Everywhere we go, we see messages promoting products or programs promising to help us get our diets on track, but every method seems to have a track of its own. It doesn’t take long to realize that what we put into our bodies is a topic of huge concern in today’s world, stemming from image to disease prevention.
Food has a lot of power over our bodies and minds, both working together. However, we have the power to choose how we eat. Take a look at these five steps to eating a balanced diet.
- Include all food groups.
Carbohydrates are often shunned by many self-proclaimed health gurus. The Atkins Diet is a prime example of the exclusion of carbs in the health world. Millions embraced the carb-free craze, only to gain back the weight they lost upon going back to normal eating habits. Don’t fall for these restrictive fads; you need foods from every group – protein, carbs and fat – to keep your body functioning optimally. Each group has its own benefits that you cannot neglect.
- Get your ratios right.
Speaking of food groups, eating the right amount from each group is just as important as including them all in your diet. There is a lot of debate about how much protein, fat and carbs we should be incorporating into our meals, but it all depends on your goals and activity. For example, a track and field athlete’s diet usually consists of 60-70 percent carbs with equal portions of fat and protein. As a person trying to maintain a healthy weight, the ratios should be around 40-50 percent carbs and 30 percent protein, the rest coming from healthy fats.
- Cover your micronutrient bases.
Hitting your macronutrient targets is important, but covering your bases when it comes to micronutrients is as well. Micronutrients help us fight diseases, stay alert and keep our bodily systems in order. Fruits and vegetables, cooked, frozen, or raw, are always fantastic go-to sources. Remember to eat two servings of each per day. Other foods such as meat, fish and dairy pack micronutrients that any plant-based foods lack, such as iron. Make sure that your non-produce foods are of the best nutritional quality as well.
- Eat whole, natural foods.
How can you ensure that you are getting the most nutritional bang for your buck? For starters, eat natural, minimally processed foods that don’t contain many artificial ingredients. True, nearly every item in our grocery stores has gone through some degree of processing, including certified organic foods. However, it’s definitely possible to sift out the chemical laden bombs from the foods that are virtually farm fresh. Less is more when it comes to artificial ingredients; just read the nutrition labels.
- Don’t deprive yourself.
There’s a difference between deprivation and limitation. Even on a healthy diet, you should leave a little room for indulging in foods and beverages you enjoy, although you need to be careful not to overdo it. A good rule of thumb is to apply the 80-20 rule to your diet, where you eat clean 80 percent of the time and eat what you want for the other 20 percent. You still need to be mindful of your intake, so keep your indulgences in check. At the end of the day, however, giving yourself permission to experience that satisfaction keeps you from uncontrolled binges, and you won’t feel deprived.
Keeping a balanced diet is essential to maintaining a healthy life. Even when you’re on the go and can’t cook up a nutritious meal in your kitchen, there are still plenty of healthy options for you to fuel up on. The most important thing you can do to ensure that you can get the most out of your meals is to educate yourself about nutrition and the ways to nourish your body.
Evelyn Hylton has been writing about health and wellness topics for years. She is currently writing on behalf of the protein bar experts at Promax Nutrition. An avid writer and learner, she loves to use her skills for engaging others in important topics in creative and effective ways. When she is not working, she loves working out, problem-solving, and catching up on Shark Tank. Follow her on Twitter @Evelyn_Hylton.