A healthful diet brings many benefits. It can help one avoid cancer and heart disease, control weight, and avoid diabetes. A healthful diet can also have effects on mood.
In choosing a healthful diet, you must start with two important concepts:
- Your diet choice is no good if you don't think you can follow it long-term.
- Your diet choice doesn't make up for smoking, lack of exercise, or any other bad habit; however, a healthful diet is a critical ingredient for a healthy body and you will enjoy many benefits from making good eating decisions.
Examples and suggestions regarding dietEdit
Not everyone is trying to lose weight, but as an example, suppose that you are. Suppose that you eat a delicious treat. Would you consider yourself a failure? You shouldn't! Allowing thoughts of failure may only give you an excuse to give up on healthy eating.
If you are trying to lose weight, cutting down the treats and making sure you eat plenty of vegetables may help. Beyond diet, losing weight depends on your activity level. If your calorie intake (food) exceeds your calorie output (activity) your body will store the excess calories as fat. Weight loss requires your calorie intake to be lower than your calorie output, though neither should be done in the extreme.
Choose a different attitude. Don't think of healthy eating as a "diet". Think of healthy eating as balanced eating. Healthy eating is a lifestyle and one that you should enjoy. You will have difficulty eating well if you don't like the food. Get yourself in the habit of making good dietary choices by trying different foods as well as different ways to prepare them to find healthy foods that appeal to you.
One last thought, eating healthily does not mean starving yourself! If you are hungry, eat. Just be smart about what you take in. Reach for apples or celery over candy bars or chips. You don't need to feel like you have to cut out completely the occasional treat — just keep it that: occasional.
Diet is hardly your main problem if you won't exercise. As with following a good diet, exercise is best if you can work it into your daily schedule. For example, try taking the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible. Consider biking to work instead of driving.
Humans function best on a diet consisting mainly of vegetables, and a protein source that could be meat, nuts or legumes. Fresh leafy green vegetables are most important, but it is also necessary to eat yellow vegetables frequently. Starches (bread, grits, pasta, potatoes, etc.) are often both tasty and low-cost. Starches with whole grains are best, as white flours, other modified grains and potatoes have high glycemic indexes, which can promote diabetes and cause a build up of gas in the digestive tract. You can do very well by planning meals as small servings of meat or meat alternatives with heaping piles of vegetables, and a reasonable serving of some carbohydrate. Add fat and oil as needed for energy, rather than using sugar for this purpose. Add herbs and spices for taste; increased taste can lead to earlier feelings of satiation.
For many vegetables it is a good method to lightly steam them. While cooking can destroy nutrients, it also makes nutrients more available for the body. Some people think that uncooked vegetables contain the risk to spread disease from frequently-ill farm workers, manure, and animal contamination, but thorough washing of the vegetables before their uncooked use avoids this risk. Boiling will leach nutrients out of the vegetables, so you should avoid it. If you do not have a proper steamer, try placing a metal colander into a large lidded pot holding a half inch of water.
Many of the best-tasting vegetables are commonly hated because they are typically overcooked. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, cabbage, spinach, and bean sprouts are all tasty when fresh and not overcooked. Broccoli is particularly versatile, tasty, nutritious, but relatively short-lived. Don't forget to try more unusual vegetables, such as okra (cooked with tomatoes) and bok choy. Variety is good for you.
Meat, including eggs and fishEdit
In general, meat needs to be cooked to at least medium rare for safety. One exception is domestic poultry such as chicken and turkey. Pork can be cooked to 145° for medium rare, contrary to popular belief. Microwaving meat is generally bad, because dangerous bacteria can survive in any cold spots that remain.
In place of salt on meat, try some herbs and spices. For example, a pork roast goes well with rosemary. Chicken goes well with sage, rosemary, and thyme. For a more Asian flavor, use ginger and soy sauce.
A technique to remove excess fat from shredded or ground meats after frying is to remove the meat to a metal colander, and rinse with hot water. This is especially important when cooking such meats ahead of time to prepare for freezing - otherwise the fat solidifies on the meat when it freezes, and can sometimes cause unpleasant odors and tastes. Another method is to float the fat with cold water or broth, then refrigerate to solidify the fat.
For fish, try cooking it with some ground herbs and spices. Also, try serving it plain or with lemon juice. You won't need to cover up a "fishy" (bacterial) smell if you buy fresh fish and use it quickly; fresh fish does not have an odor. If the fish is whole, fresh fish will have clear eyes.
Oil and FatEdit
For general use, canola oil (low erucic acid rapeseed oil) is a good choice. Fancy grades of olive oil can be better, but they are easy to overheat because they have low smoke points. When oil is overheated, harmful chemicals end up both in the food and in the air. (use olive oil on your salad, and canola oil for frying)
As a general rule, it is more healthful to choose liquid oils over solid fats. It is currently suspected that the trans- fats (partially hydrogenated oils) are least desirable; these are found in most margarine and shortening. Shortening without trans- fats is now available, made from a mixture of unhydrogenated oil and fully hydrogenated oil.
People with European ancestry usually handle milk well. Milk is a valuable nutritious food, providing vitamins and essential fats to those who can properly digest it. Fermenting milk to make products such as cheese, yoghurt, and kefir, increases the digestibility and available nutrition of milk.
Some people have trouble digesting the lactose in milk, and find that many dairy products cause flatulence or loose bowels. Milk can be treated to reduce lactose by fermenting it or by adding an enzyme. Look for strong (aged) cheeses and Lactaid if you have this problem.
In addition, some people have intolerance to the proteins in milk, casein and whey. Casein intolerance is frequently seen in people with both coeliac disease and dairy intolerance. Whey intolerance is less common. In these instances, removing lactose will not help, and cheeses are particularly bad foods for people with casein intolerance because the casein in milk is concentrated in the cheese.
If you choose to avoid milk, you will need an alternate source of calcium. Anchovies and canned salmon are good sources. You may also need an alternate source of vitamin D, which is added to milk in some countries. This is particularly important if you are a dark-skinned person who does not receive lots of exposure to bright sunlight; the human body normally relies on ultraviolet light to produce vitamin D. Several milk substitutes are available, typically based on soy, rice, or oats. These can be used to some extent in cooking as well as for drinking, and variants with vitamins and calcium content equivalent to milk are available.
For salt added at the table, consider using flaked salt. It's the same stuff, but it tastes stronger (so you use less) because it dissolves faster.
When cooking, you can reduce salt by 20% to 45% without giving up taste by adding a small amount of MSG. Consider doing this with meat, soups, eggs, stir-fry, fried rice, and anything else you might consider to be a "savory" dish. (MSG contains far less sodium than table salt does)
See above for specific tips for meat and vegetable salt reduction.
Flour-based foods and fiberEdit
Whole wheat flour provides dietary fiber, which helps to clean you out. Whole wheat flour also has more protein than plain white flour. In most recipes, you can replace half of the plain white flour with whole wheat flour. The more whole wheat you use, the less the result will rise. You might add some extra leavening agent (yeast, baking powder, etc.) to make up for this. Many recipes are specifically designed for 100% whole wheat flour, including pancakes and raisin oatmeal muffins.
Instead of white rice, choose brown rice. This gives you extra flavor, fiber, and nutrients.