In addition to physical activity, having a balanced diet is a critical component of living a healthy lifestyle. Because we value the importance of a healthy diet and its impact on the lives of adults and children, we have a few tips and guidelines to help you establish better eating habits.
When working to eat healthy, keep the following in mind:
- Eat 3 meals a day with healthy snacks in-between.
- Increase your fiber intake, decrease your salt intake.
- Avoid sugary drinks and juices, drink water instead.
- Eat balanced meals. Be sure to include the main healthy food groups.
- Choose lean proteins to eat, such as chicken, fish, and beans.
- When preparing meat try to bake, grill, or broil instead of frying.
- For snacks, be sure to eat fruits and vegetables!
- Decrease the use of sugar, butter, and heavy gravies.
Include the following 5 food groups to achieve a balanced diet:
- Grains: Foods that are made from wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley, or another cereal grain are grain products. Examples include whole- wheat, brown rice, and oatmeal. Aim for mostly whole-grains.
- Vegetables: Be sure to mix things up with your vegetables! Choose from a variety of kinds, including dark green, red, and orange vegetables, legumes (peas and beans), and starchy vegetables.
- Fruits: Any fruit or 100% fruit juice counts as part of the fruit group. Fruits may be fresh, canned, frozen, dried, whole, cut-up, or pureed. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend infants should not have any juice before 12 months of age without a doctor's approval. They also recommend children 1 to 3 have no more than 4 ounces of juice per day. For children 4 to 6, limit juice to 4 to 6 ounces of juice per day. For children 7 to 18, limit juice to 8 ounces (1 cup) of juice per day.
- Dairy: Milk products and many foods made from milk are considered part of this food group. Focus on fat-free or low-fat products, as well as those that are high in calcium. Examples include low-fat cheese, yogurt, and cottage cheese.
- Protein: Go lean on protein! Be sure to choose low-fat or lean meats/ poultry and your protein routine. Choose healthier options such as fish, nuts, seeds, peas, and beans.
- Oils are not a food group: However there are some, like nut oils, that have vital nutrients and can be included in the diet. Others, like animal fats, are solid and should be avoided.
When you're at home
- Keep fruits and vegetables in easy reach. Don’t bury them in a refrigerator drawer! Place perishable produce on a center shelf, where it can be easily seen and picked up. You can apply the same idea to foods you store in cabinets.
- Dress it up and shake it up! For healthy foods you can leave out on the counter, place them in an attractive bowl. They will be more accessible and tempting for you to eat.
- Cut it up! Children enjoy the smaller bites, so they'll be more likely to eat more fruits and vegetables this way. Sliced apples, baby carrots, frozen grapes, and cherry tomatoes are easy to grab and fun for kids to snack on.
- Store food only in the kitchen. People who store more food throughout their homes, like in an extra refrigerator, are more likely to be overweight or obese.
When you shop for groceries
- Use a shopping list. Research shows that people who use one tend to eat better and weigh less.
- Map out your meals for the week. Deciding what you want to eat in advance can help you create a more concise list. This makes it easier for you to accommodate healthy family meals around busy schedules.
- Use what you already have at home. Check your refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets for ingredients. Doing this will save you a lot of time and money.
- Try some new healthy recipes and schedule easier meals for busy days. Reserve ones that take longer for days when you’ll have more time to cook.
- Eat a healthy snack before you shop! You'll be more likely to stick to your list. Plus, it may prompt you to buy a greater amount of healthier choices and avoid the tempting junk foods.
- For example, people who snack on an apple instead of a cookie before shopping are more likely to buy more fruits and vegetables when shopping.
When you go to a restaurant
- Scan the menu for healthier items. Some restaurants will mark which foods are low-fat or low-calorie. Generally, those that are grilled or steamed are better for you.
- Watch your portion size. Many eateries serve up big portions. To cut back on how much you eat, you can share an entrée with a friend or eat half and take the rest home for later.
- Be sure to eat slowly. Your body will have more time to digest the food if you take your time. Slowing down will help you feel full sooner and eat less overall.
- Stay away from super-sized beverages. The sugar in soft drinks can add hundreds of unneeded and unhealthy calories to your meal. Choose to drink water instead.