You want to be healthier and lose weight, so you’re thinking about adopting a healthy diet, but how? There are so many options on the market today it’s hard to find one that actually fits your lifestyle and helps you achieve your goals in a safe way. We sorted through research articles, medical facts and doctor suggestions to find the facts. You need to know the right healthy diet and that doesn’t mean taking a company’s word for it.
What Makes a Healthy Diet?
The term healthy diet is a little vague. What you are trying for is a meal plan that’s packed with good nutrition, vitamins, minerals and fiber. If you are trying to lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than your body uses each day.
How Many Calories in a Healthy Diet?
There’s no set number of calories to consume if you want to follow a healthy diet. Some bodybuilders consume upwards of 10,000 calories a day and other people consume no more than 1,200. To maintain weight, you need to eat the same amount of calories the body needs for energy. This is not an exact science, but you can estimate the number based on your lifestyle, age, gender and activity level by using online tools.
For people trying to lose weight with a healthy diet, things are a little different. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Because 3,500 calories equals about 1 pound (0.45 kilogram) of fat, you need to burn 3,500 calories more than you take in to lose 1 pound. So, in general, if you cut 500 calories from your typical diet each day, you’d lose about 1 pound a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories).”
Your Healthy Diet – Critical Foods to Address
The term critical may be a little strong, but when it comes to adopting a healthy diet, sometimes you need that strength to get across just how important some foods are. The main areas of your diet to address are drinks, meals and snacks.
One of the more common reasons for weight gain in American is sugar. You get sugar everywhere, but drinks are one of the most popular sources. A healthy diet means reducing simple carbohydrates like sugar to low levels. This means you need to switch out that sugar for sugar-free options. Tea, coffee and sodas are all sources of sugar. You can either choose to go with a diet option or take away the sweetness all together. The best option is water.
What does a healthy meal look like? According to MyPlate from the USDA, “Before you eat, think about what does on your plate, in your cup or in your bowl.” Using the example given, you need to eat more grains and vegetables than fruits, protein and dairy. It is important to consider the portion when adopting a healthy diet. There’s a good chance your portions are much larger than the suggested. One portion is smaller than you think, according to the Dairy Council of California. Here’s what portions look like:
- Meat – palm of your hand
- Rice – handful
- Pasta – handful
- Cooked Vegetables – one fist
- Raw Vegetables – one fist
- Leafy Vegetables – two fists
These are just general guidelines, but they need to be considered if you are attempting to lose weight with a healthy diet as it is how you will calculate the number of calories you consume each day. Incorrect serving sizes are a big part of failed weight-loss tries. You may be eating all the right foods, but in the wrong amounts. The American Heart Association says to “manage portion sizes” to prevent overeating.
With the invention of 100-calorie, pre-packaged snacks, you’d think the dieting world would be set, but that’s not the case. These small snacks do not offer the protein or fiber needed to keep the dieter full. Instead of buying a tiny bag of chips or cookies, why not try some healthier options like celery and peanut butter, watermelon, popcorn, nuts or carrots with hummus? There are tons of 100-calorie options out there that will keep hunger at bay and help you maintain a healthy diet or even lose weight.
All Salads are Not Created Equal
Many people choose to add salad to a healthy diet, but not all salads are created equal. When you toss together lettuce, carrots, celery, tomatoes and other vegetables, you have the perfect addition to your healthy diet. It’s what you pour on top that takes it from healthy to unhealthy. Using creamy salad dressings adds 100 calories per serving. Most people don’t use just one, two-tablespoon serving. In that case you can count on 200 to 400 extra calories. According to Peggy Kotsopoulos, RHN, “Creamy salad dressings are often loaded in unhealthy saturated fats and calories. They also contain many chemical ingredients, sugars and additives which can turn your once-healthy salad into a completely unhealthy bowl.”
Don’t Like Your Vegetables – Try a Smoothie
Smoothies are one of the hottest trends in healthy dieting. You can blend together spinach, fruit and yogurt to create a healthy, low-calorie smoothie that gives you an excellent source of nutrition without breaking the calorie bank. There are recipes all over the internet, some including ingredients like avocado, chia seeds, flax seed, cinnamon or almond milk.
The Place of Alcohol in Your Healthy Diet
There’s nothing wrong with taking a drink once in a while, but what about your healthy diet?
Straight liquor like vodka or gin contains about 100 calories per serving. The clearer the alcohol, the easier it is on the body.
Wine is another option that contains up to 150 calories per 5-ounce serving. Red wine, in particular, may support heart health and help you reach healthy cholesterol levels. The Lancet says, “Our findings show that the non-alcoholic components of red wine have potent antioxidant properties toward oxidation of human LDL.”
Beer may be your drink of choice, but it can also supply the highest amount of calories. The best option is to choose a light beer, but that means a cut in alcohol content, which means you may be lured into drinking more than one. A light beer contains up to 110 calories.
The Bottom Line on the Healthy Diet
There are tons of foods that you can consume to follow a healthy diet. Vegetables and fruits are at the top of the list because too few people eat the right amounts. Protein is also important as lean sources are better than fatty sources. Though it can be hard to adopt a healthy diet, it is easier if you think of it in simple terms. Skip the sugar, add more vegetables and fruit, choose lean protein and watch portion sizes. Even if you eat healthy foods, eating too much does not help your overall health or weight-loss efforts.