet. (Fruits and VeggiesMore Matters)

Authors:Maya W. Paul, Melinda Smith, M.A. and Jeanne Segal Ph. D. Last updated: September 2013.

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