One of the most frequently cited reasons that diets and attempts at healthy eating fail is boredom. Many people simply do not know how to keep a healthy diet interesting day after day, and it can be quite a challenge.
Given the huge variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, meats and other healthy foods at the local grocery store, however, it is definitely possible to create exciting, nutritious meals that will keep boredom at bay.
The Key to Healthy Eating
The key to the success of any plan for healthy eating is to eat what you like, but to exercise moderation when it comes to the less healthy foods. Improving your level of health and fitness does not mean forgoing that piece of chocolate cake, for instance. It does mean, however, limiting yourself to one piece. A healthy diet contains all types of foods, including carbohydrates, proteins, and even fats. The key is choosing foods that provide the best combination of taste and nutrition. After all, if your diet consists of foods you hate, you will not stick with it.
The revised USDA food pyramid contains five major food groups – grains, vegetables, fruits, milk and dairy, and meat and beans. When choosing foods from these groups, it is important to eat a wide variety of foods from every food group. Doing so will not only give you a great deal of variety and keep boredom from setting in, but it will provide the best nutritional balance as well. In addition the widely known micronutrients, such as vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, etc. all foods contain a variety of macronutrients, like fats, proteins, fiber and water. Though present in extremely tiny amounts, micronutrients are vitally important to good health. That is why a healthy, varied diet is so important.
When choosing foods from within the various food groups, some choices are naturally better and healthier than others, for instance, choosing skim or 2% milk instead of full fat whole milk is a good way to cut down on both fat and calories, and choosing poultry or lean meat is a great way to get the protein you need every day without extra fat, cholesterol, and calories.
Cereals and breads that carry the whole grain label are healthier than those who do not. Even in the world of fruits and vegetables some choices are better than others. For instance, peaches packed in heavy syrup add unnecessary sugar to the diet, while those packed in water or juice provide only good nutrition.
There has been a trend lately to add vitamin fortification to food, and this can sometimes be a good way to maximize nutrition, but it is important to remember that proper nutrition comes from a healthy diet, not from vitamin supplements. It is fine to buy calcium fortified cereal, but the bulk of your calcium intake should still be lean dairy and plant based foods like green leafy veggies.
Choosing the Best Foods
Knowing the five major food groups and how much of each to eat every day is only part of the picture. The other part is choosing the best foods from within those food groups. That means things like choosing the leanest cuts of meat, choosing whole grains, choosing the freshest fruits and vegetables, and most importantly; ELIMINATING PROCESSED FOODS.
Even with fruits and vegetables, some choices are better than others. Some fruits, such as avocados, for instance, are packed with healthy natural fat and calories, but that doesn’t mean you should have guacamole at every meal. It is important to check the nutritional qualities of the fruits and vegetables you buy to create a healthy balance, and not simply assume that all fruits and vegetables are equal.
One way to maximize nutrition while minimizing cost is to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. Fruits and vegetables that are in season are usually quite a bit cheaper than those that must be shipped hundreds or even thousands of miles, and they are generally much fresher too. Of course, depending on where you live, there may be varieties of fruits and vegetables that are not available locally, so the northerner in search of citrus fruits will just have to watch the sales and buy accordingly.
Start with baby steps and soon you will be running.