How to build a healthy diet in 5 ways

Fresh homegrown vegetables and fruits, summer colofrul harvest still life, local farmer produce, organic food, directly above
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You want to eat healthier but don’t know where to start. It can be overwhelming to overhaul your diet all at once. The key is making small, sustainable changes over time. In this article, you’ll learn five simple ways to gradually build a healthier diet. With some easy food swaps, mindful choices, and meal planning strategies, you can form habits that will have you feeling energized and vibrant. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good – even incorporating one or two of these tips can get you on your way toward better nutrition. With a few small steps at a time, you’ll be surprised at the healthy strides you can make.

1. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables

Vegetables and fruits should make up a major part of your diet. Aim for 2 to 3 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit per day. They are packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that are good for your health. Here’s an easy way to start:

Fill half your plate with fruits and veggies

At each meal, fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. For example, have a salad or soup to start, add a side of broccoli or carrots to your main dish, and finish with fresh fruit for dessert.

Keep fruits and veggies within reach

Keep pre-cut veggies, hummus, guacamole and fresh or dried fruit on hand for easy snacking. Baby carrots, celery sticks, berries, and sliced apples are convenient options. You’ll be more likely to munch on them if they’re ready to eat.

Try smoothies for breakfast

For breakfast, blend Greek yogurt and milk or juice with berries, bananas, and leafy greens like spinach or kale. Smoothies are a great way to pack lots of nutrition into one delicious drink.

Discover new favorites

Try new fruits and vegetables to keep things interesting, especially seasonal produce which is freshest and most affordable. Some options to try: roasted Brussels sprouts, baked sweet potato, grilled zucchini, mango salsa, or farro salad with apricots and pistachios.

Eating more produce is one of the healthiest habits you can develop. Fill your plate and your day with fruits and vegetables for better health and nutrition. Your body will thank you!

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2. Choose Whole Grains

Whole grains should make up the bulk of your diet. We’re talking brown rice, quinoa, barley, and oats. These powerhouses are loaded with fiber, B vitamins, and minerals like magnesium and selenium. Here are some tips to follow:

Stick to 100% whole grains.

Check the ingredients and make sure “whole wheat” or “whole grain” is at the top of the list. Avoid refined grains like white rice and white flour, which have been stripped of nutrients. Aim for about 6 ounces of whole grains a day. That’s a cup of oatmeal, a cup of brown rice, and a few slices of whole wheat bread.

Mix up your grains.

Don’t just stick to brown rice and whole wheat bread. Branch out and try farro, millet, bulgur, and buckwheat. They each have a unique flavor and texture. Farro and bulgur work great in salads. Millet and buckwheat make a hearty breakfast porridge. Mixing different grains also gives you a wider range of nutrients.

Cook extra and refrigerate.

Whole grains have a relatively short shelf life, so cook a big batch once or twice a week and use for meals, salads, and snacks. Cooked whole grains will last up to 5 days in the fridge. This makes it easy to throw together a quick lunch or whip up a healthy snack like tuna salad on whole grain toast or yogurt with granola and fresh fruit.

With a variety of whole grains in your diet, you’ll boost your nutrition and feel satisfied and energized. So ditch the refined stuff and make whole grains a habit!

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3. Pick Healthy Proteins

Choose lean meats

When it comes to protein, opt for lean meats like chicken, fish, and legumes. Chicken and fish contain healthy fats and are low in saturated fat, unlike red meat. Aim for 6 to 8 ounces of lean meat at each meal. Other good options include beans, lentils, and tofu. These plant-based proteins are cholesterol-free, high in fiber, and packed with nutrients.

Watch your portion sizes

It’s easy to overdo it on protein, so keep an eye on your portion sizes. While protein is essential for your health, most people only need 5 to 6 ounces per meal. Measure out servings instead of just filling up your plate. Overeating protein, especially red meat, has been linked to health issues like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers.

Vary your options

Don’t get stuck in a rut by eating the same types of protein every day. Mix it up to get the most nutritional benefit. Have fish one day, black beans the next, and Greek yogurt the day after. Trying different proteins will also make your diet more interesting and help you sustain it long-term. Some other healthy options include:

  • Eggs: Packed with protein, healthy fats, and numerous vitamins and minerals. Enjoy a veggie omelet for breakfast or hard boil eggs for snacks.
  • Nuts: Although high in calories, nuts contain fiber, protein, and good fats. Add a few to yogurt or salads for extra crunch.
  • Seeds: Like nuts, seeds are small but mighty. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds contain protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Sprinkle on salads or make your own granola and trail mix.
  • Dairy: In addition to yogurt, milk, and cheese also provide protein, calcium, vitamin D, and other nutrients. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products when possible.

Eating a variety of lean proteins, watching your portion sizes, and mixing up your options are easy ways to build a healthy diet. Your body and taste buds will thank you. Focus on nutritious whole foods, limit processed options, and make sure you’re getting enough protein at each meal for the energy you need to power through your day.

4. Drink Plenty of Water

Water is essential for your body and brain to function properly. Most experts recommend drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day to stay hydrated. Aim for drinking water regularly throughout the day, don’t wait until you’re thirsty.

Staying hydrated provides many benefits. Water helps cushion and protect your brain, spinal cord, and other sensitive tissues. It helps regulate your body temperature and lubricates your joints. Water also helps carry nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for earwax and mucus.

Drink water with meals

Drinking water with your meals aids digestion and helps you feel full faster. This can aid weight loss and make it easier to control portion sizes. Sipping water between bites of food also helps you slow down while eating, allowing your stomach time to register that it’s full.

Choose water over sugary drinks

Replace high-calorie beverages like fruit juice, soda, and sweetened coffee and tea with water. This simple switch can cut hundreds of calories per day and promote weight loss. Water has zero calories, so you can drink as much as you like without worrying about weight gain.

Stay hydrated during exercise

If you exercise regularly, you need to drink even more water to compensate for fluid loss from sweating. Aim for 1 to 2 cups of water for every 15 minutes of exercise. Not drinking enough water during exercise can lead to dehydration which reduces your performance and endurance. Staying hydrated keeps your body temperature regulated and your muscles and joints lubricated during activity.

Drinking plenty of water every day is such an easy habit to develop but yields so many benefits for your health and well-being. Make it a priority to grab your water bottle and start sipping. Your body and mind will thank you!

5. Limit Sugar, Salt, and Unhealthy Fats

To build a healthy diet, you need to cut back on added sugar, salt, and unhealthy fats. These ingredients are often used heavily in processed and fast foods, so limiting them means eating more whole foods like fruits and vegetables.

Cut Back on Added Sugar

Added sugar refers to sugar and syrups added during processing or preparation. Things like table sugar, honey, and sugary beverages all contain added sugar. Eating too much added sugar is bad for your health and can lead to weight gain, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories or 25 grams) per day for most women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories or 38 grams) per day for most men. To cut back, avoid sugary beverages, choose unsweetened options like water or tea, and opt for natural sweeteners in moderation like fruit.

Reduce Sodium Intake

Too much sodium in your diet can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and other health problems. Most Americans eat way more sodium than recommended, mainly from processed and fast foods.

The dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium to less than 2300 milligrams per day. Read nutrition labels and choose low-sodium options when possible. Flavor your food with herbs and spices instead of salt. Avoid highly processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli meats which tend to be loaded with sodium.

Limit Unhealthy Fats

Not all fats are created equal. Limit saturated fats and trans fats which can raise “bad” LDL cholesterol and increase your risk of heart disease. These unhealthy fats are found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, baked goods, and fried foods.

Instead, eat more unsaturated fats like olive oil, nuts, and avocados which can help lower heart disease risk when consumed in moderation. Choose lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and plant-based options. Read nutrition labels and avoid anything with “partially hydrogenated oil” which indicates the presence of trans fats.

Making a few simple switches to cut back on added sugar, sodium, and unhealthy fats can have a big impact on your health and help you build a balanced diet. Focus on whole foods, watch your portion sizes, and make healthy fats and natural sweeteners your friends. Your body and heart will thank you!

Conclusion

This 5 simple yet effective ways to build a healthy diet will make you feel great. Start small by adding more veggies and fruits. Drink more water to stay hydrated. Cut back on sugar and junk food. Choose whole grains for lasting energy. And don’t forget lean protein to support your muscles. Stick with these 5 guidelines and you’ll be on your way to better health. Sure, it takes a little effort, but just take it one step at a time. Your body will thank you! Eat clean, feel good, live well.

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