Healthy eating is an important factor for anyone trying to achieve a healthy life. You will get better result when you combine eating healthy with physical activity and good weight maintenance strategies.
The truth is eating healthy has created a lot of confusions out there, different experts with different views on how to eat healthy. But does it have to be complicated? No I don’t think so because if you can understand overall dietary regimen that aims at replacing processed foods with natural ones, then you are good to go.
The quality of your life has a lot to do with what you eat. If you eat a lot of junks or processed foods you are more prone to gain weight and develop or aggravate some food related disease conditions. Whereas if you eat a well-balanced diet combined with routine physical activity, your body will be healthy and maintain a good weight.
The practices of eating healthy diet should begin from early years and should continue throughout the course of your life as it improves mental development and promotes healthy growth.
These healthy dietary practices have over the years been affected by increased production and consumption of processed foods.
What is Healthy Food?
You may ask, when do we say we have eaten a healthy food or when is a food said to be healthy?
A healthy food plan or healthy dietary food is food that contains fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low fat milk or milk products. Such as beans, eggs, nuts, lean meat, poultry and fish and should be low in salt, added sugars, saturated and trans fats.
The goal of these foods is to replace your processed foods with natural foods as much as possible. Eating natural foods have great impact in your cognitive development and physical growth. Eat Healthy!
Healthy Eating on a Budget
Let me be frank with you, eating healthy does not come easy, healthy foods are expensive. Does it mean people low on budget can’t afford a healthy meal? Of course no, I will show you some tips on how to eat healthy on a low budget:
Plan Your List: Like the saying goes; whoever that does not plan, plans to fail. Planning your diet regime is very important. Do one week plans, two weeks plan, four weeks plan because it will give you a focus and will help you plan within your means. Purchase things you are sure you will use, avoid wastage!
Be Discipline with your List: After you are done with making your grocery list, be disciplined enough to stick to it. A lot of times we get distracted from our list when we reach the point of purchase either by other food items not on our lists or processed foods. Try as much as possible to locate where healthy foods are and buy.
Cultivate the Habit to cook at home: You may say, why waste time in the kitchen cooking when I can easily go down to the closest restaurant and buy. Of course you can but you will have to pay for more than just the food and that will affect your budget. Want to enjoy a healthy food, cook it at home, it will save you cost, you can feed more people and you get to control what goes into that meal.
Eat the portion that you can finish (Portion Control): Don’t carry more than you can eat. Eat the portion you can finish without wasting, it is even better to eat smaller portions till you are satisfied than to carry large portions that you leftover.
Never go to the food store Hungry: I remember a day I was trying to be on a diet plan, I came home late only to discover that my food items were finished so I had to rush to the nearby grocery store to refill. On getting there I said to myself; why not take a bite of that gala with a chilled coke before you finished buying what you came for, I ended up buying them and I was left with small money that I could not buy everything I wanted. Always take a fruit or any healthy snack before going!
Buy Less processed foods: Whole foods such as brown rice, oats and maize are less expensive than a lot of processed foods. Junk foods are usually made from unhealthy ingredients and are expensive. This will help you to focus more on buying healthy and nutrient rich foods.
Always check the ingredients list: There are two types of products mostly sold in grocery shops, they are generic or national products. Generic and National products maybe of same quality but generic are usually less costly than national products. Always read the label for ingredients before buying any healthy food.
Healthy Eating Benefits
The benefits of balanced and varied food regimen are some of the major steps in achieving a healthy lifestyle. Each part of the food regimen has its significant benefit such as boosting immune system functions, healthy development and protection against disease conditions.
The first thing to eating healthy is the ability to properly create a balance in the foods that you eat. Balanced diet should include;
- Carbohydrates such as fibre starch
- Fruits and vegetables
- Proteins for example meat, fish, eggs, nuts beans, pulses
- Milk and dairy foods such as soya drinks
The benefits of Healthy eating are as follows:
- Helps to reduce your chances of developing type 2 diabetes
- Helps reduce your risks of heart related disease by maintaining blood pressure and cholesterol levels at normal.
- Keeps your teeth and bones strong and can help to reduce the risk of bone loss (osteoporosis) at old age.
- Helps you manage your weight effectively when combined with physical exercises
- Improves your brain function, and promotes good mental health
- Reduces the risk of cancer
Healthy Eating Guidelines
Your health goals have a lot to do with your dietary selection. Whatever your goals maybe, be it promotion of a healthy lifestyle, preventing disease and maintaining or losing weight has specific eating guidelines which we are going to discuss.
These guidelines are based on the 2015-2020 dietary guidelines
Build Healthy Eating Habits
- Eat adequate varieties of vegetables, most especially dark green, red, and orange vegetables (3 or more servings per day).
- Consume a lot of fruits (2 or more servings daily).
- Eat whole-grain, high-fiber carbohydrates such as breads and cereals (3 to 6 servings per day).
- Eat different types of proteins that contain low amount of fats such as beans, eggs, skinless poultry, lean meats, seafood, unsalted nuts, seeds, and soy products.
- Eat less of processed carbohydrates
- Drink and eat low-fat milk and dairy products.
- Consume more of vegetable oils such as olive or canola oil instead of solid fats.
- Limit intake of trans-fats and saturated fats.
- Lower intake of salt to less than 1,500 mg per day for people with hypertension, diabetes, chronic kidney disease or above 50 years of age.
- Restrict intake of sodas and other sugar-containing drinks that are high in calories and are not nutritious.
- Reduce intake of alcoholic beverages, do it in moderation.
Dietary Guidelines To Lose Weight
- Reduce the amount of your daily calories.
- Restrict all sugar containing drinks from your diet regimen.
- Drink more water.
- Engage in physical activities and reduce sedentary lifestyle.
Barriers to Healthy Eating
Changing your eating habits can be hard and challenging.
If you are finding it hard to eat healthy and better, these might be some of the many reasons for your poor eating lifestyle;
1. Diet misinformation:
A lot of information on diet and nutrition are available which have made healthy eating very difficult. One doesn’t seem to know the right information that will work for him or her, which has led to many trying out variety of diet regimens that are not evidence based.
A simple help from a known dietitian can help through this confusion and give you a result driven guide that can offer you all the support and encouragement you need to achieve your goal.
2. Trying to make too many changes at the same time:
Do not make many changes at the same time, they can overwhelm you and get you frustrated. Try to make small changes gradually, and over time you can make a big impact and feel comfortable to effect those changes.
Try to master each change before moving to another and with such little improvements they will slowly become part of your lifestyle.
3. Striving for perfection:
Never try to attain perfection when eating healthy. You might encounter some challenges and those setbacks might make you feel like quitting.
Always remember “that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step”, don’t push yourself too hard, take each step slowly and continually build on it.
4. Lack of time:
Time is a major factor when you are trying to eat healthy. You need to plan for healthy eating. Set out time to plan for your meals, you can buy your groceries online to save a lot of time. Cook foods that you can store in the fridge and eat whenever you wish.
5. Giving up on your favourite foods:
Most of us begin a healthy lifestyle by restricting our favourite meals, but you don’t have to deprive yourself those foods, just eat them in moderate amount that will not cause harm to you. Try to create a balance!
Meet food experts to guide you on how to create balance between your favourite foods and other foods that will support you in achieving a healthy lifestyle.
Identify your barrier and manage it appropriately, then you can be sure of achieving your goals.
What does a Healthy Diet contains?
To properly deal with this topic, we categories it into two:
- Healthy diet for Adults
- Healthy diet for children
For Adults it includes;
- Fruits and vegetables; at least 400g or five portions daily with the exception of starchy foods like cassava and potatoes.
- Legumes such as beans,
- Nuts and whole grains e.g. maize, millet, brown rice, wheat, and oats.
- The diet should contain about 50g or 12 teaspoonful of total energy from free sugars for individuals with healthy body weight.
- The diet should contain less than 30% of total energy from fats. Unsaturated fats especially in avocado, nuts, soybean, canola, olive oils and fish are recommended for use than saturated fats obtained in butter, coconut oil, cream, meat, cheese and trans fats of all sort.
- Your diet should contain about one teaspoonful per day of iodized salt.
Children especially in their early years require optimal nutrition which helps to promote their growth and mental development. It also decreases the risk of obesity and development of non-communicable diseases when they grow up later.
In addition to the above healthy diet guides for adult, the following are exclusively recommended for infants and children;
- Exclusive breath feeding for infants in their first 6 months should be encouraged
- After 6 months of exclusive breast feeding, breast milk should be used together with safe and balanced nutrient rich foods.
- Continuous breast feeding of infants till they are 2 years of age is recommended.