Learning how to start eating healthy involves as many simple “don’ts” as there are specific “do’s.” Here’s some essential 411 to get going.
“Get healthy,” they said. “Just start eating better,” they said. Keto. Juicing. The Blood Type Diet. The Master Cleanse (YUCK!). Paleo. Whole 30. Atkins. South Beach Diet.
Who hasn’t been sucked in by the promise of losing “15 pounds in 15 days" at the supermarket checkout magazine rack? Remember that healthy eating is about a lot more than losing weight, which fad diets usually emphasize.
With all the crazy guidance out there, how do you know what’s really best for your body? Good news! Eating right is a lot easier than you think. And you can quickly learn how to start eating healthy today for a brighter, lighter tomorrow.
Small steps and dietary changes can make a big difference in your health — no investing in expensive juice machines required!
How to start eating healthy tip 1: taste the rainbow!
The greater the variety of fruits and vegetables you eat, the more vibrant your meal will be. Imagine a plate with bright orange butternut squash, vividly green wilted spinach, and snowy white mashed cauliflower (with the protein of your choice), plus a dessert of strawberries and blueberries.
Not only do you have a beee-yootiful plate, but you’re also doing a ton of good for your body. Each color of veg and fruit has its specific nutritional benefits. So, the more colors on your plate, the more of those benefits you’ll reap.
- Red fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that protect our hearts. (Fitting, right??) Load up on tomatoes, red cabbage, strawberries, and cranberries.
- Green veggies and fruit protect eye health and contain folic acid, which is especially important for pregnant women. Enjoy a big spinach salad or sauteed broccoli and green beans with dinner. Avocado toast, in all its glorious forms, has similar benefits.
- Orange and yellow goodies like carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, citrus, and pineapple protect the nervous system and help skin and eyes glow.
- Blue and purple eggplant, berries, grapes, and plums help prevent heart disease and are good for healthy memory and aging.
- White foods are often overlooked, but they contain nutrients that can help lower bad cholesterol. Cauliflower, bananas, potatoes, turnips, mushrooms, and pears all fit the bill.
And remember: when health food experts recommend tasting the rainbow, they DEFINITELY DO NOT MEAN THIS:
2. Read the damn labels!
All packaged foods in the United States have labels that tell you what’s in them and how nutritious they are — or aren’t.
You may not feel great looking at any of that info on a package of chocolate cupcakes with "whipped cream filling," but getting to know what you're actually putting into your body is key to improving health.
Pay attention to the amount of carbs, sugar, saturated fat, and salt in the foods you buy. Make sure they fall within recommended guidelines. Take note of the dietary fiber, too.
Beyond that, note the amounts of vitamins and minerals in the food and how they compare to the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance of those nutrients. A lot of packaged foods like breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals, but that might be canceled out by tons of sugar and no fiber.
PRO TIP: Pay CLOSE attention to serving sizes. That standard bowl of cereal we enjoyed with Saturday-morning cartoons once upon a time is probably three to four servings, according to the box.
3. Eat more fish. Sushi for the win!
Americans eat a lot of meat, more than any other country in the world! But it might be better for our hearts if we embraced Chicken of the Sea more than actual, you know, chicken.
While a classic tuna fish sandwich with lots of mayo isn’t ideal, incorporating a couple of servings of fish into your diet every week can do great things for your heart. Make sure one of those is an oily fish like salmon or trout.
They are rich in omega-3 fats, which everyone over 40 has been lectured about by their doctor.
4. How to start eating healthy “don’t:” avoid too much salt, saturated fat, and sugar
This involves following tip #2, so get your reading glasses on. Cutting back on the big three health saboteurs is tough for most people. Let’s face it: salt, saturated fat, and sugar make things taste good!
So, if you can’t precisely cut these things out of your diet, at least cut back on them.
- Saturated fat is found in butter, cheese, sausage, bacon — the things that make life worth living for a lot of people. Small swaps can help. For example, olive oil is always the healthier option, even for things like eggs that are traditionally cooked in butter.
- Sugar is hidden in a lot of processed foods. It’s a flavor booster and natural preservative that also provides texture. Shopping the grocery store's outer aisles for fresh, unprocessed foods will help you cut back on it with no effort. Again, read your labels. Many foods we think are healthy, like bottled pasta sauces, have TONS of sugar in them. Watch out especially for high-fructose corn syrup. Foods like ketchup and barbecue sauce include HFCS, but many brands are now offering options that use real cane sugar instead.
- Some salty foods, like chips and pretzels, are apparent. But don’t forget about cured and processed meats, smoked meats, and sausages! All tend to have a lot of salt, but many lower-sodium versions are available now. Salt is also heavy in packaged seasoning mixes and spice blends. If salt is the first ingredient? Maybe keep shopping.
Now that you’ve discovered how to start eating healthy, learn how to begin chilling
Being healthy doesn’t have to be hard. Incrementally making some of the changes above in your diet, watching portion sizes (especially from restaurants), drinking enough water, and moving more are simple ways to get healthier now.
Fad diets may promise fast results, but they aren’t geared for long-term wellness, and the benefits they provide are often quickly erased.
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