Following my post Ask Me Questions, I got a few requests about a healthy diet. So I decided to write a post in order to explain what a healthy diet actually means. This is the type of diet that is good for your heart long-term, feeling good, and your health overall. If you add some exercise to it you’re all set to be healthy 😉
I, myself, am a huge foodie but there is a way to enjoy good food and live healthy at once. I enjoy burgers and hot dogs once in a while with a greasy poutine or fries… and there is no need to feel bad about that if you know what eating healthy means. Remember, the goal of my blog is to allow you to enjoy life more while remaining healthy so this is exactly what I am going to do. So… there are a few things to know in order to make basic healthy diet choices:
In general, it is better to limit the intake of fats. However, fats are part of what makes us feel full so we need to eat some otherwise we will always be hungry. Overall, we should not limit ourselves based on the amount of fats but rather on the types of fats the food contains. The better fats are unsaturated fats. The bad fats are saturated and (especially!) trans fats. So, for example, if you are looking at the nutrition information of a cereal box at the grocery store, it is much less important what the total amount of fat is compared to the amount of saturated and trans fats. The point is: you need to get full from the cereal so fibers and fat will do that, but choose the cereal with the least saturated and trans fat.
Eat a lot of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and nuts. Beans are especially good! Lots of people, and specialists, will tell you that there is a difference between kidney beans and white beans and so on… honestly, it doesn’t really matter. Just eat legumes and especially beans. That’s it! As long as you don’t eat 2kg of each every day, you’re eating the right amount. Find pasta and breads that are made of whole grain and contain nuts or cereal. Nut mixes are an excellent snack for work. There are many types out there so I am sure that you can find something that you like 🙂
Sugars should not make up more than 10% of your daily carbs. We all like to stuff our faces with cake when it’s someone’s birthday, and that’s OK, once in a while… A lot of things are very high in simple sugars, such as candy, maple syrup and any other type of syrups. Sweets from a bakery are the worst! (Although they are extremely delicious, I give you that!). If you want to eat lots of chocolate pudding, buy the low fat one (they taste the same, really!), and if you want to eat canned fruits (which are unfortunately high in sugars), eat fresh fruits or smoothies instead.
All doctors will tell you that you should limit your salt intake, whether you have high blood pressure or whether you are trying to prevent having high blood pressure in the future. Most salt consumed today comes from processed foods so try to limit those. Canned foods, smoked foods, processed meats and cheeses, prepared meals,… those are all high in salt. You should eat about 1500mg of salt per day, that’s a little less than a teaspoon. If you think that salt gives taste to cooked foods you haven’t learned to use spices and condiments properly! A little salt is needed when you cook but as soon as you add a canned vegetable or processed meat the salt content is adequate for your needs. The average North American person eats 3400mg of salt daily… that’s so much more than required! No wonder that heart problems are the 2nd killer, just after cancers (which are, in part, also due to bad eating habits). Don’t be part of the statistics, eat healthy and maximize your chances to live a long and happy life!
Protein also makes us feel full, but choose your protein wisely. Fish, poultry, nuts and beans are a very good choice, Try to avoid eating too much red meat… once every 2 weeks is best. You should be eating fish and seafood a maximum of 3 times a week.
SMOKED OR NOT SMOKED?
Smoked processed foods, especially the ones containing nitrates, give you colon cancer. Nitrates is what is added to meats to give them an appealing color. Without nitrates, sausages and smoked meats would look pale and unappealing. However, we need to be aware of the fact that, despite looking more appealing, those choices are not healthy.
We all know it: processed foods are bad. Next time you are buying cold cuts, grab the ones that only mention meat, water and salt in the ingredients. Yes, this means that bologna meat is among the worst! And so are hot dog sausages! I usually don’t recommend reaching for the “biological counter” foods but when it comes to processed food you are better to go there, or find a package that says “organic” because usually it doesn’t just mean that there are no additives and pesticides, but also that there are no artificial flavors and smoke/nitrate ingredients.
If you happen to have a special diet, for religious or personal reasons, such as eating vegan or not eating for a few days, I recommend that you take a supplemental vitamin such as Centrum Complete (I am not affiliated with this company, I am merely stating what’s available in my area). Many North Americans have at least one vitamin or mineral deficiency and don’t realize it. Those can give you headaches, strange nervous sensations, tiredness, tingling, problems sleeping, strange cravings, anemia… just take your supplements and you may avoid those. Daily multivitamins and especially vitamin D has been shown to have benefits even on those with a healthy diet, but we don’t have enough strong data yet.
Drink lots of water and limit your intake of juices. Milk is better if it has some fat in it (aka 1%, 2% or 3.25%) because the vitamins that you need to absorb are fat soluble, which means that they need some fat to be absorbed. Don’t go crazy on a low-fat or no-fat diet because your vitamins won’t get absorbed … you need a bit of fat to absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K which are all vital vitamins for the body. While we are on the topic, diet sodas are much better than regular sodas, and sweeteners are not toxic, as many sites advertise. There are just better sweeteners than others. My favorite is Splenda.
Yes, I am saying it again! Women should not drink more than 1-2 drink equivalents per day and men not more than 2. Over a week, women should drink less than 10 drinks and men less than 14 drinks. If you have liver or heart problems this is different, but for healthy people these are the guidelines. Don’t think that not drinking all week and then drinking your 10 drinks in one day is the same. Not at all! It’s important not to drink more than your 2 drinks per day. Your heart will thank and liver will thank you one day. Moreover, alcohol dehydrates so you need to drink more liquids when you consume alcohol. It is not true that dehydration is the cause of hangover… no matter how much water you drink you will still feel crappy next day. It’s the byproducts of alcohol that cause the hangover, and you can’t change anything about that.
THE ULTIMATE DIET
Research has shown that the best diet is rich in fish, dairy, and legumes. This diet has been associated with the least amount of heart problems overall, in both sick and healthy people. The trick is to know the 5×3 rule: eat 5 fruits/vegetables per day and 3 dairy per day. The dairy should contain some fat, as mentioned before, so grab a regular yogurt as opposed to a low-fat yogurt or a medium-fat sour cream… it’s good for you!
To sum up, there is no need to do a smoothie diet, or cleansing diet, not eat for a day, or have a colon irrigation… in fact, I recommend not to do those because they are not healthy! Unless your religion tells you so, obviously. A healthy diet is in the balance of nutrients… that’s it, that’s all!
A healthy diet will not only make you healthier long-term, but also give you more energy, vitamins and nutrients that you need for every day functioning. You will sleep better and feel better, and one day, when you’re 70 years old, you will thank yourself for making an effort to eat better and exercise. The efforts that we all make with eating well and exercising are of course good throughout our lives, but especially when we are old and our bodies start giving up… that’s when we will regret not making more efforts when we were younger! So now is a good time to start… eat well!
All in all it’s a matter of moderation and variety in what you’re eating. There’s nothing wrong with eating chocolate bars and deserts, but you need to balance it with a healthy diet. Also, keep in mind that during pregnancy the diet suggestions are VERY different so don’t rely only on what I posted above.
Happy eating everyone ❤