Healthy Eating 101

What is healthy eating?

To me, healthy eating means eating whole foods found in nature. The idea is to eat foods that are as close to a natural state as possible. This means limiting processed foods, added chemicals, sugary foods, and refined carbohydrates. Healthy eaters live on fruits, vegetables, protein, complex carbohydrates, legumes, healthy fats, and water.

Eating healthy doesn’t necessarily mean being vegetarian or vegan. Many healthy eaters do choose to go vegan or vegetarian, but it’s not a requirement. Personally, I’m not even close to being a vegan or vegetarian, but I don’t usually eat much meat. If you’re just starting to eat healthy, going meatless might seem unrealistic. But don’t worry; it’s not necessary!

Healthy eaters don’t usually need to count calories. Caloric intake doesn’t matter as much when you’re eating natural foods. Of course, you don’t want to eat a lot of high-calorie nuts and seeds, but in general, healthy eating doesn’t restrict your daily caloric allowance. Most healthy foods are naturally very low in calories, so you can consume greater amounts of food and not have to worry about calories!

The key to eating healthy is MODERATION. I have made the mistake of trying to eliminate all unhealthy foods, and it’s nearly impossible! Instead of seeing sweets or junk food as a reward, I treat myself once in a while when I’m in the mood. We can’t be happy if we limit ourselves too much, so we need to remember that eating unhealthy food in moderation is ok! No one is perfect, so we just need to balance the good with the bad.

Healthy eating guidelines:

Foods to limit:

  • White carbs (rice, bread, pretzels, flour)
  • Unfamiliar ingredients (added chemicals, preservatives)
  • Sugar (including high fructose corn syrup)
  • Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharine, sucralose)
  • Excessive alcoholic beverages
  • Fast food

Foods to enjoy:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Protein sources and Legumes (meat, poultry, tofu, eggs, nuts, beans)
  • Complex carbohydrates (oatmeal, brown rice, whole grain breads)
  • Healthy fats (nuts, olive oil, seeds)
  • Dairy (milk, cheese, yogurt)
  • Water

Foods I frequently enjoy in moderation:

  • Salad dressings
  • Cheese
  • White potatoes
  • Some desserts
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Canned vegetables
  • Store-bought whole grain tortilla shells and bread

In general, use your brain. You know that fruits and vegetables are healthy. You know potato chips and cookies aren’t good for you. If it’s a food that you can find in nature without any added chemicals, sugar, or preservatives, it’s probably good for you. If it’s man-made, fried, fatty, salted food, pass it up.

Be careful of products that claim to be healthy (like some cereals, breads, spreads, and juices). Always check the ingredient label, and avoid eating anything with words you can’t pronounce or anything with lots of added sugar.

Make your own whole foods. I find it easier to make a lot of my own foods (like bread, oatmeal, barbecue sauce, salsa), rather than hunting for an all natural item or paying through the nose at a health food stores.

Find substitutions for foods that aren’t healthy. Use plain nonfat Greek yogurt in place of sour cream, mayonnaise, and cream cheese. Enjoy fruit and veggie chips instead of a bag of Lay’s.

Overall, just do your best. I know it’s really difficult to make all your own food (even I can’t do it!), so just try to buy the least unhealthy kind of foods at the store. For instance, it’s almost impossible to find bread without added ingredients, so just do your best to buy one that’s whole grain and doesn’t have high fructose corn syrup. It’s expensive and hard to find many vegetables and fruits when they’re out of season, so choose canned ones with the least amount of preservatives or additives.

Just keep in mind that a little “bad” stuff won’t hurt as long as you balance it out with a lot of “good” stuff!!

How do I start eating healthy?

Read up on healthy eating. There are tons of resources online and in books that will give you more information than you could ever want, but it’s so interesting! Of course, my blog has tons of recipes to get you started, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Clean out your fridge and cupboards. Get rid of all your processed junk foods, and make room for all the healthy foods you’ll be stocking up on. If you don’t have any unhealthy food in your house, you won’t be tempted to eat it because you won’t be able to grab it in the first place.

Stock up on spices. If you don’t already have lots of spices and seasonings in your cupboard, head to the store and pick out some that sound good to you. Spices will come in handy for seasoning your food since you’ll be cooking a lot of your own meals. Some of my favorites are cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder.

Start eating whole, natural foods, and try to limit processed, refined foods. This will be the hard at first, but after a while you’ll get used to it. Once you’ve stocked up on healthy foods, you’ll be able to enjoy eating them without missing junk food too much.

Get creative! It’ll take some creative thinking to come up with new ideas for meals to keep yourself from getting bored with the same foods over and over. Look online for delicious recipes to try, or try making some of your own. Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; you’ll be surprised how amazing a new creation can taste!

And last, but certainly not least, don’t be afraid to indulge once in a while. What kind of life would it be if you never got to eat a slice of pizza, scoop of ice cream, or glass of pop once in a while? Just eat those things in moderation!

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