These days, it can be hard to figure out what counts as healthy eating and what doesn’t. With terms like “clean eating” and the plethora of gluten-free blogs popping up all over, it can be confusing. You might want to start eating healthier, but there’s so much information to sift through. Maybe even too much.
Read on to learn how a simple, straightforward approach to healthy eating can make adopting a healthy lifestyle a lot easier.
Healthy Eating Diet Review
What does a healthy diet consist of? Which kinds of foods should you focus on eating, and how much of each kind should you try to eat on a daily basis?
Healthy Eating Plan Basics and Rules
For optimal health, especially if you are just starting out trying to eat healthier, you can follow the MyPlate method for healthy eating. This breaks down your food consumption into five main food groups.
Protein will ideally make up about 20 percent of your calories each day. It can be found in dairy products as well, but the best food sources of protein fall into this category.
How much protein do you need?
You will want to try and consume about three servings, or 6 ounces, of protein daily. You should try to break up these servings into meals and snacks throughout your day instead of cramming them all into one or two meals.
Grains often get a bad rap because the majority of the foods containing grains nowadays are processed, such as sugary cereals and white breads. As long as you choose healthy grain options, you will reap all the benefits, including energy, vitamins and minerals essential to keep your body functioning normally.
How many servings of grains do you need?
You need about six servings of grains, or six ounces, daily. A slice of bread and a half cup of cooked rice or pasta counts as one ounce or serving. Half of the grains you eat in a day should be whole grains.
While fruits do contain sugar, this kind of sugar is not bad for you. It is the kind of sugar your body needs to stay healthy. Fruit is therefore naturally sweet, which means it can satisfy your sugar cravings if you don’t want to reach for something less healthy.
How much fruit do you need?
You should consume about two cups, or two servings, of fruit daily. A whole apple, orange or banana counts as one serving of fruit.
What are the best sources of fruit?
You will want to consume primarily whole fruit, and limit your consumption of fruit juices and processed items like applesauce (unless you make your own!). You will find whole fruit in the produce section of your local grocery store or at your local farmers market.
Vegetables are high in fiber, which is good for your digestive system. They are also low in calories and fill you up, so you can eat larger amounts of vegetables than other foods and consume fewer calories than if you consumed the same amount of a processed food like potato chips.
How many servings of vegetables do you need?
You need about three to four servings of vegetables, or two to three cups, daily.
What are the best sources of vegetables?
Try to eat plenty of dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, broccoli and asparagus. Starchy vegetables, like potatoes, are also good for you. Cooking vegetables (not boiling, as that washes out the nutrients) is one way to improve the taste if you don’t like eating them raw.
We eat dairy because of the vitamins and minerals it provides. Sources of dairy also contain protein, so a snack like cottage cheese is perfect if you need something to hold you over until your next meal.
How much dairy do you need?
You want to shoot for about three servings of dairy every day. One cup of milk or yogurt counts as one serving.
What if you can’t/don’t want to eat dairy?
It isn’t the dairy foods themselves, but the nutrients in them, that are important for a healthy diet. So if you cannot consume dairy due to an allergy or lactose intolerance or you simply do not like it, there are other potential ways to get these essential vitamins and minerals.
- Broccoli, kale, figs and oranges are all high in calcium.
- Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli), tomatoes and citrus fruits all contain vitamin C.
- Minerals like phosphorus, magnesium and iron are found in many of the other foods you already eat. You can also take a multivitamin daily to cover anything you might not get enough of, just in case.
What about fats and oils?
Fats and oils are no longer technically their own food group. In your diet you will automatically likely consume the fat you need to stay healthy (there is such a thing as healthy fat!). As long as you balance out healthy fats with the fat that naturally occurs in animal products (protein and dairy) you will be just fine.
How much of your diet should contain fat?
If you eat a healthy variety of foods, you should get all the fat you need. No more than 30 percent of your daily calories should come from fat, but you probably don’t have to worry about not getting enough as long as you are eating enough in each food group.
The truth about carbohydrates
Despite what you may have heard, not all carbs (sugars) are bad. When you hear experts talking about how bad sugar is for you, they are usually talking about added sugars. Added sugars are put into our food during processing for a number of reasons and should be limited, if not avoided altogether, by paying close attention to food labels.
The carbs found in grains, fruits, vegetables and dairy, however, are not bad for you in moderation. You shouldn’t let this kind of sugar scare you. In your body, it is converted into energy, which you need to stay healthy. As long as you watch your consumption of processed foods, carbs are not going to hurt you.
How many calories should you eat every day?
You don’t technically have to count calories if you don’t want to. The standard for both men and women is 2,000. You can calculate your energy needs if you really want to know and keep track on a daily basis, but it really all depends on what you are eating and how active you are. Paying attention to food types and portion sizes can be a much more effective, less overwhelming way to track healthy eating.
Are there good and bad times to eat?
Not necessarily. Make it easier for yourself and eat whenever you are hungry, even if it’s just a snack. If you would rather eat six small meals a day than three big ones, go for it. Just don’t skip meals (you’ll only end up eating more later).
Menu and Meal Planning
It is possible to eat several full and balanced meals every day while maintaining a healthy diet. The key is to eat a variety of foods. Below is a sample breakfast, lunch and dinner menu that can help guide you in beginning to plan your meals.
- Plain Greek yogurt or oatmeal with fruit and granola
- Half bagel with low-fat cream cheese
- 2 tacos (corn or flour tortillas, ground beef, lettuce, guacamole, sour cream)
- 1 cup cooked brown rice
- ½ cup baked beans
- Small salad (lettuce, red onions, grape tomatoes, cheese, Italian dressing)
- Baked barbecue chicken breast
- 1 cup seasoned green beans
- ½ baked potato with cheese0
- Celery and nut butter
- Raw vegetables with hummus
- Sliced fruit and whipped cream
- Homemade trail mix
- Mixed nuts
- Tortilla chips and salsa
- Dill pickles
Grocery Shopping List
Here are some examples of healthy foods you can purchase at your local grocery store. Part of preparing and consuming healthy meals is knowing which foods you should buy to make sure you are eating a variety of foods and food groups every day throughout the week.
- Meat (steak, pork, beef)
- Fish and shellfish
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grain pasta
- Brown rice
- Whole grain breads
- Greek yogurt
- Milk or soymilk (choose low fat)
- Fatty fish, like salmon
- Full fat yogurt
- Coconut and coconut oil
Does the Healthy Eating Diet Plan Work?
Is healthy eating as easy and effective as it sounds? These woman opted for a simple healthy diet over the fad diets that restrict entire foods groups and wound up with pretty great results.
Reviews and Weight Loss Results
“I’ve been working on a healthy diet for about a year and a half. It’s all about balance for me though. Eating healthy most of the time but still having those treats once and awhile.
At this point I have lost roughly 75 lbs.
The most difficult part of changing how I ate was just getting started. I started slowly by incorporating a veggie or a fruit into every meal until it just become habit. Then I started working on cutting down the junk food snacks. I took it one step at a time so it wouldn’t be to overwhelming. I also started tracking using My Fitness Pal. That’s what made me think about what I was putting in my mouth.
The easiest part is honestly keeping it going. Because I took it slowly and didn’t try and drastically change things too quickly it’s just natural now. That doesn’t mean I don’t ever have set backs where I eat a little too much junk, but it means most of the time I am on track without having to think too much about it.
I would like to share that I am not on a diet. I just try and eat healthy. More good, whole foods rather than processed and fast foods. To me that’s more important and lasts longer than any sort of ‘diet’ plan out there.”
Before and After Success Stories
“I took control of my eating on June 15, 2013 with the help of Weight Watchers. Since January 2016, I have been on a high protein/low sugar meal plan. So far, I have lost 90lbs in total.
The most difficult thing for me are definitely sweets. I have such a huge sweet tooth. Sugar is the #1 enemy of weight loss. I have learned to control most of my sugar rushes but I have to admit that I still surrender to some of them once in a while. As for the easiest part, I think for me it was tracking of everything. Some people find it really time consuming to track and weigh everything, check the labels in order to make better choices. That often causes them to give up. I agree that sometimes, it takes a bit of time, but for me, this has never been a factor. I like knowing what I eat so looking at labels allows me to know these things and choose my food wisely.
Weight Watchers works if you have an active lifestyle and still want to be able to indulge once in a while. It allows you to earn FitPoints that you can transform into points you can eat if you desire. And that’s really motivating to get active ! At 275lbs, Weight Watchers was definitely the way to go for me. It’s a great program to make you aware of everything (and just how much !) you are ingesting. It was a great eye opener. But I loved it because it allowed me to still go out with my friends, be conscious of the choices I was making but still be able enjoy my evening without feeling guilty.”
“I started to change the way I ate March 2016 when I realized I gained 5 lbs in just one week. I quickly started researching and eating clean wholesome foods and cutting out processed and sugary foods little by little.
I have lost 12lbs and unfortunately I did not do measurements before otherwise I’m sure that would speak volumes.
Though the number on the scale hasn’t moved a whole lot…. I LOOK and FEEL fantastic. I have energy and I have gained control over my anxiety issues.
I also have something I haven’t experienced before… CONFIDENCE.
The most difficult part about eating healthy was the cravings.
I’m very impulsive sometimes so when I want something, I eat it. I gained control over this by fueling my body with a superfood shake every morning that is replenishing the nutrients my body has been deficient in. This has helped with cravings tremendously.
The easiest part has been the decision to keep going. I have never felt better and I will not go back to how I used to live because of that.
What I coach on and how I eat, is not a diet. It’s a lifestyle. Diets are temporary. A means to an end because most are not realistic or sustainable. I believe in making small changes at a time. Perfect one new habit, then move onto the next. Cutting out bad habits like processed foods and sugary beverages. Then replacing them with good habits like drinking water and eating Whole Foods.”
Adopting healthy eating habits is not as hard as you might think it is. The key to success is to ease yourself into it slowly, just like any other dietary lifestyle change. Keep yourself balanced. Never think, “I can’t eat this” or “I have to eat that.” Choose foods that you like and that are good for you. The longer you keep it up, the easier it will become.