Healthy Diet

Healthy Dietary Approaches

healthy meal

Consuming a healthy, nutritious, well-balanced and calorie-conscious whole food diet is one of the most important aspects of good health and wellness. Without the inclusion of a healthy diet, even the best weight loss program will fail over time.

The food that you consume is broken down in your digestive track, and the nutrients are extracted and used to provide the energy required to perform all bodily functions. Without the proper nutrients on a daily basis, the body performs at a suboptimal level, is more likely to contract a debilitating disease, becomes sluggish and lack energy, and the mind will become clouded and irritable.

Some individuals consider food to be the worst enemy of any exercise program (especially those looking to lose weight), but it can actually be your greatest ally. For the beginner, one of the first steps to any good weight loss program is to maintain a nutritious and healthy diet.

What to Eat and What to Avoid

If you have never considered a healthy diet as part of your daily routine, it can be difficult initially to modify your dietary intake to a more nutritious and well-balanced approach. Our bodies require protein, carbohydrates and fat on a daily basis. More specifically, our bodies require amino acids, complex carbohydrates, fat, vitamins and minerals to perform optimally and to support a strong immune system.

As a rule of thumb, try to eliminate as many processed foods from your dietary intake as possible. In other words, consume foods that are “of the earth” and unprocessed whenever possible. Foods of this type include fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, fish, chicken and beef. Notice that each of these types of food, when they die, return to the earth and are not a derivative of the earth (remember, you cannot walk out into the forest and pick a candy bar off of a plant).

The concept is really quite simple and works synergistically with our bodies, as highly processed foods can be hard for our digestive system to break down and assimilate. Below are a few nutritional tips and guidelines that are easy to implement and work well in support of a weight loss program:

  1. Consume a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each and every day. Green leafy vegetables, spinach, carrots, broccoli, garlic, green peas, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, apples, bananas, blueberries, blackberries, oranges, dark grapes, pomegranates and mangoes are excellent sources of minerals and vitamins. As a general rule, prioritize fruits and vegetables that are darker in color as they usually contain more nutrients.

  2. Consume a wide variety of complex carbohydrates. Healthy complex carbohydrates include beans, lentils, brown rice, barley, amaranth and quinoa. Focus on adding whole grains that are low in fructose and corn syrup to your dietary intake.

  3. Consume at least two servings of fish every week. Fish contains protein, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, iron and many other nutrients that support heart health. Cold-water fish contains the highest levels of nutrients. Examples include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel, Atlantic halibut, sardines, herring, swordfish and snapper.

  4. If you are looking to lose weight, determine your Basal Metabolic Rate (the number of calories your body burns on a daily basis) and then determine the number of calories you are going to consume per day, as well as the number of calories you are going to burn through exercise. The following calculator will assist you in determining your basal metabolic rate: Basal Metabolic Rate Tools.

    The most sustainable approach to effectively and safely losing weight is to implement a lifestyle that is filled with the consumption of healthy and nutritious foods and plenty of physical activity. This approach is not only preferred in terms of weight loss, but in improving your overall health and fitness level as well. By doing so, you will decrease your daily caloric intake and increase your daily caloric expenditure. This approach will produce the most rapid weight loss results and provide you with good health, fitness and mental well-being.

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  6. Avoid foods that contain large amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol. In fact, your daily intake of each should be less than 20 grams (saturated fat) and less than 300 milligrams (cholesterol).

    In order to reduce your overall intake of saturated fats and cholesterol, try implementing the following suggestions:

    • Consume lean cuts of meat like fish and poultry.

    • Eat tofu and/or avocado as meat substitutes.

    • Consume milk products that are either fat-free (skim milk) or low-fat (1% milk).

    • Substitute healthy oils like flaxseed, canola, soybean, olive (virgin and extra virgin) and pumpkin seed for butter or other unhealthy oils.

  7. Although saturated fats and cholesterol are acceptable in moderation, trans-saturated fat should be avoided altogether.

    In fact, trans-saturated fat is responsible for raising bad cholesterol levels and lowering good cholesterol levels. Always read the food label before eating chips, crackers and any other highly-processed snack foods as they are typically high in trans-saturated fat.

  8. Consume a moderately low level of sodium. As a general rule, you should not consume more than 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day. Although clouded in controversy, sodium appears to raise blood pressure levels in some individuals.

  9. Minimize the consumption of alcohol. If you do drink alcoholic beverages, try not to consume more than 1 to 2 drinks per day. If you enjoy drinking in a social setting (consuming 4 to 5 drinks), try to do so only once or twice per month.

    However, there are several health benefits associated with consuming red wine in moderation, as it contains resveratrol (antioxidants) and may assist in preventing heart disease by increasing levels of “good” cholesterol and protecting against artery damage.

  10. Consume the bulk of your sugar from the fructose found in fruit. Drinks, candy and highly-processed foods that are high in real or artificial sugar should be avoided.

Myths About When to Eat

A healthy dietary regimen includes not only what types of foods to consume, but when to consume them as well. To begin, let’s start by discussing a few myths and why they are not exactly true.

  • Eating after 8 p.m. will make me gain weight: This rule is seldom true. There are some individuals that may react differently, but you can generally ignore this myth unless you notice cramps, heartburn or indigestion while attempting to sleep. It’s important to remember that your body performs countless functions while you sleep, so forcing your body to digest and assimilate large amounts of food while at rest is unhealthy and can even lead to a poor night’s sleep.

    It does not matter what time of day you eat, as your body does not store more calories at night than it does during the day. Effective weight loss is about how many calories you consume throughout the entire day, and how much physical exercise you perform. These are the two primary factors that determine whether you will lose or gain weight. Your body will store additional calories as fat if you consume more calories than your body burns, regardless of when you consume them. If you decide to have a snack prior to bedtime, first consider how many total calories you have already consumed throughout the day.

  • If I consume only one meal per day I will lose weight: This statement is incorrect because of the effect that the “starvation mode” has on your body. When you consume only one meal per day, your body believes that it is encountering a period of starvation and begins to use its own reserves to provide energy to the body.

    The reserves that the body uses are not only derived from excess body fat, but lean muscle tissue as well. At the beginning of the “starvation mode,” glycogen stores (from carbohydrates) are broken down and used to provide the body with energy. These glycogen stores provide little energy to the body and are depleted within the first couple of hours after entering the “starvation mode.” Once the glycogen is consumed, the body releases water, which creates the illusion that effective weight loss has occurred.

    The problem with this approach is that once the stores of water are replenished, the weight that was lost is actually regained. For individuals that are not extremely overweight, lean muscle tissue may have been reduced during the “starvation mode” as well. This creates an extremely unhealthy approach to weight loss, as much of the lean muscle tissue that was lost may have come from organs such as the heart. By utilizing a starvation diet, you risk serious ailments like gout, malnutrition and even scurvy as well.

  • I will lose more weight if I skip dinner and just have a snack: This myth has the right idea but ultimately misses the point. Ideally, you should consume 5 to 6 small meals per day. However, your last meal, dinner, is fairly important as the foods that you consume will provide the nutrition that your body requires throughout your 8 hours of sleep. Again, it’s all about the total number of calories that you consume each day and the total number of calories that your body burns each day. There are no clinical studies that have proven that individuals that consume a larger lunch and a smaller dinner lose weight at a more rapid rate than those who consume a smaller lunch and a larger dinner. RelaxInfo The main point to consider is that consuming a large dinner and then retiring to bed quickly can cause indigestion, heartburn and a restless night’s sleep.

    So When Should You Eat?

    At this point, you may be asking – when are the best times to eat? There are only a few simple rules and guidelines to apply, and even they depend on your overall lifestyle and exercise schedule:

  • Always eat breakfast: Many individuals make breakfast their largest meal of the day, and others grab a quick bite as they run out the door. Whichever approach you choose, never skip breakfast. In fact, eating breakfast is a daily habit for the members of the National Weight Control Registry’s “Successful Losers”. The members of Successful Losers have maintained a 30-pound (or more) reduction in body weight for at least one year, and some for as long as six years.

    In fact, “78% of the Successful Losers consumed breakfast every day, and nearly 90% eat breakfast at least five days per week. In conclusion, the results suggest that beginning the day with breakfast is an important component to losing weight and keeping it off,” states James O. Hill, PhD, the National Weight Control Registry’s co-founder and director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.

    Additional studies have shown that individuals that eat breakfast experience a lower number of hunger pains and are less likely to binge eat throughout the day.

  • Consume a small protein and carbohydrate snack before exercising: Your body will need both of these nutrients for a prolonged and successful workout. The protein will promote muscular development, and the carbohydrates will provide the energy necessary to perform the exercise workout with intensity and for a sustained period of time. There are many healthy snack bars that provide both protein and carbohydrates.

  • healthy diet and exercise

  • Make sure to consume 5 to 6 smaller healthy meals per day: For most individuals, this means consuming 3 normal meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and 2 smaller meals (snacks) between them. This is especially necessary for individuals that are performing an exercise program with the intent of losing excess body weight. By consuming smaller meals that are well-balanced, nutritious and calorie-conscious, it becomes quite easy to provide your body with all of the energy and nutrients that it requires throughout the day.

Choosing a lifestyle that is filled with healthy, nutritious whole foods is an excellent start to a successful weight loss program. Filter in several of the healthy eating tips and approaches provided in this article, and add an exercise routine to boost your caloric expenditure. By regularly performing various physical activities, combined with a healthy and well-balanced whole food diet and plenty of rest, relaxation, you will facilitate a healthy lifestyle that will be filled with good health, fitness, and mental well-being.

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