What constitutes a ‘healthy’ diet? Google the term and you’ll find a wide range of diet definitions and different recommended approaches.
But when you analyse the most effective diets, a few common fundamental principles tend to emerge. Here are 4 basic tips that you can use to create a healthier eating plan.
1. Eat predominantly natural foods
Possibly the greatest universal attribute of any healthful eating plan is the inclusion of natural whole foods.
These foods contain all the important nutrients our bodies need to grow and thrive, often in the ideal ratios. Natural foods also contain fibre, enzymes, and the energy we need to improve our health and enhance our performance and our physiques.
That’s why the healthiest diets generally consist mainly of vegetables, with smaller amounts of fruit and protein.
Buying these foods fresh is preferable over frozen options. And it’s ideal to buy fresh food as close to its natural source as possible.
Also, aim to eat natural foods that are in season, and try to include a variety of colours in the fruit and veg you buy.
2. Practice portion control
We live in an era of food abundance and convenience. Everything is pre-prepared, pre-packaged and super-sized. But these modern diet trends tend to lead to an overconsumption of calories.
Numerous studies affirm the link between the world’s obesity pandemic and modern society’s overconsumption of calories, which is largely attributed to a rise in portion sizes over the past few decades.
Portion control and a moderated calorie intake are vital to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Yet, most people don’t know what constitutes a healthful, calorie-controlled portion. We’re also notoriously bad at estimating the calorie content of meals.
When it comes to portioning out your meal, follow these handy guidelines:
Half your plate or half the volume of a meal should consist of colourful natural whole foods.
Eat 5-10 servings of fruit and veg a day.
A suitable protein portion is no bigger than the palm of your hand.
The starch or carbohydrate portion shouldn’t be bigger than your fist.
Add one fat source to every meal. Saturated fat should not be more than a third of your total daily fat intake, but don’t avoid it.
3. Choose nutrient density over energy density
Fad diets fixate on macronutrient ratios, and modern convenience and fast foods provide lots of energy with very little nutritional value.
You’ll make better food choices if you focus on the nutrient-density and the micronutrients in the foods you eat.
Nutrient density is a measure of the ratio of nutrients compared to the total energy content of the food you eat.
Natural foods generally offer the greatest nutrient density and provide more vitamins, minerals and other beneficial compounds like enzymes and phytonutrients than processed or fast foods.
This means you can eat fewer calories and still get all the nutrition your body needs, which will help you lose weight, improve your health and boost your vitality.
Eating at least some raw fruits and vegetables can help to boost your nutrient intake even further because cooking can destroy certain nutrients and compounds.
However, lightly cooking some vegetables can make the nutrients more bioavailable. That makes it easier for our bodies to absorb and use them. You can also add natural superfood supplements to your diet for a concentrated source of nutrients.
4. Limit or avoid artificial ingredients and added sugars
Many modern processed and refined foods contain added sugar, artificial colourants, additives, flavourants and sweeteners, as well as synthetic compounds and manufactured fats.
Despite their extensive list of ingredients, these foods are devoid of nutrients and can negatively impact our health when consumed in excess. Therefore, it is generally recommended that you limit or avoid these foods.
Sugar is also addictive and it spikes your blood sugar levels, which can leave you feeling sluggish. Consuming sugar in excess can also lead to lifestyle diseases such as insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes, which can result in obesity and other health complications.
There are hidden sugars in so many foods, so read ingredient labels when doing your groceries.