The key to healthy eating is not a mystery. There is no elusive secret that only a few health nuts or registered dietitians know. However, a little knowledge and awareness goes a long way to unlocking the door to healthy living.
- Find balance in your daily diet. Visit ChooseMyPlate.gov to see an illustration of a plate featuring the five food groups that are the building blocks for a healthy diet: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy.
“When we look at our plate, we want to fill half of it with non-starchy vegetables, such as cucumbers, carrots, bell peppers and greens,” says Hughes.
- Familiarize yourself with fats — Fats are an important component of the diet, but they are not all created equal. Focus on incorporating healthy unsaturated fats such as nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil and fatty fish.
- Avoid or limit alcohol. Many adults have a daily drink, but this doesn’t make it a good idea. Alcohol is not a diet essential and can lead to injuries, health problems, birth defects and alcohol use disorders if abused. Learn your personal risks and remember that moderation is key if you decide to drink.
- Skip too many sweets. Limit added sugars to less than 2 tablespoons per day. Beware: a slice of cake can have 4 tablespoons of sugar; energy drinks and soda have 5 tablespoons; and even a cup of yogurt can have 2 tablespoons of the sweet stuff.
- Know your needs. On average, women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories a day while men need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories. However, your age, height, lifestyle, general health and activity level can also affect your daily caloric needs.
“It’s important to keep it simple,” says Hughes. “Know what’s in what you eat and drink, don’t eat when you‘re not hungry, watch portion sizes, enjoy fruits and vegetables, avoid processed foods, and drink lots of water.”