Staying fit is largely a matter of healthy eating. But with the many diet regimens offered, it can be confusing to determine what exactly is meant by a balanced diet. Some weight loss programs offer prepackaged meals that are supposed to meet all your required nutrient intakes. While these reduce the need for calorie-counting on your part, the downside of these programs is that it does not institute in yourself the necessary discipline, motivation and knowledge to prepare the meals yourself. When the time comes for you to wean yourself from the program (you can’t possibly have prepackaged meals delivered to you for life), it becomes easy to go back to unhealthy patterns of eating. Thus, from the outset, it’s always better to go hands-on on these matters, especially since the foods you prepare will ultimately affect your health and that of your family’s.
What is healthy eating? It’s actually composed of two aspects: 1) Eating nutritious and healthy foods and 2) Eating them well.
The first part of a healthy diet is making sure that you get all the nutrients you need in your diet. You need carbohydrates since they are your body’s main source of energy. However, you need to choose complex carbohydrates like whole grain, oats, and brown rice since these are slowly digested in the body. Simple carbohydrates like sugar and sweets get digested fast and cause insulin spikes that promote weight gain and is generally bad for your heart. Get your protein from lean meat, eggs and nuts. You don’t have to shy away from fat, either, but choose healthy fats from olive oil, fish oil and other seed oils. Get your five servings of fruits and vegetables everyday, more if you can, since higher servings do more to prevent yourself from the ravages of sickness and disease like hypertension, diabetes and certain cancers. Together with eating nutritious foods, you have to give up on those that aren’t. Crush out chips, sugar-laden and high-sodium packaged snacks. Red meats like bacon and hot dogs should also be replaced with healthier alternatives.
The second part involves cultivating healthy eating habits. What are these? You can begin by chewing your food well. This takes about 20 minutes to complete and has the benefit of making you feel full without the need for seconds or thirds. If you eat fast, your brain won’t register satiety until after you’ve eaten more than you have to. There are heat-retentive plates that help you eat slowly by keeping your food warm, so it’s a good idea to invest in these. Meal times should also be fun and interesting. If you eat with friends or family, you’ll be most likely to engage in conversation that will prolong your eating time. Aside from this, good food habits also mean not skipping breakfast. If you want to stay fit and avoid the all-too-real possibility of snacking on sweets and calorie-empty foods in the middle of the day, you’ve got to fuel up in the morning. And lest we forget, drink 8 to 12 glasses of water a day.
This is a very simple guide to healthy eating but if you follow these, you’re sure to stay fit for life.