There are endless articles and blogs out there about making changes in your diet and lifestyle, many of them contradictory, which can cause confusion and frustration on what choices to make. And the truth is, everyone has unique needs when it comes to nutrition. That means what works for your friend, co-worker or neighbor may not be what’s best for you. It’s difficult to turn off those messages and hone in on doing what is best for you, but it’s often necessary in order for us to be healthier – both mind and body.
However, there are some general guidelines when it comes to eating a balanced diet and living a balanced lifestyle, so I’ll share a few of those here:
- Aim to eat plenty of vegetables and fruit. They’re packed with nutrition (vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, water) and are low in calories. Yes, even fruit. Fruit does have carbohydrates and natural sugars, but it is difficult to consume too much sugar by eating fruit. Plus, the benefits of eating fruit far outweigh the fact that they contain natural sugar. If you come across a diet or meal plan telling you not to eat mangos, bananas, peaches, kiwi, etc., then I’d likely second guess how balanced the plan is from a nutritional standpoint (same goes for starchy vegetables like butternut squash, sweet potatoes and peas). A good rule of thumb is to make half of your plate non-starchy vegetables and eat fruit as a snack and with breakfast (aim for 3+ servings of veggies and fruits daily).
- Get some good quality protein in with each meal and snack. Foods like seafood, poultry, lean beef and pork, eggs, beans, legumes, dairy products, tofu, tempeh, etc., all are good sources of protein. Protein is essential for so many functions in our bodies, but it also helps you stay full and satisfied. Think of eating a salad with just veggies and dressing versus eating a salad with veggies, grilled chicken, chickpeas and dressing – you’ll be a lot more satisfied with the protein and veggie-packed salad! Including protein and heart-healthy fats (like avocado, for example) can also help regulate blood sugar.
- Take a look at how much added sugar you consume (you can do this by journaling in an app such as MyFitnessPal). If you tend to add sugar to all of your meals and snacks or choose foods that are high in added sugar (those that are not naturally occurring), it may be a good idea to look at reducing it and swapping in foods that don’t have any or have very little added sugar. But also remember that it isn’t necessary to go overboard with cutting out sugar – no, it isn’t good for us in large quantities, but it also isn’t healthy for us to obsess over every last gram. Remember that eating healthy is all about balance and having a good relationship with food. My Blueberry Crumble Muffins are the perfect example – yes, they contain added sugar (brown sugar), but they are a much healthier muffin than what you can typically buy in the grocery store or find at a bakery. They only have 11 grams of sugar per muffin (some naturally occurring, some added), and the traditional bakery muffin can have up to 40 grams of sugar. Plus, we’ve upgraded them from a nutritional standpoint by using oat or whole wheat flour, flax, oats, blueberries and Greek yogurt.
There are many more nutrition tips I can offer, but this is a great place to start. If you’re looking for personalized nutrition guidance, I’d highly suggest visiting The Well or seeing a registered dietitian in your area – always remember that we all have different needs when it comes to our health, and taking small steps to better health – one at a time – is much more sustainable over a long period of time.